artandculture ecuador

Artist Guayasamin and La Capilla del Hombre Create Identity in Quito, Ecuador

Thursday, October 30, 2014 Cora

Many cities boast homes and studios of famous artists. It’s fun to live an in a city where an influential artist flourished. We have Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park as well as homes he designed. Artist residences help shape a city, creating pride and an identity.

Two thousand nine hundred and sixty miles away, Quito, Ecuador is being called “a center of transcending art” due to Oswaldo Guayasamin’s art and his La Capilla del Hombre. Guayasamin is an iconic Ecaudorian artist internationally known for his ability to communicate a history of pain and suffering through his art. He experienced much racism growing up because his father was a Quechua Indian and his mother was mixed race. Racism became a major theme in his work. The Art Institute has his work, “The Procession,” created in 1942. One of his most famous pieces, “The Deathbed of Christ,” is displayed at the Louvre.

After a career of bringing awareness and creating discussions about race and people’s daily strife, Guayasamin wanted to create a tribute to humankind, the suffering of Latin America’s indigenous people and the hope for something better. La Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man) emerged to be built by his home and studio. In the 12,000 square foot, three floor structure, covered in stones influenced by pyramids, he wanted visitors to see civilization’s cruelty, but also its resilience and courage. With financial help from UNESCO, which described it as a “project with the biggest cultural transcendence to the region,” it was completed after Guayasamin’s death in 2002. Visitors walk through history, surrounded by murals and scriptures laid out to interpret events. Precolonial times are on the first floor and as visitors climb to the top they travel closer to present day. The artist felt it was important for people to see and feel other’s emotions through the journey, to feel their anger, fear, and tears, and did his best to create that atmosphere.

While La Capilla del Hombre is described as one of the most important works of art in South America, two features stand out. Guayasamin’s movable mural, “Los Mutilados,” is the main part of the central dome. He described it as one of the most important works he ever designed. Each panel moves and can be rearranged in two million unique arrangements. There is also “The Eternal Flame for Human Rights and Peace” which burns on a metallic plate in the lower part of the building to keep the “conscience of humankind turned on.” Artist's residences and monumental creations help cities create identity, but they also remind people where they come from. La Capilla del Hombre not only communicates a history, it also holds space for a better future. For more information on Oswaldo Guayasamin, his foundation, and La Capilla del Hombre, you can visit

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