University welcomes Chile’s largest colonial-era art collection

Santiago’s Universidad Católica is the new home of over 600 works of art dating back to the 1600s.

Tucked away for decades in an apartment in downtown Santiago, Chile’s
most expansive collection of American colonial art  is finally reaching
the public!

The collection, previously owned by Joaquín
Gandarillas Infante, is now controlled by the foundation set up in the
late collector’s name by his siblings. After a long process, the 639
works of art will be housed at Universidad Católica and available to the
public through the end of July.

“We think that this institution
is the best to care for this collection. We went first to the Franciscan
congregation and then to the Museo de Maipú, but  in the end we are
choosing the Universidad Católica,  because we have no doubt that its
art school will promote the research of each of these pieces,” said
Jaime Gandarillas, brother to the late Joaquín Gandarillas Infante.

collection includes paintings, wooden sculptures and silver artwork
from around the region. The pieces 36 chosen for the current exhibition
titled “Art, Faith and Devotion” were chosen by Hernán Rodríguez,
researcher and director of the Museo Andino. These pieces are focus on
areas in Peru and Bolivia, primarily Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, and
Potosí, dating between 1600 y 1750.

“The collection is very
representative of South American colonial art, with regard to how the
pieces express private devotion, in contrast to the public devotion that
was  done for the churches and religious congregations,” explained

The director added that the Gandarillas collection is
big for the country as well as for the continent, as there are few
collection this extensive that cover this time period in American art.

is really very important on an American level, where there are few
private collections like the Osma collection in Perú and the Mayer
collection in Mexico — for Chile this is really unique,” he said.

current exhibit is in the Centro de Extensión at the Universidad
Católica and will run until July. It will then be replaced with a
different selection of pieces from the collection, selected by a
different curator. The hope is that through a rotation of exhibitions,
the artwork will lead to further research into the pieces and their

“We are not opposed to the collection being exhibited in
other museums or to our pieces being accompanied by other collectors’
pieces,” said Jaime Gandarillas. “We want to expand the knowledge of
colonial art.”