The Iª Bienal de Arte de Bogotá [1st Bogota Art Biennial] was held at the Museo de Arte Moderno [Museum of Modern Art] from September 1 to October 9, 1988. The Colombian cultural representative Gloria Zea was the director of the museum, and Eduardo Serrano (b. 1939) was the curator; they were members of the event’s Selection and Prize Awarding Committee, together with the following professionals: José Hernán Aguilar (b. 1952), professor at the Art Faculty of the National University; Miguel Gónzalez (b. 1950), curator at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cali – La Tertulia; the artist Álvaro Barrios (b. 1945), and Luis Fernando Valencia, director of the Art Program at the National University in Medellín. 47 artists were represented at the exhibition, which included over two hundred works of art.
Serrano’s essay was challenged by contemporary critics, largely because of the self-congratulatory and effusive language he used to introduce an event that he himself had organized and curated. The exhibition sparked friction between two institutional factions: one was the Salón Nacional group, led by the artist and art critic Beatriz González (b. 1938), who was at the time the curator and exhibition researcher at the Luis Ángel Arango Library. The other group included supporters of the Biennial, led by Serrano.
The controversy pitted the institutional status of a three-decade old event—the Salón Nacional—against the Biennial that was billed as a space that promised something new in the visual arts in Colombia. But artists who had exhibited at the Salón, at the beginning of the year, also exhibited at the Biennial. According to critics and those very artists, this negated Serrano’s claim that the Biennial was something entirely new and different.
For more information on the Biennial and the criticism it provoked [see the special issue published by the Revista de Arte Internacional [International Art Magazine], I Bienal de Arte de Bogotá [1st Bogotá Art Biennial] (doc. # 1098306) and the double feature in the Revista Arte en Colombia [Art in Colombia Magazine] on the Biennial (doc. # 1098338 and doc. # 1098354)].