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Alfonso Castrillón defends the decision to recognize López Antay by granting him the Premio Nacional de Cultura [award], asserting that his work “is more authentic than the work of many so-called high artists, who have spent their whole lives copying international magazines, jumping from one ism to another.” He states that López Antay is an “artist” not a “craftsman,” explaining the differences between craft and art at the same time as questioning the division between “high art” and “folk art.” For Castrillón, that distinction reflects class divisions; while there may be conceptual and technical differences between the two, both “indisputably partake of art, which sets them apart from crafts due to the question of ‘intentionality.’” Both forms of expression “have the right, in a pluralist culture, to exist on the same level.” Other participants in the roundtable included art historian Francisco Stastny, collector Raúl Apesteguía, painter and writer Juan Manuel Ugarte Eléspuru, director of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (ENBA) at the time, and journalist Mariano Benítez.
This article is a summary of the intervention of Peruvian art historian Alfonso Castrillón (b. 1935) in a roundtable on the decision to grant the 1975 Premio Nacional de Cultura [award] in the art category to Andean altarpiece maker López Antay (1897–1981).
The members of the jury included art historian Alfonso Castrillón, author of major theoretical works on the subject. Entitled “Arte académico y arte popular,” the roundtable was held on January 12, 1976, at the Instituto Riva Agüero of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (Lima). In addition to the aforementioned participants, historian Pablo Macera, ethnologists Mildred Merino and Josafat Roel Pineda, guitarist Raúl García Zárate, and academic musicians Enrique Iturriaga and Luis Meza also formed part of the roundtable.
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 the latent tensions and mistrust surrounding the cultural policies supported by the military government under General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968–75) to the surface. 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 ICAA digital 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)].