The Salón Atenas was the brain child of the curator and art critic Eduardo Serrano (b. 1939), and was an attempt to stimulate the production of non-conventional works among Colombian artists. In fact, over the course of its nine editions (1975–1984) the Salon became one of the favorite places chosen by artists to launch their careers. This was especially true of those who started off by exploring aspects of contemporary art through the use of non-conventional media related to some of the more important art movements of the latter part of the twentieth century. Artists such as Antonio Caro (b. 1950), Rosemberg Sandoval (b. 1959), and Miguel Ángel Rojas (b. 1946) were able to establish themselves in the Colombian art world thanks to their exhibitions at the Salón Atenas.
The creation of the Salón Atenas was consistent with Serrano’s objectives as an art critic, because he had, since the 1970s, styled himself as a champion of contemporary Colombian visual art. In a sense, Serrano presented himself as an alternative to the modernist artists and critics who, in those days, enjoyed a certain level of acceptability within national public life. Years later, Serrano muted his opposition to that group. He was a member of the generation of Colombian art critics who rose to prominence in the wake of the departure of Marta Traba (1923–1983) who, for political reasons was forced to leave the country in 1969.
The VII Salón Atenas [7th Atenas Salon] (1981) was one of the most controversial editions of the event as a result of heated discussions over categories such as young art, experimental art, and contemporary art. Leading figures with diametrically opposed ideas weighed in on the subject, including Traba, Francisco Gil Tovar from Spain, José Hernán Aguilar (b. 1952), Germán Rubiano (b. 1938), as well as Serrano himself.