“As a government-sponsored event, the Salón Nacional must provide a framework that balances the need to stimulate creativity and the need to show quality artwork.” With these words, Carolina Ponce de León (born 1957) defines the task of the Salón Nacional. In her view, this edition was a success in terms of organization and a failure in term of the works selected.
The main source of her dissatisfaction with the XXXI Salón Nacional de Artistas lies in its failure to address the evolution of Colombian art. In her view, “there was no [overriding] conception for the works as a whole.”Indeed, this holds true, she asserts, for both the works selected and how they were laid out in the space. She states that it would have been better to include fewer works for the sake of a clearer curatorial vision where selection and installation criteria engage in dialogue; similarly, she bemoans the lack of a conceptual and formal relationship between the works selected. Thus, this text addresses the salon as an event, pointing out its specific achievements and failings.
The observations that José Hernán Aguilar (born 1952) provides in “Sala en espera nacional” [National Salon Awaiting]—a text on the same event published in the magazine Arte en Colombia in 1988—complement Ponce de León’s text. Aguilar asserts that he sees no difference between this edition of the salon and the previous one. He also states that the concept of an “art salon” is dated. It is necessary, in his view, to look for a term more befitting current art practices, though a name change in itself (that is, leaving behind names like salon of the visual arts, salon of Colombian artists, Colombian salon, and so forth) will not resolve the basic problem. Unlike other critics, Aguilar does not praise the organization of the event, criticizing a lack of conceptual coherence that might have made possible a critical reading of the works on exhibit.
The seat of this edition of the salon was the old Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellín; awards went to Luis Fernando Peláez (born 1945) for an Untitled work (1987) and Doris Salcedo (born 1952) for an untitled installation. Peláez’s work consisted of an investigation into space and its expressive potential, and Salcedo’s installation was made with elements discarded by a hospital. This edition of the salon included an exhibition in homage to Débora Arango (1907–2005), a pioneering Colombian artist whose work addressed the abuse of women.
Carolina Ponce de León was an outstanding art critic and curator in the eighties and nineties. The year she wrote this column she was the director of the art department of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, and the curator of the annual exhibition Nuevos Nombres (1985–94). Her texts—many of which are compiled in El efecto mariposa [The Butterfly Effect] (1985–2000)—are crucial to a revision of Colombian art and its practices from the late 20th century.