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  HOME | Venezuela (Click here for more Venezuela news)

Sofia Imber, Grand Dame of Venezuela, Dies at 92

MIAMI -- Sofia Imber, journalist and founder of Venezuela's Museum of Contemporary Art, passed away Monday, February 20, at the age of 92.

Fittingly, on that same day in 1974, Sofia inaugurated the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, which would become her rich legacy to the country she loved.

Started from nothing, guided by Sofia and funded with revenue from Venezuela's oil boom, the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art became the most important art museum in Latin America and one of the most prestigious in the world.

Born in 1924 into the Jewish family of Naum Ímber and Ana Barún in what was then Romania (and now Moldovia), Imber moved to Venezuela with her parents in 1930 when she was just 6.

Imber became the first Latin American woman to be awarded the Picasso Medal from UNESCO, also being awarded the Order of Boyacá in Colombia, as well as being the first female to win Venezuela's National Journalism Prize for her work as a journalist. She was also honored around the world with the Legion of Honour (chevalier); the Order of the Aztec Eagle; Order of Merit of the Italian Republic; Orden de Mayo (Argentina); Gabriela Mistral Order of Educational and Cultural Merit; Order of Rio Branco; Order of Civil Merit and the Order of Isabella the Catholic.

"What she did for the visual arts was very important. She brought modern creation to an immense audience. Her museum is a fundamental work," says great Venezuelan artist Jacobo Borges.

As an oligarch of the "squalid" establishment, Sofia was removed from direction (and the name) of the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas in 2001 live on TV by then President Hugo Chavez during the transmission of his "Aló, President", abruptly ending 25 years of untiring work in which she enriched the country's artistic heritage.

At her exit, the collection she amassed surpassed 4,500 pieces and the institution had grown from 600 square meters to more than 20,000 square meters.

"I simply founded the museum, I worked for it, together with my team I made it a crown jewel. One day they threw me out without even giving me the thanks," Imber recounts in her biography by Diego Arroyo Gil.

On the walls of the MAC -- designed by Nicolás Sidorkovs in downtown Caracas -- there was the complete Suite Vollard of Picasso. The halls housed more than 600 exhibitions of artists such as England's Henry Moore and Colombia's Fernando Botero, who was one of those who rejected the shocking dismissal of Ímber by Chavez.

"It's the equivalent of getting you out of your own home, as it is a creation of yours that the entire Venezuelan people should be proud of," Botero wrote.

Sofia, the journalist

After marrying journalist and diplomat Guillermo Meneses, Imber arrived for the first time in a newsroom. In El Nacional she wrote the column "Yo, la intransigente" which she later compiled into a book published in 1971. And along with the brilliant intellectual journalist Carlos Rangel, her second husband, she hosted "Buenos Dias" on Venevisión, beginning February 22,1968.

In April 2016, the Miami Museum of Art honored Imber for her career developing contemporary art in Venezuela and Latin America, making the country and the museum that took her name a world reference in the fine arts.

In December, the Latin American Herald Tribune held a discussion and celebration of Sofia's contribution to the worlds of journalism and art, which included a performance by Venezuelan folk singer Soledad Bravo and the launching of her biography. Sofia beamed with happiness.

Sofia Imber 1924 - 2017


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