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    López Antay en el ojo de la tormenta / Luis Freire Sarria
    La Prensa (Lima, Perú). -- Ene. 10, 1976
    Newspaper article – Essays
    Freire Sarria, Luis. "López Antay en el ojo de la tormenta." La Prensa (Lima, Perú), January 10, 1976.

Writer Luis Freire responds to the press release issued by the Asociación Peruana de Artistas Plásticos (ASPAP) protesting the decision to grant the Premio Nacional de Cultura to Andean altarpiece maker Joaquín López Antay. Freire considers the ASPAP statement “the most violent document in the polemic” surrounding the prize. He disagrees with those who consider only “high” artists “creators” and “craftspeople” as mere repeaters of forms. He defends the mestizo nature of traditional popular arts and points out the hybrid influences on so-called high art. The former, he argues, are more creative because more firmly rooted in their reality, whereas erudite productions still look to European practices. The prize constitutes—in Freire’s view—recognition on the part of the Peruvian state of “a relegated artistic culture different from the one that dominates our cultural system.” In closing, Freire suggests that both types of art should come together in “a common effort to forge visual arts that look to our reality and provide the seed […] for forms increasingly transcendent and specifically Peruvian.”


With this text, Peruvian journalist and writer Luis Freire (b. 1945) intervened in the controversy that arose around the fact that the 1975 Premio Nacional de Cultura [award] in the art category was granted to Andean altarpiece maker Joaquín López Antay (1897–1981). Freire, a cultural journalist for many years, published an array of articles on this polemic [see in the ICAA digital archive another article by Freire, published February 21, 1976, entitled “López Antay levanta polvareda” (doc. no. 1136317)]. He later upheld traditional popular aesthetics. This text formed part of a selection of articles on the polemic published in the third issue of Guamangensis. Revista de la Universidad Nacional de Huamanga (1997).


The decision to grant the 1975 Premio Nacional de Cultura [award] in the art category to Andean altarpiece maker Joaquín López Antay gave rise to one of the most heated polemics in the history of Peruvian art, one that brought to the surface the latent tensions and mistrust surrounding the cultural policies supported by the military government under General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968–75). In his search for an “authentic” national culture, he attempted to revalorize the image of the peasant and of peasant lifestyles as opposed to “Western” cultural forms. Indeed, granting the prize to López Antay meant ignoring widely recognized contenders such as visual artists Carlos Quízpez Asín (1900–83) and Teodoro Núñez Ureta (1912–88), and German-born academic musician Rodolfo Holzmann (1910–92).


[Regarding these events, see the following articles in the archive: by Alfonso Castrillón, Leslie Lee, and Carlos Bernasconi “Fundamentación para el dictamen por mayoría simple a favor del artista popular Joaquín López Antay” (doc. no. 1135896); by Alfonso Bermúdez “Premio a López Antay suscita controversias. Unos: consagración del arte popular. Otros: una cosa es arte y otra artesanía” (doc. no. 1135879); by Francisco Abril de Vivero, Luis Cossío Marino, and Alberto Dávila “Artistas plásticos cuestionan premio” (doc. no. 1135960); and (unsigned) “‘No todos nos quieren ni en Lima ni en Ayacucho’: así comentó sobre cuestionamiento a premio (…)” (doc. no. 1135930)].

Gabriela Germaná Roquez
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Reproduced with permission of the author. Courtesy of the archives of Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI)