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This review, which appeared in the Lima magazine Oiga (February 27, 1976), discusses the different positions adopted by ASPAP (Asociación Peruana de Artistas Plásticos) [Peruvian Association of Visual Artists] and SUTAP (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores en las Artes Plásticas) [Sole Visual Art Workers Union] as a result of the controversial decision to award the 1975 National Culture Prize for art to Joaquín López Antay, the altarpiece artist from the Andean region of Peru. The article explains that, while ASPAP is focused on supporting the visual arts, SUTAP is more interested in political discourse. The article also challenges the media that (due to pro-government leanings) sided with SUTAP, thus exacerbating the split between artists. This observation leads to a reflection on the separation between art and the people, and a critique of the government’s inertia in the face of the situation. “It is up to the government and its institutions to expose the people to art” by means of “an ambitious program to open modern art museums in Lima and the Peruvian provinces.” The reviewer describes the approach taken and statements issued by the artist and director of the Escuela Nacional Superior de Bellas Artes, Teodoro Núñez Ureta, as an important step toward a resolution of the dispute. 


This review is one of the few critical articles published by the Lima press on the subject of the jury’s decision for the 1975 National Culture Prize. It includes the transcript of Núñez Ureta’s speech in which he discusses (in accommodating terms) the conflicted views concerning the difference between handcrafts and art. He makes some significant comments on cultural policy, critiquing the fact that, until now, the Peruvian government has provided no support at all for any kind of museum or center for modern or contemporary art. 


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 Juan Gargurevich “Deslinde en la pintura: progreso vs. reacción” (doc. no. 1136301); 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