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This is a report on the founding of the new AAP (Asociación de Artistas Plásticos) del Uruguay, the association of artists who were involved in and supported the government’s Primer Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes (1937). The disagreement over the appointment of the Salón’s jury—which was guided by the political bias of the country’s dictatorial government—provoked a backlash of bad feeling and rejection from independent cultural associations and from artists who were members of local unions at the time. This brief, unsigned document appeared in the AIAPE magazine, which was not widely read. The article nonetheless conveyed a sense of the disgruntlement among local artists, fanning the flames of their ethical and anti-government complaints.  


This document reports on the founding of the AAP (Asociación de Artistas Plásticos), whose members were contestants or otherwise involved in the Primer Salón Nacional de Bellas Artes (1937). The change in ideological direction that came about in the 1930s took place against the backdrop of the international-local collapse that fueled debate over the artist’s role in public affairs. During the dictatorship of Gabriel Terra (1933-39) several independent cultural organizations, including the AIAPE (after 1936), were opposed to the (government influenced) appointment of the Salon’s jury with no input from the artistic community, and came up with a parallel alternative: the Primer Salón Independiente de Artes Plásticas (1937). The article names the members of the new art institution, including: Alberto Dura, Domingo de Santiago, and Guillermo Rodríguez, among others. The article also says that they were “flattered by the prizes awarded by the abysmal jurors on the Comisión Nacional”.   


As brief as it was, the report addressed several of the concerns expressed by independent cultural groups, and questioned institutions such as the Círculo de Bellas Artes, the Grupo Constructivo [Asociación de Arte Constructivo] led by Joaquín Torres García, the ETAP (Escuela Taller de Artes Plásticas), and the AIAPE (Agrupación de Intelectuales, Artistas, Periodistas y Escritores). It alleges a certain paralysis in terms of political-artistic action and a dispersion of efforts to confront the power of the States and its ability to offer tempting prizes. This “original sin”—or stillbirth of the Primer Salón Nacional—sparked a permanent state of alert that fueled the quarrel between the politically powerful (associated with the power of the State) and the cultural milieu of self-designated “independent” artists, the consequences of which would reverberate in the frequent controversies that arose over the course of the following decades.

María Eugenia Grau, Gabriel Peluffo
Archivo Joaquín Aroztegui