Archivo Biblioteca Museo de Arte de Lima-MALI
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This brief introductory text by Carlos Rodríguez Saavedra was written for the official catalogue of the painting competition organized by the Festivales de Ancón, then an elegant resort on the outskirts of Lima. In a lyrical tone, the author asserts the prophetic and restorative spirit of modern art, citing the well-known phrase that Francis Picabia coined at the beginning of the twentieth century: “the new, the new, always the new, the new, the new, always the new…” For Rodríguez Saavedra, Dadaists, Cubists, and Surrealists left a legacy of full creative freedom, which would continue to be fulfilled by contemporary artists through their dynamic and disruptive effect on viewers.
This text by Peruvian art critic and gallerist Carlos Rodríguez Saavedra unknowingly foretold the great controversy that would shortly thereafter be generated by the first prize in the painting competition awarded at the Festivales de Ancón in 1969. The text ends with an impassioned salute to the artists: “They have arrived—hail them!—to this ancient cove, this solitary spot, this fashionable coast, these messengers of insurgency and transmutation, the first heralds of life’s renewal.”
In addition to being a critic, Rodríguez Saavedra served as director of an eponymous art gallery during the years that this controversy occurred (1969–72). His opinion was one of the most respected on the cultural circuit of the time.
Ancón was then a stylish resort located on the outskirts of Lima. During the summers, it offered music and theater, as well as conferences and a painting competition that generated much attention (in that year). After the results were announced, Caretas magazine published a letter that argued the winning work—Motociclista No. 3 by Luis Zevallos Hetzel—had been plagiarized because it was a “faithful copy” of an advertisement published in the United States for a brand of motorcycles. In the same competition, a (playfully erotic Pop) painting by Ugo Camandona, an Italian painter and ceramics artist, won an honorable mention; he was based in the country and had also been accused of plagiarism. Both complaints stirred debate on the value of “originality” in modern art, as well as the processes and actions of Pop Art within a consumer society. The anachronistic nature of this controversy revealed the limited penetration of avant-garde ideologies within this cultural space that proved reticent to embrace the radical transformations that art had already undergone on an international level. This all occurred within a local context increasingly dominated by the nationalistic Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces (1968–75) led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado.
Zevallos Hetzel was one of the pioneers of Pop Art in Peru, a member of Arte Nuevo, one of the groups that defined the avant-garde imagery of that era. Nevertheless, this controversy, along with other factors, shortly thereafter led him to abandon these modalities.