"Chemamull" (male statue on wood). Mapuche, 19th Century.
Metal pendant. Veraguas (700 - 1530 B.C.).
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Home/Stories and articles/Museums Live
May 2002

Knowing our Continents first inhabitants:
Pre-Columbian Art Museum

It has a unique collection, chosen mainly because of its aesthetic qualities, though it also helps revealing to the new generations some information about how daily life was for our Continent's first inhabitants.

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The Museum was founded by Sergio Larraín García-Moreno and the City of Santiago. It was a pioneer initiative in Latin America, creating an institution that would keep, study and promote the artistic legacy of all of America's pre-Columbian people, forgetting about the borders that now divide all countries.

During the 70s, the architect and private collector Sergio Larraín García-Moreno realized the importance of his patrimony and the urge of taking care of its maintenance and permanent protection. His concern was heard by Santiago's mayor, Patricio Mekis, who worked in finding a building for the new institution. In parallel, it was created the Larraín Echenique Family Foundation, a name that wanted to express that it was his heirs —and not the collector himself— who were making the donation to create a Museum.

Through a deal between the Foundation and the City of Santiago, the Pre-Columbian Art Museum opened its doors in December of 1981.

The Museum pieces main characteristic is that they were chosen with an aesthetic criteria, more than for scientific or anthropological reasons. That's why it is called a Museum of "Art", to make a difference from the ones of anthropology, archeology or ethnography. Sergio Larraín firmly believed that Art "touches hearts", and that it is a knowledge source different to documents or monuments.

Our continent's first inhabitants
In 1979, shortly before making the donation to the Foundation that would hold the Museum, Sergio Larraín asked for technical opinions among Chilean and foreign Scientifics. He asked them to make a list of what they thought was best to hold in a permanent exhibit. Realizing there were some gaps to fill, he especially traveled to the U.S. and Europe to buy art works.

Only when he was confident about the quality of what he was donating, he gave more than a thousand objects. That was the base for the Museum's first permanent exhibit. Later, in 1988, he donated the objects that were still under his property, asking to keep the profits until his death, which happened in 1999.

Currently, the collection has 3,110 pieces from a period of more than 10,000 years. Especially remarkable are the objects from the mapuches and the aymaras.

The Museum's collections come from different American cultural areas of the last millenniums. Up until the 16th Century this Continent held a population of around 100 millions inhabitants, all from different races, languages and cultures. That diversity is widely represented in the Museum's American artistic legacy.

Most of the pieces come from funerary offertories of high-class people. These show aspects of daily life such as war, architecture, games, sex habits, sickness, music, etc. It is especially important since most of these people left no written testimonies.

Address: Bandera 361, Santiago de Chile.
At the corner of Bandera and Compañía Streets, one block away from Plaza de Armas. The closest metro station is "Plaza de Armas".

Hours: Tuesday to Saturdays, between 10 am and 6 pm. Sundays, from 10 am to 2 pm.

Entrance fee: $2,000. Students and children, free. The Museum offers free guided tours.

Phone: (56-2) 688 7348, extension 22. Or (56-2) 688 7352.

More information: www.precolombino.cl

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