Over the course of Colombian art history, only three texts have been published on the Museo de la Escuela de Bellas Artes: (i) an inventory of its collection by artist Coriolano Leudo Obando (1886–1957) featured in the book Iniciación de una guía de arte colombiano (Bogotá: Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1934), pp. 257?64; (ii) an overview of the Escuela de Bellas Artes that discusses the Museo de la Escuela’s activities, published in Cromos magazine in 1933 [see “La Escuela de Bellas Artes”, 1100996]; and (iii) this essay by Gustavo Santos Montejo (1892?1967) published in Cromos on April 18, 1931.
This essay is the first text to present to the public some of the projects carried out by the Museo de la Escuela de Bellas Artes (among them, a schedule of temporary exhibitions and acquisitions). It also describes the layout of some of the museum’s galleries, features photographs of its spaces, and discusses the determination of some artists and collectors to improve the museum’s collections. Though brief, the text is crucial to understanding the beginnings of public art collecting in Colombia largely at the impetus of the Escuela de Bellas Artes of Bogotá. It also attests to the importance of that institution in the emergence of private art collections and in the formation of a group of artists canonical to Colombian art history.
Art collecting and the art market have been relegated a marginal place in Colombian art history. There are no comprehensive studies of the topic; occasional “notes of historical interest” have appeared in magazines and books published at different moments. Though it was the first public art museum in the country and an institution crucial to promoting art collecting in Colombia, the Museo de la Escuela de Bellas Artes has been virtually forgotten. The museum’s collection was formed largely by chance starting in 1873 with the founding of the Academia Vásquez in Bogotá. The museum grew stronger with the re-opening of the Escuela de Bellas Artes of Bogotá (currently the Escuela de Artes Plásticas of the Universidad Nacional of Colombia) in 1902. Although the museum’s intermittent program of activities was not overly ambitious, it did manage to assemble one of the most important collections of Colombian art from the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. In 1948, all of the paintings, sculptures, and drawings in the collection were taken to the renovated premises of the Museo Nacional of Colombia (Bogotá), where they are currently housed.