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This is an interview with the Peruvian artist Ciro Palacios, who at the time led the newly formed SUTAP (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de las Artes Plásticas). Ciro Palacios explained that the union was formed on the sociopolitical commitment of its members and the fight for the recognition of artist rights as workers. The SUTAP “was born in response to the discriminatory attitude towards Popular Peruvian Art”. This alludes to the controversy that emerged in Peru in 1975 when the Premio Nacional de Cultura for Art was awarded to the Andean altarpiece artist Joaquín López Antay. This controversy led the group that self-proclaimed themselves as “previously artists but now laborers of the visual arts” to be made aware of the ideological stance, discriminatory and racist in some ways, that surrounded them. All of this would eventually place them parallel “to the working classes who fought not only for social demands but also for the right to freedom and a free Peruvian society.” Thereby, what is proposed is “an act of social collectivism against bourgeois individualism”, thus leading artists in search of new arguments and “new ways that can translate the reality of that commitment and what that commitment confronts.” Palacios announced the participation of SUTAP in an exhibition in Havana, Cuba as a gesture of solidarity with the Uruguayan people, so as “to forge actual and thoughtful forms of art related to the problems distinctive to the Third World.”


The Premio Nacional de Cultura for Art that was awarded to the Andean altarpiece artist Joaquín López Antay in Peru in 1975 provoked one of the most important class-related controversies 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.” It should be noted that the reasons that ignited the firestorm were obvious, since the award to López Antay was given at the expense of widely recognized contenders such as visual artists Carlos Quízpez Asín (1900–83) and Teodoro Núñez Ureta (1912–88), in addition to the German-born academic musician Rodolfo Holzmann (1910–92).

One of the most violent reactions to the aforementioned recognition came from the leadership of the ASPAP (Asociación Peruana de Artistas Plásticos), generating and creating strong discrepancies between membership artists, many of whom would break away from the institution to form the SUTAP (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de las Artes Plásticas) group that was, however, short lived. The name was intended to be associated with the SUTEP (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Educación Peruana) that was associated with the radical left.

[For further reading on SUTAP, please refer to the ICAA digital archive for the following texts: “Contra toda manipulación en el arte” by A. B. C. (doc. no. 1136349); “Deslinde en la pintura: progreso vs. reacción” by Juan Gargurevich (doc. no. 1136301); “López Antay: significación actual” by Alfonso Castrillón Vizcarra (doc. no. 1136495); “López Antay levanta polvareda” by Luis Freire Sarria (doc. no. 1136317); “Manifiesto: acta de fundación: Sindicato Único de Trabajadores en las Artes Plásticas” (unattributed) (doc. no. 1136267); and “No sólo por amor al arte” by Marcela Cárdenas (doc. no. 1136333)].

Gabriela Germaná Roquez
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru