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Volume 62 / Humanities


Colonial: South America

HUMBERTO RODRÍGUEZ-CAMILLONI, Professor of Architecture and Director, Henry H. Wiss Center for Theory and History of Art and Architecture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

WORKS REVIEWED FOR THIS BIENNIUM reflect continuing advances in scholarship in the field. Several indicators, including excellent monographs, exhibitions with their respective catalogs, and an unprecedented number of national and international symposia, attest to the fact that the study of Spanish colonial art and architecture has come into its own; and works from this period are enjoying a better appreciation worldwide. In the art market, Spanish colonial art is also commanding some of the highest prices ever due to the increasing demand by different collectors.

Thematically, the most numerous group of publications is devoted to painting, architecture, and sculpture, with furniture and the decorative arts in general lagging behind. Among the outstanding works are deluxe multi-authored titles which more and more is becoming the preferred format for some monographs and exhibition catalogues (items #bi2006002782#, #bi2006002781#, #bi2006002783#, and #bi2006003480#). Such works have the advantage of presenting different points of view which enrich the cross-fertilization of ideas. A notable example is The colonial Andes: tapestries and silversword, 1530-1830 (item #bi2006002783#), which received the award of an honorable mention from the Association of Latin American Art (ALAA) in 2006. Much more than an exhibition catalog, this volume collects important essays by an impressive team of Andeanists including Elena Phipps, Cristina Esteras Martín, Thomas Cummins, and others who provide coherent narratives on the transformations, not only in the artworks' iconography, but also within corresponding shifts in socio-political and religious conditions.

The patronage of banking institutions in several Latin American countries remains crucial for some of the finest publications in the field. It should also be noted that the same private banks have often sponsored or co-sponsored exhibitions and restoration projects of works of art and historic monuments. Recent additions to Peru's exemplary Banco de Crédito Colección Arte y Tesores del Perú are the second volume of Association of Latin Barroco peruano (item #bi2006002783#) and La basílica Catedral de Lima (item #bi2006002782#), the first title in the series dedicated to a single first-rank building. In Bolivia, the Fundación Cultural del Banco Central made possible the restoration of an important collection of paintings from the Cuzco and Bolivian schools which were then exhibited in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Sucre, and Potosí (item #bi2006003415#). Ecuador's Banco Central in Cuenca, in turn, sponsored the elegant exhibition catalog Angeles, enigma y belleza (item #bi2006003405#). One major drawback of these publications, however, is their high cost which makes them inaccessible to students and most of the general public.

In this regard, Gauvin Alexander Bailey's Art of colonial Latin America (item #bi2006003483#), recently released in a paperback edition, fills a major void in the field. This masterful overview of the art and architecture of Spanish and Portuguese America supersedes the now dated works by Pál Kelemen, Baroque and rococo in Latin America (1951), and Leopoldo Castedo, A history of Latin American art and architecture (1969), and will most likely serve as the standard textbook for English-speaking undergraduate and graduate students for years to come.

Beautifully illustrated catalogs make available for the first time two magnificent private collections of Spanish colonial art that should prove invaluable to researchers in the field. One of these, in Lima, Peru, is the collection from the Museo Pedro de Osma (item #bi2006003399#), which boasts one of the most complete collections of its kind, including not only paintings, sculptures, decorative silversword, furniture, textiles, crystal and porcelain, but also engravings and other prints from the period. The other collection, belonging to Marilynn and Carl Thoma from the United States, premiered at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts of Stanford University, California on September 20, 2006, from where it will travel to Arizona, Puerto Rico, Canada and Texas between January 2007 and March 2008 (item #bi2006003480#). Featuring more than 50 works in excellent condition, this exhibition examines the pictorial arts that developed within the vast Spanish viceroyalty of Peru, including present-day Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. Ultimately destined to be housed in a public museum, the Thomas have made an important contribution to the field through the publication of a well-documented scholarly catalog that should serve as an inspiration to other collectors.

The problem of restoration and conservation of works of art affecting small and large museums throughout Latin America receives special attention in Blanca de Lima Urdaneta and Jorge Jaber Ferretis' "Actualización del registro y diagnóstico de la colección de pintura y escultura del Museo Diocesano 'Lucas Guillermo Castillo'" (item #bi2005007998#) and Marisabel Alvarez Plata and Teresa Gisbert's Preservando el patrimonio: pinturas restauradas de la Casa Nacional de Moneda (item #bi2006003415#), but the literature on this important subject remains very sparse. More discussion is needed regarding ways to alleviate the persistent problems of deficient curatorial management, lack of trained personnel, and insufficient financial resources facing many institutions, particularly those in the provincial centers. Additionally, attention must be called to the alarming increase of theft in urban and remote rural areas, together with surreptitious sales stimulated by the high prices buyers are willing to pay today for Spanish colonial art. Fortunately, in recent years, several Latin American countries have sought greater control of the export of the precolumbian antiquities and colonial art that comprise their cultural heritage. The US and other countries have also pledged to honor the UNESCO Convention on cultural property as it applies to Peru and Bolivia; but more publications to develop an international awareness of the problem would help.

In the category of titles corresponding to papers presented at international conferences or symposia, several important contributions need to be mentioned. First among these, is the impressive two-volume Barroco iberoamericano: territorio, arte, espacio y sociedad (item #bi2006002784#) corresponding to the proceedings from the III Congreso Internacional del Barroco Iberoamericano held in October 2001 in Seville, Spain. This event followed two previous congresses devoted to the same theme held in Rome in 1980 and in Querétaro, Mexico in 1991. A slate of more than 120 scholars presented papers which focused on a broad panorama that included the nature of artistic production, workshops, guilds and associated brotherhoods and their social role in the daily life of their respective towns. Other international conferences represented here include: Circa 1700: Architecture in Europe and the Americas, sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in September 15-16, 2000 (item #bi2006003486#); The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773, held at Boston College, Chesnut Hill, Massachusetts, between June 2-9, 2002 (item #2006003482#); and the 2nd International Congress on Construction History organized by the Construction History Society in Queen's College, Cambridge University, U.K., between March 29-April 2, 2006 (item #bi2006003481#)). Finally, the colloquium Archaeology of the Early Church in the New World, held at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. between December 10-11, 2004; and the session Locating the Global in the Art of the American Viceroyalties from the 52nd International Congress of Americanists held in Seville between July 17-21, 2006, await publication of their respective proceedings.

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