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Fausto Castillo interviewed Mr. Miguel Salas Anzures who—when asked about the accusation that he was spending a great deal of money on the first Bienal Interamericana de Pintura y Grabado [Inter-American Biennial of Painting and Printmaking], organized by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA)—replied that the cost was close to one million pesos, 60 percent of which would be put toward remodeling some of the exhibition areas at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, repositioning it as a modern art museum. The rest of the money, he said, would be spent on advertising, transportation, and insurance for the paintings. Salas Anzures said that this expense was justified because this biennial was the first of its kind in Mexico’s history. Another question addressed the selection of works: Castillo said that according to some, “Bellas Artes undertook a malevolent process for selecting painters, and there were rumors about artists who were protected, others who were humiliated.” To this, Salas Anzures replied that the INBA had asked the Frente Nacional de Artes Plásticas [National Front for Visual Arts], the Taller de la Gráfica Popular [Workshop for Popular Graphic Art], and the Sociedad Mexicana de Grabadores [Mexican Printmakers’ Association] to each name a representative for the formation of a committee. The FNAP named Juan O’Gorman and the other groups named Leopoldo Méndez; the art critic Jorge Juan Crespo de la Serna and Salas Anzures participated as well. The invitations extended to foreign countries were made from government to government, and for this reason, the INBA had nothing to do with the selection. Salas Anzures mentioned that the jury panel would include the painters Candido Portinari of Brazil and Wifredo Lam of Cuba, with representation by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Luis Cardoza y Aragón of Guatemala, and Justino Fernández and Jorge Juan Crespo de la Serna of Mexico. The main objective of this biennial was to make contact with artistic production all over Latin America, and to promote the importance of the Mexican School of Painting.


Miguel Salas Anzures was a founding father of the Frente Nacional de Artes Plásticas (FNAP), which was created in May 1952, as a permanent entity for social and cultural action. His goal was to represent visual arts workers and defend the cultural heritage of Mexico in order to promote artistic manifestations inspired by the Mexican people, whom his efforts were to serve. Salas Anzures held the position of chair of the Department of Visual Arts of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes from 1957 to 1961. He was commissary of the biennial and a member of the selection committee. At the time, his involvement in the biennial was broadly criticized for not taking into account the wide range of artistic trends of the day, and for supporting figurative painting with social and political messages. Later he would be accused of being a traitor for supporting the painters of the so-called Ruptura generation.  Miguel Álvarez Acosta, director of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (1954–58), and Miguel Salas Anzures, chair of the Department of Visual Arts (1957–1961) of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBAL) [National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature], were the organizers of the two biennials held at the Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas (Palacio de Bellas Artes). The first biennial, held from June 6 to September 30, 1958, consisted of four exhibition-tributes to José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949), Diego Rivera (1886–1957), David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974), and the Brazilian painter Candido Portinari (1903–1962). There was widespread discontent with this biennial, because of the organizing bodies and the involvement of the Frente Nacional de Artes Plásticas in the jury panel.  At the second biennial, held in 1960, many artists, including José Luis Cuevas (born 1934), Francisco Icaza, and Arnold Belkin (1930–1992), among others, refused to participate in protest of Siqueiros’s imprisonment at Lecumberri. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela were the countries that took part in both events.  The official name of the biennial, and the one that was most commonly used, was “Bienal Interamericana de Pintura y Grabado” [Inter-American Biennial of Painting and Printmaking], though it was also known as the “Bienal de Artes Plásticas” [Visual Arts Biennial], “Bienal Panamericana de Pintura” [Pan American Painting Biennial], among other coinages.

Ana María Torres
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional