The monumental gift of Carlos Cruz-Diez for Bogotá

“How much can it be worth? I don’t know… Four million dollars? Maybe; yes: four million dollars. Dad was a very generous person.” Carlos Cruz-Diez, son of the teacher Carlos Cruz-Diez, cannot stop celebrating the new public works that Bogotá has. The main square of the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University now owns a circle of colors that will undoubtedly become a new benchmark in the city. It’s your new Chromatic Induction Ring.

On the opening day, last Thursday, guests, students, teachers and passersby did not stop taking photos for Instagram or Facebook. In a second there were a good number of selfies, general shots of its 30 meters in diameter and 3 meters wide, or photos of his shoes next to the colored mosaics that make up the work. Cruz-Diez delivered the final plans for the work in 2014, but the idea began in 1998, he first thought of making a billboard, but then decided to be more ambitious, why not?

Cruz-Diez (1923-2019) was an art revolutionary; Next to Jesús Soto they made color and all its possibilities take over the world. They were the two great masters of kinetic art. The spearhead of a movement that shook the world. His works managed to get smiles, that people looked at the art from top to bottom, from side to side; they made abstract art a game that would leave the Impressionists on the table. Seeing a work by Cruz-Diez is an endless pleasure; His works change with the sunlight, with the point of view, or simply with taking a step.

Carlos Cruz Ten
Carlos Cruz Ten

Cruz-Diez –also– was a pioneer of public art; he detested the ugliness and poverty of the popular neighborhoods of Caracas. At the beginning of his career, his battles were figurative, he did works to denounce misery, but he soon realized that it was useless; he discovered color and its possibilities, but he also wanted to give something to the eyes of people who are not inside the art circuit, “there are 260 public works of dad, well: 261 now”, says his son with a sonorous laugh.

In the Tadeo square there is also a vigorous exhibition of the Fotomuseo with images of different public works by Cruz-Díez; train stations in France, buildings in São Paulo or Zurich, monuments in Paris, or the spectacular floor of the pedestrian crossings of the Marlins baseball stadium, “when dad spoke with the owner of the team, he had to confess that he was a fan of the Yankees”, says his son between laughter. The work has 1,672 square meters. And Cruz-Diez, without a doubt, celebrated several home runs for the team where Édgar Rentería was world series champion.

The Venezuelan artist, “universal, because he belongs to all of us”, his son corrects me, died in 2019. He was 94 years old and his head was still a whirlwind of ideas. “The last thing he did in the hospital bed was a drawing of one of the projects my older brother Jorge had: a museum for his work. I have that drawing,” says Cruz-Diez Jr.

Carlos Cruz Ten
The work changes as people walk. Photo: Courtesy

Carlos Cruz-Díez Delgado is 70 years old and grew up surrounded by his father’s fantastic pieces, a constant movement between Caracas, Barcelona and Paris and the conviction that his house and his workshop were the same thing. “Mom, Mirtha Delgado, and dad loved music and being surrounded by people. Jesús Soto, for example, was a great guitarist. In Paris the workshop was full of artists. I still remember the wonderful barbecues made by the Argentine Julio Alpuy. They all shared ideas. They did not compete with each other. In the Renaissance, works of art were made by hundreds of people.

Then art became a matter of solitary beings locked in an attic. Dad, on the other hand, always had 20 people in the workshop, young people from all over the world, Mexico, Portugal, France, Colombia… I worked with him since I was 20 years old. In addition, he was a brilliant inventor: his works are impossible to copy or falsify because he himself created the machines that made the parts of his pieces, aluminum folding machines, frames; he gave them names like The crab, hehehe: it was a machine that had loooong legs”.

Carlos Cruz Ten
Detail of the work. Photo: courtesy U. Jorge Tadeo Lozano

Chromatic induction ring is made of glass mosaics produced by a French factory since the 19th century. “In 30 years they will be the same and in case they have to be replaced, the factory will continue to exist; They are the same mosaics that were used in the work of the Maiquetía airport in 1978 and that, despite everything, are still there”.

Cruz-Diez had four workshops that are still fully operational: Panama, Miami, Caracas and Paris. “Our mission is to manage dad’s work; maintain his legacy and his place in history, even if he is already at Larousse. His works have sold for over a million dollars at auction and we have a huge responsibility to collectors. You have to handle his exhibitions in museums and galleries. Carry out maintenance of public works and have the capacity to execute those that are still in the plans. There are even highway projects. He was very orderly: he made the plans and left millimetric instructions. His work has that requirement: a badly placed point destroys the entire effect; It is like when you go down some stairs and a step is two millimeters higher: you fall”.

Chromatic induction ring was in the archives of the Cruz Díez and Tadeo Lozano. The current rector, Carlos Sánchez Gaitán, took the baton of the project and decided to carry it forward in the pandemic so that, when returning to face-to-face classes, reality would be friendlier for the university community and Bogota citizens in general: the square is public. He obtained the permits from the District and the resources from the university to install the 408,000 mosaics that make up the work. There were people from the workshop and Colombian artists in the assembly. “It was amazing when the circle came full circle. It’s perfect,” he says. Sánchez cannot hide his emotion: “All year round we are going to have academic activities around Cruz-Díez”.

The workshop and the foundation are ready to attend to the maintenance of the work, but they are also sure that it will be a space for the people. “The other day, in Andorra, I saw an impeccable work that has not had maintenance in 30 years, but today it is even on its stamps and is part of its identity: people clean it and take care of it. The same thing happens in the Pyrenees: dad worked with all the artisans in the town and they do maintenance on him. That is the meaning of public art; that the square becomes a meeting place, concerts, theater: a place for ideas”.

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