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The author highlights here the intensity of activities on the arts scene of the Peruvian capital in 1954, both for the number and the importance of exhibitions, a fact which, in his judgment, demonstrates the ever-increasing affirmation of the visual arts in Peru. The presence of international works permitted a needed comparison between local production and cosmopolitan artistic developments, which ultimately proved positive. For Ugarte Eléspuru, the Roberto Matta exhibition —presented by Galería de Lima (April) — marked the resumption of debate between two stances within the local scene: “filoeuropeismo artepurista” [European art purists] and “vitalistas afiliados a la concepción de la resurrección de lo nacional” [those vitalist affiliated with the resurrection of nationalistic art]. He believes the debate initiated by the work of the Chilean painter determined the direction of artistic discourse during that year, which was attuned to the successive exhibitions. He also highlights the show of French abstract artist Jean Dewasne (October), defining it as “the most worthy yet seen in Lima,” with respect to abstract art. Nevertheless, [he states] that these works only fulfill a decorative function; although he does not question their aesthetic quality, he does note “the fixed limits of its dogmatic potential.” He briefly reviews the national exhibitions, praising the levels [of accomplishment] achieved by the local arts scene, and includes some figures and statistics of the period reviewed.
In this text, painter Juan Manuel Ugarte Eléspuru presents a critical assessment of the artistic activities in Lima during 1954.
Although Fernando de Szyszlo (n. 1925) initiated the debate with declarations he made in May 1951 regarding abstract art within the local arts scene [see in the ICAA digital archive the article “Dice Fernando Szyszlo que no hay pintores en el Perú ni América: el joven pintor peruano declara sentir su pintura y la de los demás pero no puede explicarla” (no author) (doc. no. 1137793)], the discussion developed over the course of the following three years. This was due to the unusual [level of] artistic activity of 1954, which included an ambitious cycle of exhibitions organized by the Galería de Lima, which served as the chief driver of debate through its programming: Chilean painter Roberto Matta (April), contemporary Italian painters (May), Surrealist painters (July) and French artist Jean Dewasne (October). Another important event was the exhibition on Mexican art —organized by La Crónica newspaper (May)— and which brought the public of the Peruvian capital face to face with the art of that country, then considered the paradigm for “national art” by many critics. All these events represented outreach
to the avant-garde trends, exacerbating the need to identify the terms upon which [Peru] should take its place within the modern arts.
Juan Manuel Ugarte Eléspuru (1911-2004), then a professor at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes de Lima, offers a brief but detailed account of arts activities in Lima during 1954. He highlights the uninterrupted development of the debates, which were constantly renewed by the various exhibitions [see Juan Manuel Ugarte Eléspuru, “12 meses de artes plásticas en Lima” (doc. No. 1137301)]. His stance on abstract art —which he considered decorative— contrasted with that of architect and critic Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914-94), the chief defender and theoretician of this new trend. His weekly column, reproduced here, offers a summary of his criticism in that crucial year. Little more than five years later, Ugarte Eléspuru had transformed his initial reticence toward abstract art into an open affiliation with informalism.