This document, which was written during the V Salón Nacional de Artistas—the largest public art event in Colombia—attests to the existence of an organized art field in the country, one capable of holding a competition despite the absence of unambiguous State support for awards and subsidies. Ariza criticizes the State for “flattering artists with economic support for making propagandistic frescos” at the cost of their individual freedom of expression. This assessment highlights the poor situation of avant-garde painters at a time when the government did not provide adequate backing for the visual arts.
Artist Gonzalo Ariza (1912–1995) was known for his contributions to newspapers like El Tiempo and El Espectador. He was a staunch defendant of the unionization of Colombian artists in order to favor better working conditions, the creation of museums and of what he considered “national” art (see 1130276), that is, art bound to the pre-Colombian tradition. Paradoxically, his notion of “national” art encompassed academic artists such as Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (1638–1711), Epifanio Garay (1849–1903), and Roberto Pizano (1896–1929), one of Ariza’s teachers at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Bogotá. It is not surprising, then, that Ariza criticized Colombian artists for being overly fixated on artists from Mexico. This criticism was accentuated, no doubt, by the fact that Ariza, unlike most Colombian artists who studied abroad, had chosen to study in Japan.
Ariza’s criticism of Walter Engel (1908–2005) and of Juan Friede (1901–1990) can also be understood as a rejection of “elements” from abroad and as part of his deep concern with the creation of a “national” art whose points of reference in terms of theme and style would be Colombia. This same dismissal of art criticism by foreigners living in Colombia is evident in the biting article “Tango y pintura”published fifteen years later , in which Ariza attacks the ideas expressed by Argentine critic Marta Traba (1923–1983) on Latin American art. Due to his open hostility towards art critics—with the exception of historian Germán Arciniegas (1900–1999) —Ariza did not show his work in Colombia from 1964 to 1973.