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In the article “Los años setentas y el arte en Colombia,” written for the Medellín-based magazine, Re-Vista del Arte y la Arquitectura en América Latina, art critic and curator Eduardo Serrano Rueda takes stock of the Colombian art scene in the seventies. In the text, Serrano Rueda provides a retrospective revision of the decade and points out ways in which it differed from the sixties. Serrano describes the most polemic confrontations that took place in the art scene, major changes in themes addressed and languages employed, and the role of criticism and the public. He emphasizes the importance of young artists to the “change of taste” that mitigated the antagonism between the categories of figurative and abstract art that were so important in the sixties. Among other things, Serrano discusses the openings of galleries in Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla; the impact of events like the Bienal de Coltejer of Medellínand the Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas of Cali; the controversy around the call for submissions without prizes at the XXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas (1972), and the response issued by the Belarca and San Diego galleries, which organized the Primer Salón Independiente of the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano (1972) with a total of thirty prizes; the production of young artists in the cities of Barranquilla, Cali and Medellín; the interests that artists and curators took in the media of drawing, printmaking, and photography; and the rise of graphic art workshops and of print portfolios. In short, the art scene during this decade was more experimental and urban, and less academic and fearful, which Serrano asserts, allowed for the rise of Conceptual art in Colombia.



Upon returning to Colombia after studying anthropology and art history at New York University, art critic Eduardo Serrano Rueda (b. 1939) directed the Belarca gallery until 1974, when he became the curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno of Bogotá until 1994. Back in Colombia in the seventies, he published a considerable number of articles in catalogues and periodicals with nationwide circulation. He was committed to relevant and dynamic exhibition programs at both the Belarca gallery and the Museo de Arte Moderno, programs that placed emphasis on young artists. His book Un Lustro Visual: Ensayos sobre arte contemporáneo colombiano (1976) attests to that commitment.  

The important role that Serrano played in the museum and the gallery is indisputable, and his influence led to exhibitions of drawings and prints, and of regional and promising young artists. In this article, which was written when he was the curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno of Bogotá, Serrano examines the most important events in the art world, events in which he took part and now judges. Serrano magnifies the importance of the institutions with which he has worked, and also makes generalization like “the visual art scene was, in sum, quite limited and provincial at the close of the last decade.” He does not mention the contribution of the exhibition Espacios Ambientales (1968) organized by Marta Traba, or her importance as an art critic. Indeed, he states that Traba’s contribution to criticism in the sixties was minimal and that in the seventies, her work was more “investigative and serene, and less far-reaching.” Significantly, Traba wrote a great many of the critical texts published by the local press as well as catalogue texts.  

Of the overviews of the Colombian art scene in the seventies, Serrano’s text is the longest and richest in information. It includes a number of anecdotes, including one about Daniel Olcic’s deception of an important gallerist of the time.


Katia González Martínez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Eduardo Serrano Rueda, Bogotá, Colombia