This critical text, like many that appeared in Colombian publications in the early 1920s, discusses a few basic problems: indifference to the fine arts and a failure to understand the role it should play in a civilized society. Roberto Pizano (1896–1929), who wrote this piece, was a painter and art critic, and the director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes, a post from which he questioned traditional art teaching and supported anti-academic proposals of the sort he also extolled in a number of publications. In this case, Pizano’s descriptive rather than critical review of an art show served as an occasion to discuss these concerns. Indeed, the fact that Pizano—a figure central to the Colombian art scene—addressed these topics evidences their gravity.
In Pizano’s view, his fellow Colombians’ engagement with art was limited to accepting foreign ideas and appreciating works on the basis of their monetary value. Their interest, he asserts, was restricted to a work’s material value or value as amusement. The efforts of artists trying to remedy this aberrant situation had proven useless.
Pizano’s other central concern revolved around the insistent failure in Colombia, unlike other places, to recognize art’s importance as a civilizing force, one capable of changing customs and even society itself. The failure to grasp this meant that art’s contribution was not valued, even though art was much more advanced than many other aspects of life in Colombia. In Pizano’s view, the works on exhibit must be seen within the limitations imposed by the local milieu, in other words, a new sort of art will only be possible once art is granted a substantially different place in society.