Oswaldo Guayasamín had a house in Havana for 23 years where he relished the Caribbean city’s sea breezes and interacted with its people who still remember him as a “good neighbor”.
According to the diplomat Martínez-Pírez, the painter’s decision to have a place in Havana was supported by the city’s historian, Eusebio Leal, with the one condition that the dwelling should be one of the many in Havana’s old quarter in urgent need of repair.
He recalled the building as being in a serious state of disrepair, with a mechanic’s workshop on the ground floor and six families living above.
The renovation 23 years ago converted the lower rooms into an art gallery with a bedroom upstairs.
Guayasamín wanted to come to Cuba to paint the Revolution’s leader Fidel Castro. He had first done so in 1961 when Fidel had agreed to pose for the indigenous artist, but it is said that he could never retain the “Comandante” for more than 15 minutes because he was always surrounded by a multitude seeking his advice.
He added that Guayasamin would later paint the author of the historic assault on the Moncada barracks, in both 1981 and 1986.
These portraits form part of the Oswaldo Guayasamín House Museum collection. The Ecuadorian artist also painted current Cuban president Raul Castro and amongst others; the balladeers Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés and renowned anthropologist Antonio Núñez Jiménez.
According to Aliana Martínez, the museum’s director, Guayasamin knew a lot about Cuban history, which is why he decided to open the building on January 8th, the day Cubans celebrate the arrival of the triumphant “bearded rebels” in Havana.
She said that as requested by Fidel’s and Cuba’s great friend, we have kept the light on until today.
The director explained that in celebration of its 23rd year, the gallery is exhibiting garments of clothing never shown before; not dresses or formal suits, but instead those that the painter wore whilst at work. They have paint stains and other traces of his creative processes.
Aliana Martínez recalled that even though the painter had only spent a few days at a time in his Havana home, when the studio windows were open he would chat with his neighbors and get to know people. He would then go to another place to focus on his work. He never slept in the house because he always preferred to be surrounded by a lot of people.
The center’s present collection includes the painter’s furniture, crafts from his Ecuadorian homeland and pre-Columbine artifacts that he brought 23 years ago.
When Guayasamín died, aged 80 years, in 1999, his house was converted into a museum, of which there are now three: the first was opened in Havana in 1993, the second in Spain in 1995 and the most recent in Ecuador in 2012.
Indeed, very close to the Guayasamín House-Gallery Museum in Quito, the Capilla del Hombre is to be found, a building of enormous proportions akin to the wishes of the artist: that his works might serve as a reminder of the human condition.Share on FB Share on TT