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Volume 56 / Humanities

ART: SPANISH AMERICA


19th and 20th Centuries

FELIX ANGEL, Curator, Cultural Center, Inter-American Development Bank


THE ECONOMICS OF THE ART WORLD have changed dramatically in the last few years, as have the motivations for producing and publishing art books. The uncertainties of the world's economic markets have translated into diverse possibilities for financial speculation and related activities in the art world; Latin America has not been impervious to this trend.

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of publications dedicated to individual artists in mid-career or younger. Such publications, however, rarely contain more than a tributary essay in praise of the artist's work and some biographical information, while offering little of scholarly or research value. When well illustrated, these books are worthwhile primarily for the visual references they provide for those planning further studies of a particular artist. Nevertheless, it is frequently difficult to discern any relevant scholarly information in this type of work.

Still scarce in Latin America are art publications that demonstrate significant scholarly dedication and research. It is, however, possible to find some satisfactory publications, mostly in the area of art history. Among those reviewed this biennium, the following three works merit particular attention: Osiris Delgado's Historia general de las artes plásticas en Puerto Rico, volumen 1 (item bi 95014010), Alicia Rojas' Historia de la pintura en Chile (item bi 95014039), and the catalogue raisonné of Remedios Varo by Ricardo Ovalle (item bi 95014074).

An outstanding example of books dedicated to criticism is Marta Traba's Art of Latin America, 1900-1980 (item bi 95014061). This book, published ten years after the author's death, is probably her best edited work.

In the essay category, an area of very few new publications, older texts are rather more interesting than the recent ones. The first volume of Octavio Paz's collection entitled Los privilegios de la vista (item bi 95014115) and Jorge Romero Brest's ¿Qué es una obra de arte? (item bi 93024151) continue to command attention.

As far as monographs on artists, especially those on living artists, it is difficult to find a solid work that is not following a specific agenda, namely, promoting the artist. Several works, however, such as Tábara by Carlos Areán (item bi 95014044) may survive critical scrutiny.

There are some nice surprises to be found among works devoted to a special theme, such as La cera en México by María José Esparza Liberal and Isabel Fernández de García (item bi 95014146) and the Diccionario crítico de artistas plásticos del Ecuador del siglo XX de Hernán Rodríguez Castelo (item bi 93024167).

Finally, it is important to single out institutions whose publications consistently exhibit a high degree of professionalism in both technical standards and documentation. A fine example of such an institution is the Galería de Arte Nacional, in Caracas, Venezuela, which has produced a number of excellent works reviewed below (items bi 95014036, bi 95014063, and bi 95014149.)


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