Chilean culture

Going underground: the unusual art in Santiago's metro stations

Thirty fascinating murals, paintings and sculptures adorn the walls and spaces in and around Santiago's metro stops, transforming the stations into mini art galleries.

Monday, August 15, 2011  
The Baquedano metro station is brimming with artwork like the El Puente sculpture. (Photo: J.A.V.I./ The Baquedano metro station is brimming with artwork like the El Puente sculpture. (Photo: J.A.V.I./Flickr)

Chile's capital city has a wealth of galleries and museums highlighting the country's rich cultural and historical traditions. But for those seeking a more unusual cultural experience, it's best to head underground.


For some years now, the Santiago Metro has been displaying public artwork at its subway stations through a program called MetroArte. Scattered throughout the city's underground train network are 30 paintings and sculptures, bringing the daily grind to life in beautiful and often surprising ways.


Here are some of This is Chile's favorite metro stations for viewing public art installations. Click here for a map of the Santiago Metro.


Baquedano: Situated in the heart of downtown Santiago, just a short walk from the thriving Bellavista neighbourhood and the towering Cerro San Cristobal, Baquedano station is brimming with artwork.


The Vía Láctea (Milky Way) mural features palm trees, hearts and volcanoes set beneath constellations of stars. The playful Declaración de Amor (Declaration of Love) mural represents the spirits of music, poetry and abundance in a vibrant celebration of peace and festivities. But perhaps the most arresting mural of all at Baquedano is Ojo en Azul (Eye in Blue), a massive pupil that gazes out over the mass of people as they rush for their trains.


As well as the murals, Baquedano station is home to two dramatic sculptures. El Puente (The Bridge) features a wooden man walking across a log suspended high above the train line, while La Bajada (The Descent) depicts a group of steel horse silhouettes making their way down the side of a hill.


Bellas Artes: Situated underneath Chile's premier fine arts museum, this metro station contains the Arbolario mural. A tribute to trees, the work consists of a series of small drawings, hung together on a large piece of cloth that snakes around the station's main entrance. Inside the actual station, there are two Esculturas del Cosmos (Cosmos Sculptures) that draw their inspiration from far-flung galaxies. The geometrical creations are painted in bright blue, white and red colors and look like mysterious objects from outer space.


Parque Bustamante: The Parque Bustamante station is the site for the intriguing sculpture called El Sitio de las Cosas (The Site of Things). This unusual piece is made up of three identical tubular shapes that have no fixed position and can be arranged in multiple combinations. There's something really catchy about their enigmatic, green forms.


La Moneda: The metro stop of Chile's presidential palace features a series of 14 stunning landscape paintings reflecting the country's many and varied landscapes; it's like taking a mini-tour of Chile without leaving the center of Santiago. The oil on canvas artworks manage to capture the distinctive features that set Chile's natural attractions apart.


Grecia: If you like your art to be philosophical, then head to the Grecia station where there is an elaborate homage to ancient Greek civilization. The Réplicas del Friso del Partenón Griego (Replicas of the Frieze at the Greek Parthenon) is a series of 16 carvings in white cement. The ancient images mirror the etchings that were originally found on the west side of Athen's Parthenon but have been housed in the British Museum since the 19th century. The replica friezes were created by the new Acropolis Museum in Athens and donated to the Santiago Metro two years ago.