The bolibanana revolution has decided to strike in the world of culture and art. Well, why not? It is screwing up everywhere else so why not wreck the fragile world of culture and creative production in Venezuela. For this El Supremo has named a certain Francisco "Farruco" Sesto, who has turned to be a Taliban of sorts. There is no point into detailing the mostly useless different initiatives of political taint, while the cultural heritage of Venezuela, as weak as it already is, crumbles around. But lately there are three particular egregious offenses that need to be reported.
In Venezuela museums have been traditionally the unwanted child of culture. We had to wait until about 3 decades ago, and the incredible work of people such as Sofia Imber to finally start to have some semi serious museums that even managed to make a name for themselves in South America. The "Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas Sofia Imber" managed to get an interesting collection, with its own Picasso and a Matisse now mysteriously subtracted. One of the reasons why some museums managed to break into some form of real educational and cultural institutions is that the Venezuelan government finally relented and created assured and independent funding for the museums, while leaving them independence in "art management". This might have created a certain elitism and esoterism in the museums offerings, but at least they were building a patrimony that could be put someday to good use.
Well, it is all over. El Supremo does not tolerate initiative unless it is directed at his promotion and glorification. And his cultural knowledge seems limited to Florentino y El Diablo which he does not quite understand anyway. So Sesto has suppressed all financial freedom and now all museums will depend for their funds to the good will of Sesto and his acolytes. Artistic freedom restriction cannot be far behind. Will all exhibits need to be approved at the ministry?
Well, the first big exposition of the new administration at the Kultur Ministry is a rather sad omen as to what is in store for Venezuelan culture. I went to visit it two Sundays ago. Well, part of it, as it is held in many places of Caracas and elsewhere.
The exposition is pretentiously called Megaexposición II: Venezuelan Art of the XXI century. Huh? XXI century when we are not even midway 2005?
But more surprises were in store. I am not an art critic, but for me the exposition seemed like a gigantic yard sale. That is, all was put in an haphazard way as far a cultural context. Considering that anyone who submitted a piece of "Art" was certain to be exhibited somewhere, you can imagine the effect of having such a mix of art forms dumped together (3819 "creations" from 2258 "artists").
I think that it is positive to dare people to expose, to try to find surprising new art. After all the brilliant precedent of Le Salon des Refusés (the expo of the rejected ones) is what brought to notoriety Impressionism, effecting a revolution in Western Art. But there is a way and a method for such things, and democratizing culture does not exempt the organizers to try to exhibit with a little bit of structural and organizational criteria. As the expo is set, the few good things are lost in a sea of mediocrity. If it is true that attendance has been high, I wonder what people took away from it. What I took away was yet another crass attempt at scoring demagogic points, just a way to keep dumbing down the country so that El Supremo stands alone. We saw that in the past. When a nazi like expo of escualido decadent and corrupt art? Will we see the Cabré Avila paintings included because he did not paint the slums that now surround Caracas? I am sure that Sesto would be a great curator for such an "Entarte" exhibit.
One lost work of art
But my outrage boiled when we reached one of the exhibits, set in honor of recently deceased Soto, the master of Kinetic Art. I could not believe that they dared to spend money in a rather mediocre exhibit of the great artist ,gone just as a few months ago, just as one of his great works placed on a Caracas Highway was finally ransacked by metal scrap scavengers a few yards away from a Nazional Guard station of Caracas La Carlota airport. The looting of the metal started a few years ago and the chavista Kultural folks never did a thing to try to protect it, to preserve what was left until someday it could be restored. Now there is an empty shell; but I am sure still fuller than the head of the Kultur Komissars......