The artist Oswaldo Guayasamin is one of, if not the, most famous person from Ecuador. He was also one of the most important and famous Latin American aritsts, documenting the suffering of the people of his continent and others.
I wasn´t sure what to expect, but the guidebook said a visit to Quito was not complete without visiting the artist´s Capilla del Hombre - Chapel of Man.
It was worth the climb to Guayasamin´s home in the neighborhood of Bellavista, even more so since I stopped to ask a security guard if I was going in the right direction and he suggested I take a bus. Four more blocks up on foot in equatorial sun and I was there.
I don´t know what it is about these artists, or the women like me who seek them out, but it reminded me of another climb up another hill in Mexico City to Diego Rivera´s house. Except Guayasamin lives at the top of a city that´s already at 9,300 feet in much hotter sun. But both were worth the trip.
La Capilla del Hombre is situated just below the home where Guayasamin lived. He had a breathtaking view of Quito from his pool, and so the chapel does as well.
The chapel is a museum of his art as well as a sacred space. Minimalist in design and display, it is a calm and quiet place in which his art cries out the agony of the people.
He also did a lot of work describing the mixing of the cultures in Latin America. In this sculpture, the father is European, the mother indigenous, and their child is mestizo.
For a bit of background:
Oswaldo was born in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, on July 6, 1919. He graduated from the School of Fine Art in Quito as painter and sculptor. He carried out his first exhibit when he was 23, in 1942. He achieved in his youth all National Awards, and was credited, in 1952, at the age of 33, the Grand Award of the Biennial of Spain and later the Grand Award of the Biennial of Sao Paulo. His last exhibits were personally inaugurated in the Palace Museum of Luxemberg in Paris, and in the Museo Palais de Glace in Buenos Aires, in 1995.
He died on March 10, 99, when he was 79 years old.
His work has been shown in museums in all capitals of America and in many countries in Europe, for example, in Leningrade (L’Ermitage), Moscow, Prague, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, and Warsaw.
I was not able to visit the Fundacion de Guayasamin, which houses more of his art because it was closed the day I visited. But I did get to see a video of a future museum and cultural center that will be next door to the Capilla del Hombre. It will be a beautiful all-glass structure with ramps, which reminded me of the Guggenheim, only this building is square, not round. It also has a performance space for concerts because, according to the guide, Guayasamin listened to classical music when he painted. The new building will house more of his art and is due to be completed in 2009 or 2010. It was clearly under construction when I was there, as there was a big hole in the ground with bulldozers around.
It was a little more complicated to get back down the hill than it was to get up on public transportation. Plus I was tired and hungry. There were plenty of taxis near the bus stop and for $2 I was at my next destination back in the heart of Quito.