The critic and art theorist Guillermo Machuca (1961–2020) wrote this essay for Primera mirada (1999), the exhibition he co-curated with the art historian Gonzalo Arqueros (b. 1958). The idea was to show the collection housed at the MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo), which was, at the time, directed by Francisco Brugnoli (b. 1935), who was appointed in 1998. The 1985 earthquake in Chile caused structural damages to the museum, which remained closed until 1991. Primera mirada was organized as a means to show the collection. The MAC restorer, Francisco González (1966–2018), produced a cadastre and made sundry improvements. Machuca’s essay addresses the subject of art history and the question of how the museum’s collection responded to the traditional story about Chilean art. [For other texts about the history of Chilean art, see the following in the ICAA Digital Archive: “Esquema de cincuenta años de la Plástica Chilena” (748419) by Víctor Carvacho and “Claves y constantes definidoras” (754547) by Antonio Romera.]
The MAC, an affiliate of the Facultad de Artes de la Universidad de Chile, opened in 1947. As part of the extension plans drafted previously, the museum was associated with the IEAP (Instituto de Extensión de Artes Plásticas), which was founded two years earlier. Both institutions were under the direction of the painter and printmaker Marco Bontà (1899–1974). The museum was originally housed in the building known as “El Partenón,” located in the Quinta Normal; in 1974, the main facility was moved to the “Palacio de Bellas Artes,” in the Parque Forestal, and the museum has been located at both premises ever since. It was originally created as a space in which to show contemporary artworks and provide space for local and international exhibitions that could introduce Chilean art to the international circuit.
Guillermo Machuca studied art theory and art history at the Universidad de Chile, where he then worked as an art teacher and art historian. He also taught at ARCIS (Universidad de Arte y Ciencias Sociales) until it closed in 2017. Throughout his career he was a critic and curated the exhibitions of many artists, such as Arturo Duclos (b. 1959), Pablo Langlois (b. 1964), Patrick Hamilton (b. 1974), Claudio Correa (b. 1972), and Natalia Babarovic (b. 1966). His books tended to intertwine philosophy, theory, literature, and pop culture, indirectly referring to art as a fertile field for contingency and specialized knowledge. The list of his publications includes “Remeciendo al Papa” (2006), “Alas de Plomo” (2008), “El traje del emperador” (2011), and “Astrónomos sin estrellas” (2018). He also wrote articles for a number of publications. [These are some of his other texts: “El ojo y la mano” (757085), “Ora pro nobis” (749208), and “Realismo y crisis de la representación” (757202).]