“La exposición de arte francés”marked the beginning of the controversy surrounding the Exposición and the debate about avant-garde movements that would prove so important to the defense and development of modern art in Colombia in later decades. It is widely known that art criticism has largely denied other possible conceptions of modernism in the work of early twentieth-century artists.
This text forms part of the critical discussion and debate that occurred pursuant to the 1922 exhibition, the first show of modern French art in Colombia, which was the first time Colombians had the opportunity to see artistic trends from France, and also from Europe. The debate largely ensued in Colombian newspapers, such as La Crónica and El Tiempo, and magazines, such as El Gráfico Ilustrado and Cromos.
Art critics Rafael Tavera (1878–1957), Gustavo Santos (1892–1967), and Roberto Pizano (1896–1930) were among those who participated in the debate. Pizano and Tavera defended local art, comparing it to European production. Santos, on the other hand, criticized the failure of the viewing public to understand the works exhibited.
An artist and cultural advocate, and a member of the Círculo de Bellas Artes of Bogotá, Roberto Pizano is crucial to understanding the Colombian art scene of the twenties. He defended an academic art whose main point of reference was Spanish painting, eschewing modern and avant-garde tendencies in French art. Pizano advocated a Colombian art based on technical skill and local themes and customs in painting that were influenced by classicism. Pizano’s approach to the exhibition is that of a patient teacher attempting to show his students what mistakes not to make, and how to appreciate the value of their own culture.