Santiago’s river transformed into open-air light museum

The permanent display of 104 images projected along a one kilometer stretch of the Chilean capital’s central river is the first project of its kind in the world.

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Running from the Andes westward towards the sea, the Mapocho River runs through central Santiago in a deep cut, stone-lined trough. It flows past some of the Chilean capital’s most historic sites and landmarks, and divides Central Santiago on its south side from from the vibrant neighborhoods of Patronato and Bellavista to the north.

Its sediment-laden waters and walled-up banks have never been the city’s most appealing feature – but this is set to change. Beginning on January 18, the new Museo Artedeluz, or Art of Light Museum, will transform one kilometer of the Mapocho’s embankments in central Santiago into an open-air installation space.

The illumination of the banks, designed to make contemporary artworks easily accessible to the Chilean public, is the first of its kind in the world.

The Museum’s first piece will be “Chile a la Luz” or “Chile into the Light”, by Santiago-born artist Catalina Rojas. The project will use 26 projectors to illuminate the river and its embankments with 104 different images over the course of 4 hours each night.

The permanent, free installation is presented through the combined efforts of Chile’s private and public sectors. The Municipality of Santiago and the Bicentennial Committee are joining forces with the Chilean energy consortium Grupo Enersis to bring this project to life.

Inaugural festivities on Tuesday Jan. 18 will kick off at 9pm with musicians, visual artists, Santaigo Mayor Pablo Zalaquett and President Sebastián Piñera in attendance, amongst others.

In preparation for the opening of the Museum, a large scale cleaning project is now underway, clearing debris and trash from the riverbed, and covering the graffiti on the embankment walls between Pio Nono and Patronato bridges, which mark the Mapocho’s course through Santiago’s most artistically vibrant neighborhoods.

In an interview with Chilean daily newspaper La Tercera, Santiago Mayor Pablo Zalaquett described the project as “not only a cultural work, but also an urban and environmental improvement to this area that, combined with the projections of Artedeluz, will give a new face to the spinal column of the city.”

During the spring and summer, the projections will run from 9:30 pm to 1:30 am, while during the fall and winter seasons they will run from 7:30 to 11:30pm.