The collective El Sindicato, 1976-1979 : intervening in conceptualism in Latin America
Conceptual practices developed in Colombia towards the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s. Even a cursory look at surveys of Colombian conceptual art shows that the collective El Sindicato, active between 1976 and 1979, secured its space in these accounts with its 1978 work Alacena con zapatos, which won the top prize at the XXVII Salón Nacional. However, Alacena con zapatos was neither the only, nor the most significant, contribution of El Sindicato to the development of conceptual practices. The collective’s rich oeuvre, while concise, was nonetheless remarkable in its interventions on public spaces as a means for social change. A number of factors have led to the critical misunderstanding and, ultimately, the historiographical neglect of these interventions. This thesis problematizes these factors in order to reframe and expand El Sindicato’s role within the narrative of Colombian art. To elucidate El Sindicato’s contributions, and taking into account that much of Colombian conceptual art remains unknown in the United States, this thesis also registers Colombia’s artistic field as it stood in the 1970s. In all, my project situates El Sindicato’s practices within the broader narrative of Conceptualism as a means to both enrich our understanding of contemporary art in Colombia and help expand the familiar boundaries of the map of conceptual art.