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Curatorial Practices
Caracas: Art on the Edge
by José Antonio Navarrete

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Reason number two consists of the following: although the "graduation ceremony" for young artists in the aforementioned museums seemed to meet the expectations of a museum-laboratory fostered by Venezuelan art critics, it also soon showed its limitations and distortions as a means of fostering relations between emerging art and institutionalized art. Reacting to a lack of freer, more adventuresome exhibition spaces, our museums became the main promoters of experimentation in art. This gave rise to a number of paradoxes. Perhaps the main one is that, while on the one hand emerging art brought a breath of fresh, healthy air and sometimes an enlightened irreverence to museums, on the other hand museums felt authorized to engage in strategies to administer the "novelty". Thus, for example, although their speedy access to museums enabled young artists to do art work whose execution required large-scale funding that was difficult to secure without the backing of a "prestigious" institution, their work often had to fall in line with a pre-established, repetitive form of exhibition programming and to the thematic clichés that museums imposed on their presentation.

It did not take long for the shrewder artists and other players in the field to feel the effects of that paradox, with greater or lesser awareness of its implications. Their dissent --which did not necessarily mean making a radical break from museumsóacted as an incentive to look for ways of promoting art that would help to diversify the prevailing parameters in that regard and, in general, to give rise to other means of practicing their art and giving it visibility.

The aforementioned mechanisms for the dissemination and exhibition of Venezuelan art that have arisen can be viewed as a mature willingness on the part of our art community to become more actively engaged in the management of culture within Venezuela. This is taking place hand in hand with strategies designed to ensure the international presence of the achievements of an art scene that is little known and still underestimated abroad. This is ultimately a more important issue than it would seem to be at first glance. We may be witnessing a period of change in the history of art in Venezuela whose consequences are as yet to be understood.

José Antonio Navarrete

1) Traba, Marta. "Mirar en Caracas". In: Marta Traba. Mirar en Caracas. Monteávila Editores, Caracas, 1974, p. 13.
2) Institutions are mentioned in keeping with the names they had up to the end of the last ten years.
3) All of these form part of others that have arisen during the past five years, but here we have only mentioned Oficina No.1 due to its change of premises and its incorporation into the highly ambitious Periférico Caracas project.
4) Pinardi, Sandra. "Más allá de las cosas del arte" ("Beyond the stuff of art"). Imagen, Caracas, año 30, No 2, June 1997, p. 28.

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