By organizing the exhibition Darío Jiménez: Exposición antológica 1938-1980 [Darío Jiménez: Retrospective Exhibition 1938-1980] and writing the essay “Un paréntesis en el olvido: Darío Jiménez (1919-1980)” [A Break from Obscurity: Darío Jiménez (1919-1980)],Carolina Ponce de León (b. 1957)—director of exhibitions at the Colombian Banco de la República’s Luis Angel Arango Library from 1984 to 1994—reclaimed the life of the painter Darío Jiménez Villegas (b. 1919-80) from the obscurity to which it had been consigned. She thus reaffirmed the Library’s goal of rescuing provincial artists who, for a variety of reasons had been overlooked by Colombian art historians and critics. Ponce de León launched this program in 1984 with the retrospective exhibition of works by the painter Débora Arango (1907–2005).
The life and work of Darío Jiménez challenged the hegemonic artistic values that had dominated the art scene in Colombia since the 1950s. A passionate, driven man, he created a body of work that had nothing to do with the basic ideas that underpinned contemporary art in Colombia. Indifference to his work conspired to deny him crucial exposure—in national salons and in critical texts that legitimized particular artistic languages—and consigned his name to obscurity. Though his bohemian lifestyle was considered offensive in local conservative circles, his work undoubtedly reflected the cultural context of his native Andean region in the department of Tolima in the central western part of the country.
The retrospective exhibition of 85 works by Darío Jiménez Villegas opened at the Luis Ángel Arango Library in Bogotá in March 1987. The event prompted a round table discussion titled “¿Cómo se ha hecho la historia del arte en Colombia?” [How has the History of Art been written in Colombia?]. Participants in this discussion were: the artist Beatriz González (b. 1938), Carmen Ortega Ricaurte (who was at that time the director of Colombia’s National Museum), the gallery owner Alicia Baraibar, and the art historian Germán Rubiano (b. 1938). The fact that Darío Jiménez had been overlooked for so many years led the panelists to discuss questions such as: How has the history of art been written in Colombia? And: What were the parameters for establishing the history of art? The panelists also considered the fact that the history of art in Colombia had been limited to repeating what a few pioneers had written in the early- or mid-twentieth century, heavily influenced by a centrist agenda that contributed little that was new.