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This newspaper article discusses the opposing points of view expressed by Peruvian artists in the debate over the 1975 National Culture Prize. Speaking in favor of the decision, Ciro Palacios states that the award acknowledges “an urgent need to re-think our anachronistic ideas and criteria about culture” because this will lead to a “dismantling of barriers and hierarchies” in terms of artistic activity in a mestizo nation steeped in an indigenous culture. In his opinion, traditional or popular art “is an expression of a truly Peruvian aesthetic that is a direct legacy of the artistic work of our ancestors.” Disagreeing with the decision to award the prize to Joaquín López Antay, Francisco Abril de Vivero claims that, though the jury saw their ruling “as a revolutionary way forward in terms of our artistic culture,” it was in fact an attempt to raise awareness and was not the result of a serious discussion on the subject. The problem, according to Abril de Vivero, is that “Once again demagoguery was confused with revolution,” whereas the real question is “whether López Antay’s work contributes greater quality and meaning to our culture.”
This opinion column contrasts the opposing views expressed by the Peruvian artists Ciro Palacios (b. 1943) and Francisco Abril de Vivero (1919–2004) on the subject of the National Culture Prize for art. The former agreed with the ruling. The latter, a visual artist and writer, and chairman of the board of ASPAP, was one of the most vocal critics of the decision to award the prize to López Antay.
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).
[For more on the subject of this event, 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 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)].