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This is the journalist Juan Gargurevich’s second article about the debate sparked by the decision to award the 1975 National Culture Prize for art to Joaquín López Antay, the altarpiece artist from the Andean region of Peru. Gargurevich supports the artistic and political motives of those who, for that very reason, broke with the board of directors of ASPAP (Asociación Peruana de Artistas Plásticos) [Peruvian Association of Visual Artists] and founded SUTAP (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores en las Artes Plásticas) [Sole Visual Arts Workers Union]. In this article, Gargurevich says that SUTAP was founded as a result of “a serious review of the Peruvian artist’s role in the changes under way in the country.” He also states that ASPAP’s attitude reflects “reactionary political positions that are aligned with counterrevolutionary political parties” that, in some cases, hide behind apolitical facades. In response to the “solitary easel theory,” which insists that art is a purely personal or individual form of expression, Gargurevich points to the artist’s presence in a particular reality. Those who claim to be apolitical are in fact defending their privileged position and commercial interests.   


The board of directors of ASPAP (Asociación Peruana de Artistas Plásticos) [Peruvian Association of Visual Artists] violently opposed the jury’s decision. The resulting disagreements between the members of the association led many of them to leave ASPAP and start SUTAP which, however, did not last long. The Union’s name was an attempt to associate it with SUTEP (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Educación Peruana) [Sole Peruvian Education Workers Union], a group associated with the radical left wing.


An announcement on December 26, 1975 confirmed that the National Culture Prizes (for the 1973–74 biennium) had been awarded by the Peruvian government through the Instituto Nacional de Cultura to honor the greatest contributions to the development of Peruvian culture. The jury’s decision in the art category (which had traditionally included painting, sculpture, music, and architecture) ignited one of the most heated debates in the history of Peruvian art. The ensuing controversy underscored simmering tensions and suspicions regarding the cultural policies of the revolutionary government of the armed forces led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968–75). This administration claimed to be committed to a progressive agenda, a claim supported mainly by the Agrarian Reform of 1969 which was accompanied by the government’s enthusiastic attempt to glorify the image of the peasant population and lifestyle at the expense of other forms of cultural expression that were considered more “Western.” On this occasion the prize was awarded to Joaquín López Antay (1897–1981), who was chosen over well-known visual artists such as Carlos Quízpez Asín (1900–83) and Teodoro Núñez Ureta (1912–88) and the German-born academic musician Rodolfo Holzmann (1910–92).   


[As complementary reading on the subject of SUTAP, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: (anonymous) “El arte y el deber social: declara Ciro Palacios, dirigente de los trabajadores de las artes plásticas” (doc. no. 1136396); by A.B.C. “Contra toda manipulación en el arte” (doc. no. 1136349); by Alfonso Castrillón Vizcarra “López Antay: significación actual” (doc. no. 1136495); by Luis Freire Sarria “López Antay levanta polvareda” (doc. no. 1136317); (anonymous) “Manifiesto: acta de fundación: Sindicato Único de Trabajadores en las Artes Plásticas” (doc. no. 1136267); and by Marcela Cárdenas “No sólo por amor al arte” (doc. no. 1136333). On the subject of the debate over the Premio Nacional de Cultura [National Culture Prize], see the following articles: 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 Cossio Marino, and Alberto Dávila “Artistas plásticos cuestionan premio” (doc. no. 1135960); and (anonymous) “‘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