Several renowned figures in the field of art criticism were invited to the Primera Bienal de Escultura, which was held in Uruguay in 1969. Pierre Restany (1930–2003) was one of those guests, and was a member of the jury at the event. Restany was known in particular for his enthusiastic promotion of the style he called nouveau réalisme in the early 1960s. This document records some of his comments as well as the opinions of his interviewer, the Uruguayan critic Nelson Di Maggio (b. 1928). At a time when the social and political situation in Uruguay was causing serious ideological tensions, the French critic revealed his lack of knowledge in that area. He was unaware or simply dismissive of local social and political problems that, paradoxically, his art theory appeared to have taken into account in general terms. When challenged by questions about art and politics, science and art techniques, and the May demonstrations in France, among other matters, Restany spoke about technique in service to social issues and, especially, about the French youth and their stand against authority. He caustically pointed out that those youngsters proposed no clear alternatives. He also spoke in rather hegemonic terms when he suggested that Latin America should find a creative alternative that combined its European legacy with the legacy of the United States. Most notably, he described Uruguay as an artistic province of Buenos Aires, a country privileged to have a liberal tradition and “the advantage” of being small.
This interview was marked by a difference of opinion; the journalist Di Maggio considered Restany’s comments about Uruguay to be “paternalistic,” and thought the French critic was poorly informed about what was actually going on in Uruguay at the time. This is another of the documents that report on personality conflicts at a national or continental level.
[As complimentary reading, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: (anonymous) “El artista latinoamericano en relación al encuentro de dos mundos” (1236260); by Ana Tiscornia “Cuando el Tercer Mundo se mira a sí mismo. II Bienal de La Habana” (1184459); and by Silvio de Gracia “Arte de Acción en Latinoamérica, cuerpo político y estrategias de resistencia” (1240673)].