June 11, 2006

Guayasamin´s Chapel - La Capilla del Hombre

Filed under: Ecuador 2006 — Lilli @ 1:36 am
Capilla del Hombre, Quito

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.

Capilla del Hombre, Eternal Flame

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.

Pool, Guayasamin´s home, Quito

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.

Capilla del Hombre

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.

Capilla del Hombre, Quito

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.

Read more about Guayasamin…

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.


Quito Sightseeing

Filed under: Ecuador 2006 — Lilli @ 1:23 am

It was hard to top La Capilla del Hombre, but La Casa de la Cultura was another amazing experience. This museum houses artifacts from all the peoples of Ecuador, from 4,000 b.c. on. At least I think that´s how far it goes, at least to the Conquistadors. But I´m not entirely sure because I thought the museum was open until 6, but at 4 p.m. the guard invited me to leave. I may have to go back and see the rest.

Unfortunately, I could not take photos nor could I find any good ones on the Internet. This is hard to believe, but I think I enjoyed this even more than the amazing Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. That museum is more spectacular, but perhaps the contents more familiar to me. This is my first visit to South America, and many things here are different than Mexico or even Central America.

Casa de la Cultura houses more pots than you could probably count, but they are absolutely amazing, with figures of animals and people using techniques of irridescence and relief that were absolutely incredible and long before the time of Christ. The Incas only conquered Ecuador less than 100 years before the Conquistadors. They may have been better administrators and certainly were better warriors (with countless forts and military outposts shown on a relief map at the museum), but their art was nothing compared to those who came before them, and much earlier. There were numerous indigenous groups, none of which had names familiar to me, so I can´t educate you much on that. Let´s just say the Incas weren´t so cool and so developed when it came to art.

If La Capilla del Hombre counts as a church, then I broke Martha´s rule of only one church a day by squeezing in a quick visit to La Basilica - Quito´s hyper-Gothic church.

La Basilica, Quito

I got a fake tour by a man who wanted to show me around for a tip. Then I got a semi-real tour by a security guard who was far more informative and didn´t expect a tip, so I gave him a really good one. I only had about 15 minutes before closing by the time I started chatting with him, but he did a good job of showing me around. All the stained-glass windows came from Europe, and he said the church is a copy of one or those in France. Or perhaps it looks similar to Gothic churches everywhere.

La Basilica detail, Quito

One highlight of La Basilica is the heart-shaped window in the rear of the church. La Basilica sits on a hill, opposite another hill upon which sits a huge statue of the Virgin of Quito. From near the altar one can look through the heart-shaped window and see the statue of the Virgin on the other side of town. It´s quite beautiful. Unfortunately, this is difficult to photograph, but here´s a photo of the window and rear door of the church, guided over by none other than JP II. At least, that´s who it looks like to me.

La Basilica, rear door

My guide/security guard says this church is very new - only about 125 years old and is the largest in South America, or perhaps in the northern part of South America.

Thank God for my bad travel Spanish. I´ve been using it constantly. Another reason for complete exhaustion. After three tourist stops in one day, I was beat. So beat I even took three taxis. It´s often easy to get to a destination on public transportation than it is to get back. But getting around Ecuador is very easy. The trolley is about a block from my hotel and only costs 25 cents. Public city buses are more complicated, but there are about a billion of them and they cost 15 or 25 cents. Some are pretty grimmy, but others are new and clean with fancy trolly-like platform stops. Everyone is very friendly and helpful and I have stopped and asked for directions many times. All in all, an easy and very affordable travel destination.


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