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The journalist Luis Suárez complains about the selection of paintings made by the “International committee of experts designated by the general commissioners of the Pavilions of certain number of countries with some importance in modern art,” for the great exhibition in the Belgian International Palace of Fine Arts for the Brussels Fair (1958): “Fifty Years of Modern Art.” Three Mexican painters showed works: Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco “and the third was not Siqueiros as might have been supposed given the usual order of the three great ones, but rather Tamayo.” Rivera’s painting La molendera [The Grinder] (1926) was placed in the Soviet artists section. The Committee was made up of twenty-five members of Belgian, Italian, French, Spanish, American, Soviet citizens and one Latin American: Fernando Gamboa. The latter admitted in his article to having proposed including Siqueiros in the show, but his petition was not accepted.


In addition to Fernando Gamboa (1908-90), Jean Cassou (Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris), John Walter (Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington), Sir Herbert Read (Director of Contemporary Art Institute in London) and Emile Langui (General Director of Arts, Letters and Education in Belgium) also served on the selection committee, among others. Langui was selected as General Secretary of the Committee as such he would write the official judgments depicting the modern art trends. 

In this evaluation, Mexico is considered to be a nation in which “strictly speaking there is a resurgence in expressionism occurring.” This same report criticizes the social realism of Fernando Léger, Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, Guttuso, [and] Ben Shahn . . . [because] they have “confused the revolutionary ‘subject’ with the ‘revolutionary spirit.’” It should be remembered that in the following year Herbert Read, a member of the selection committee, published A Concise History of Modern Painting in London. This historical summary explicitly omitted José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) because they had adopted a propagandist stance that, in Read’s judgment, placed them “outside of the stylistic evolution.”

Diana Briuolo
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Promotora Cultural Fernando Gamboa