On the 11th of September 1973, the Presidency of Salvador Allende of Chile, the world’s first democratically-elected Marxist head of state, came to a violent end in a revolt led by the army under General Augusto Pinochet. Allende died, apparently by suicide, as did democracy in Chile under his 17 year regime, during which some 3,000 people were killed or disappeared. Pinochet himself died in 2006, by which time he was under investigation for the alleged theft of around $27 million which had been moved into secret offshore accounts.
Artists responded internationally to the events of September 1973 at the 1974 Art Biennale in Venice and in London at a rally on the 15th of December 1974, and an exhibition at the Royal College of Art showing art by artists from all over the world including David Hockney, Roberto Matta, Christo and Sol LeWitt, while John Dugger, Cecilia Vicuna, David Medalla and Guy Brett established the Arts Festival for Democracy in Chile to raise support and awareness of the suffering of the Chilean people. At the same time, not unexpectedly, many artists felt it necessary to leave Chile for more benign environments.
Tate Modern’s exhibition ‘A Year in Art: 1973′ exploring the different ways in which artists have responded to those events in Chile in 1973, both at the time and over the years since then, is interestingly only a few gallery spaces away Dora Maar’s record of Picasso creating his iconic work ‘Guernica’, painted in 1937 in response to the Nazi’s destructive and unnecessary bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.