With the creation of the Museum of Popular American Art (inaugurated on December 20, 1944), the University of Chile recognized the value of the manifestations of popular or indigenous art, as a subject for research and documentation, at the same level of importance as what is known as academic or learned art. At the time, this was a new approach to the thorny problem of the identity of art in a continent of mixed races, such as Latin America, the epitome of what Nestor García Canclini called "hybrid cultures".

On the eve of a new millenium, when the relationship between culture, globalization, and tradition is being broached, the ideals that motivated its founder, that great university man that was Tomás Lago, are still completely valid. Our insertion into this world as a Latin American culture will have more weight and meaning as we learn to value our own tradition in the creation of symbolic objects.

This is the reason why the exhibition of this sample of mapuche culture, preserved in the "Tomás Lago" Museum of Popular American Art, dependent on the School of Arts of the University of Chile, in Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Fine Arts, on occasion of the Summit of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, is so important. In addition to being exhibited in Brazil for the first time, this collection of eighty works in silver, wood, textiles, basketry, pottery, stone, and leather, will make the cultural treasure of an ethnic group (which, for more than five hundred years of extremely adverse circumstances has managed to maintain its own cultural tradition intact), known to European and American authorities.

In addition to expressing my most sincere thanks for the help provided by Mrs. Heloisa Aleixo Lustosa, Director of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Río de Janeiro, by Mr. Santiago Larraín Cadiz, Director of Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Chile, the undersigned Dean would also like to thank the Director of the Museum, Mrs. Sylvia Ríos Montero, and all the Museum’s professional, technical, administrative, and service personnel for their hard work in the museographical design, research, production and montage, in order to exhibit this sample from the south of the American continent in a manner that befits its importance.


Prof. Dr. Luis Merino Montero
School of Arts
University of Chile

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