This anonymous newspaper article, which announces that Carlos Cruz-Diez has been awarded the Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas, includes a picture of the artist. This acknowledgement was clearly long overdue, given the national and international fame Cruz-Diez had achieved over the course of the preceding decade. There were several reasons for this delay, as follows: the adverse reaction among the viewing public and the art media that were still in thrall to the kind of painting that was popular during the first half of the twentieth century, that is, landscape painting and figurative works that were strongly influenced by Surrealism, Informalism, and left-wing art theories; the position taken (in Paris in the early 1950s) by young abstract painters who were members of the Venezuelan movement Los Disidentes, who attacked their “landscape painter” teachers at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Caracas; the controversial debate between Alejandro Otero and the leftist writer, Miguel Otero Silva, about the relevance (or not) of abstract art in Venezuela and Latin America; and finally, the fact that left wing members of the public (who played a dominant role in Venezuelan cultural circles) associated Geometric Abstraction with the military dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1952–58), who had strongly supported projects (in which Geometric Abstraction was a key component) that were designed to include art in architecture at the Universidad Central de Venezuela under the direction of the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. All these factors helped to tag those who were producing works of Geometric Abstraction as “official artists,” originally of the dictatorship and then of democratic governments. On top of all that, many Venezuelan artists were jealous of the huge international success that Jesús Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez enjoyed, which made things worse for them in their native country.
The fact that it took several weeks for the advisory commission to get around to awarding the prize to Cruz-Diez was due to the presence on the jury of the two artists mentioned above (who were studio colleagues of his); neither of them ever achieved anything like his success and thus resented him bitterly. But the international fame Kinetic artists had already achieved made it difficult to deny him the Venezuelan National Prize.
The article reports on the changes made to the main visual arts prize, which had until then been awarded by the official salons. It would henceforth enjoy greater autonomy by becoming the National Prize. The article also announces that, as part of the government’s commitment concerning the prize, the winning artist would be given a retrospective exhibition and would be the subject of a monographic study of his work.