Museo de Arte Contemporáeno de Caracas Sofía Imber

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6th Pirelli Salon of Young Digital Artists

Ephemeral Art

One of the characteristics that define art is its ephemeral state.  The impermanent condition of art complies with a law that is common to all material objects.  In this sense, any physical element is subject to disappear in a transformation process, and regardless of the extraordinary effort that we invest to preserve what we consider art, it is futile and unattainable to acquire immortality on physical objects. 

What happened at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas Sofía Imber (MACCSI):  the loss of 14 pieces as well as Henri Matisse’s notorious paint ‘Odalisque avec trousers’, also known as ‘La odalisca con pantalón rojo’, is an event that goes beyond sensationalism and encourage us to reflect and to ask some basic questions, like, for example, when is the MACCSI going to stop having physical and electronic security lacks? How these actions affect the public image of the institution?  And, how the Venezuelan State is responsible in the loss of such goods? 

Despite of the eagerness invested by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas to achieve its Biennial, known as the Pirelli Salon of Young Artists, the curatorial discourse tends to destroy any sober intellectual exercise, making of the Pirelli Salon a trap for young artists, and transforming the significance of the museum into a fair of common places. Perhaps this attitude allowed the disappearance of one of the most valuable pieces in the Museum collection, which, incidentally, was replaced with a very bad replica. Nevertheless, it is more important to discuss the nature of this sad event. 

From Altamira’s caves to Chelseas’s galleries, art maintains its provisional status in a constantly changing world.  Ephemeral art has been present in the work of recognized Venezuelan artists, including Armando Reverón, Claudio Perna, and Diego Barboza.  Also, there has been a clear interest in this kind of expression by Venezuelan groups like ‘El Techo de la Ballena’ (The Ceiling of the Whale) and nomadic exhibitions like Happening Extremo (Extreme Happening), just to mention some demonstrations produced in the last decades. 

Although, there are other references that lead us to art’s ephemeral condition. One example is a great amount of works made during the colonial period, which disappeared as a result of several incidents like the last earthquake that happened in Caracas. At that time, numerous places were broken in by burglars, including Simon Bolivar’s house, where objects and paintings of inestimable historical and cultural value were stolen. 

Continuously, natural disasters, added to the barbarism of some fanatic and malicious groups, devastate and exterminate our surroundings. In addition to the invaluable loss of the thousands of people who died as a consequence of the World Trade Center attack, a small piece of our culture also disappeared, including artworks of great importance in the art history.  Likewise, the war between Iraq and the United States, not only caused  a high number of victims and deaths, but also entailed the destruction and disappearance of many relics and historical objects, mostly at the National Museum of Iraq.

Going back to the incident that happened at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas Sofía Imber, it seems extraordinary that because of the Internet and a series of emails sent to this institution, the (former) director, Rita Salvestrini, questioned the authenticity of Matisse’s painting and opened an investigation to ensure the truth.

Founded on the endless possibilities of the Internet, Net Art is one of the clearest exponents of ephemeral art, since it takes place in a dynamic and always changing environment.  In Venezuela, Net Art becomes of public interest in 1999, when the website of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas Sofia Imber ( is hacked and appropriated by a Venezuelan young artist, who criticized the institutional posture of the Museum against new media and technology, and created a parallel biennial called the ‘Pirelli Salon of Young “Digital” Artists’, an action that got noticed by Venezuelan media and museums, which opened a new direction in the Venezuelan contemporary art practice.

The relevance that Net Art has had all over the world, has been reflected in art venues like Transmedialle (Germany), Prix Ars Electronica (Austria), SIGGRAPH (USA), New York Digital York Salon (USA), Whitney Biennial (USA), and more recently at exhibitions such as FILE (Brazil) and InteractivA (Mexico); showing the global interest of artists, curators, critics, collectors, and academics, in using, applying, and investigating, the Net as a source of human and robotic creativity. 

However, in spite of the historical repercussion that ephemeral art has had, there are few theoretical and curatorial proposals related to ephemeral art and the Internet. In April of 2001 it was presented at the former New York gallery, Moving Image Gallery, a show named Net.Ephemera. Constituted by 25 pioneering Net Artists based in New York, and organized by curator Michele Thurz, founder of Postmedia Network, and Mark Tribe, founder of Rhizome, Net.Epehemera became the first exhibition devoted to explore the ephemeral condition of Net Art. Curiously, all the works shown in the gallery were presented and displayed in a common format:  paper. In fact, all the works were studies and proposals about the art-making process of Net Art projects.

By emphasizing the Internet as an instrument and medium, the 6th Pirelli Salon of Young Digital Artists invites artists to submit projects made with contemporary languages, such Flash, Director, JAVA, and DHTML, among others, to explore the ephemeral nature of art, an immanent and a priori condition of every object, either physical or digital.

Due to the great interest that the Pirelli Salon of Young Digital Artists has generated in the international artistic community, this year, the participation will be open not only to all the artists born in Venezuelan, but also to digital producers from any country.  The purpose of this action is to move toward the universal standards that prevail in today’s art.  

Yucef Merhi