Chile's Brightly Brushed Port

By Montecino, Marcelo | Americas (English Edition), September-October 1992 | Go to article overview
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Chile's Brightly Brushed Port


Montecino, Marcelo, Americas (English Edition)


Valparaiso, Chile's largest port, is like an impoverished, eccentric aristocrat, living on dreams and memories. Once one of South America's richest cities, it is now slightly decrepit, but full of reminders of a golden past. Before the opening of the Panama Canal, every ship that went through the Straits of Magellan on its way to California had to stop in Valparaiso for provisions and recreation. Valparaiso was a world class port--cosmopolitan, colorful, with patrician English and Chilean families who built their mansions on the rolling hills by the sea.

The construction of the Panama Canal was only the first step in Valparaiso's decline. Natural disasters and the vanishing industrial base followed, adding to the deterioration of the port's bustling activity.

But now a novel initiative has put a little color back into the cheeks of this endearing old patriarch. Entitled the "Open Sky Museum" (Museo de Cielo Abierto), it consists of 20 murals designed and, in some cases, personally painted by members of Chile's "Generation of 1940" in the meandering, often unkempt, streets of the port.

The "Museum" was the brainchild of the painter Francisco Mendez. "When we made the list with Nemesio Antunez," he says, "I asked that the participants be painters with a long and well-known career and that is why this walk becomes a museum. Moreover, they are all members of the 40s Generation which was an important milestone in Chilean painting. Through these painters, different expressions or currents that were being developed in Europe or the U.S. began to appear here. That's why within the different works there are a variety of styles: surrealism, geometrics, Op Art, expressionism, pure abstraction, realism and Pop Art."

Among the artists participating in this project were Mario Carreno, Ricardo Yrarrazabal, Roberto Matta (whose mural was painted by a disciple), Rodolfo Opazo, Mario Toral, Ramon Vergara-Grez, Francisco Mendez, Roser Bru, Sergio Montecino, Nemesio Antunez, Jose Balmes, Gracia Barrios, Guillermo Nunez and Augusto Barcia.

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