“Soy un indio, carajo!” (“I’m an indian, dammit!”). So declared Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuador’s most famous artist. Son of an indigenous father and mixed-race mother, this conflict influenced much of Guayasamin’s works and produced an artist of fiercely strong social conscience.
It’s hard to escape Guayasamin in Ecuador – every tourist stall flogs t-shirts bearing the image of his distinctive emaciated figures, with their oversized hands and eyes. But to really appreciate his genius, you need to visit the not one but two neighbouring museums dedicated to the maestro.
The Guayasamin Museum – located in the artist’s former house – is a peaceful spot in which to enjoy some of his most famous sequences. His depictions of grieving war-mothers and dodgy characters in the Pentagon are as relevant as ever.
The Chapel of Man is different. Built to the artist’s specifications but not completed before his death in 1999, it’s an impressive bunker-like building with a stunning view over the city. Its huge walls accommodate the larger paintings and quotes by the artist, who continued to rage against imperialism to the last. Powerful stuff.
Calle José Bosmediano 543, Barrio Bellavista, El Batán;
Corner of Mariano Calvache y Lorenzo Chavez, Bellavista, Quito;
Taxi up to Chapel of Man and walk down to museum is the easiest way;
tel: 593 2 2446455 / 2452938 / 2465265;
fax: 593 2 2446277;
It’s easy to reach Church Saturation Point in Quito’s Old Town. Such was the plethora of religious buildings erected by the conquering Spaniards, the Cathedral is not even the grandest church on the block, never mind the entire barrio. But if you look at it more in terms of history than religion, it gets more interesting. There are paintings from the Quito School of Art containing indigenous images in a small act of rebellion by co-opted native artists; the Moorish influences in the architecture, relics of another war fought by the Spaniards; and the bones of Marshall Sucre, hero of Ecuador’s successful fight for independence. There’s more to the Street of Seven Crosses than crosses.
Plaza de Independencia.
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