We visited the Museo Fundación Guayasamín, situated in a leafy hilltop suburb of Quito, on the recommendation of Liz & Al. Until then, neither of us had heard of Oswaldo Guayasamín, who is widely agreed to be Ecuador’s greatest contemporary painter and sculptor. The visit turned out to be one of the highlights of our time in Ecuador.
When Guayasamín was 12, he witnessed a stray bullet kill his best friend when they were watching a political rally. It is said this event was a trigger for his life’s work as an artist: To shed light on the suffering of the politically oppressed and victims of war, class division, poverty and prejudice. For decades Guayasamín dedicated himself to capture the grief of the oppressed in Latin America, speaking out through his paintings against indigenous exploitation, for example. His paintings gave a voice to the voiceless.
Established in 1977, the non-profit organization of Fundación Guayasamín acted to promote the masterpieces and ideology of Oswaldo Guayasamín. In the last years of his life, Guayasamín donated his private art collection, along with his house, belongings and an extensive collection of his own work to the City of Quito.
Now, his house, which is exactly how he left it, right down to his painting smocks in the wardrobe, and his studio, with the half-finished portrait he was working on when he died, are open to the public.
Nearby, is the ‘Capilla del Hombre’ (Chapel of Man), a large two storey gallery filled with large format works completed by Guayasamin especially for this gallery in the last years of his life. The subjects include the agonies of workers in the silver mined of Potosi, Bolivia, where eight million people perished over three centuries, as well as paintings celebrating Latin American identity and the positive aspects of human nature.
The house and gallery afford views across all of Quito, and the rugged mountains beyond. Guayasamin painted this view several hundreds of times, with each painting differing subtly with his mood and the weather.
As we are a little behind on our blog, we can also say that when we were in Havana, Cuba a few weeks ago, we visited ‘Casa Oswaldo Guayasamín’. Guayasamín was an ardent supporter of the communist Cuban Revolution, and a close friend to Fidel Castro. Now a museum, it displays many of Guayasamín’s paintings of Fidel and Raul Castro, as well as furniture and other miscellany relating to when he lived here and used it as a studio.