The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This critical review suggests that “art” is not an expression of the human spirit—as philosophical idealism would have us believe—but something created by culture and class; it is therefore a historically determined phenomenon that is susceptible to changes influenced by the evolution of societies. As a result “the division between art and non-art is by no means an innocent occurrence; it is rather one of the basic mechanisms of cultural control.” Mirko Lauer offers this historical assessment of the process that defined pre-capitalist visual art in Latin America, pin-pointing the eighteenth century as the time when creole culture embraced the nascent art system as a way to assert itself over indigenous art. Every kind of artistic expression from the previous social order would thus be marginalized and relegated to categories labeled as “handcrafts” and “non-artistic.” Lauer proposes a methodology that can be applied to art that fits within the historical category of art and beyond those parameters, in terms of both its economic, social, and demographic aspects and the various ideological senses that underpin its social existence. The goal, he says, “is to rehabilitate an activity that has been rejected, allowing it to enjoy a positive existence rather than a subordinate one,” and acknowledging it not just in terms of its “empirical truth” but also its “ideological truth.”
In this review the Czech-born Peruvian writer and critic Mirko Lauer (b. 1947) discusses the debate sparked by the jury’s decision when awarding the 1975 National Culture Prize. Lauer supported some of the more radical policies of General Juan Velasco Alvarado’s regime, including the decision to award the prize to López Antay. Lauer had also worked in the Agrarian Reform press office, where he wrote the copy for several important agrarian reform propaganda posters that were designed by the artist and designer Jesús Ruiz Durand (b. 1940). Lauer would return to the subject of the López Antay controversy in articles such as “Lo andino en el arte peruano” (Sociedad y política N° 8, Lima, February 1980) and Crítica de la artesanía. Plástica y sociedad en los Andes peruanos (Lima: DESCO, 1982), both of which were reprinted for this project.
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, see in the ICAA digital archive the following articles by this author: “Lo andino en el arte peruano: la mutación andina: arte y sociedad en el Perú entre 1960 y 1980” (doc. no. 1136429); “La ideología de lo artesanal” (doc. no. 1139650); “Juan Javier Salazar: la refrescante aventura de un anti-plástico” (doc. no. 1293689); “Representación y soporte material in memoriam Walter Benjamin” (doc. no. 1098871); and “Szyszlo 50” (doc. no. 1142996)].