There's no failing, it's as simple as that.
Those who, like us, seek out the unmissable places of Lanzarote, end up listing them all on an itinerary to discover the island: the Jardin de Cactus, in Guatiza, the Jameos del Água, the Mirador del Rio on the island of La Graciosa, the Casa-Museo del Campesino and the Monumento Al Campesino, the Restaurant El Diablo de la Montanhas del Fuego, the LagOmar Museum.
Without forgetting the Casa-Museo and the César Manrique Foundation. All of these, among others less popular. Not really to ignore.
During the days we spent in Lanzarote, we visited, of course, what was José Saramago's refuge from the hypocrisy and blessed intolerance of too many Portuguese dignitaries and institutions towards his person and his work.
Two Genius Authors Forever in the History of Lanzarote
Saramago's presence in Lanzarote from 1992 to 2010 (the year of his death) focused media attention on the writer's exiled life, especially in the period following the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1998.
Today, Saramago's legacy is immortalized on a universal scale on every page of the books he wrote. After his death, in tangible terms, real estate, whatever, Lanzarote preserved little more the house of Saramago and Pilar, with their library, the writer's office and other common spaces, including a balcony that overlooks a lush garden overlooking the Atlantic.
This heritage does not compete with the one left by César Manrique, in such an abundant and diversified way that, at a certain point, it gives us the sensation of blending in with the island.
On the supposedly spring days that we spend in Lanzarote, the days dawn over cloudy and cool. Only towards the end of the morning does the sun get away from the dense cloud cover that forms during the night and then make the scenery shine.
The Shapes and Colors of Lanzaroteñas by César Manrique
Under the clouds, Lanzarote looks like an island in black and white with a hint of green. As soon as the big star breaks through the nebulosity, this tricolor gains a dimension and complexity of tones and shapes that were difficult to predict before. Many of Lanzarote's humanized forms – among the eccentric ones, at least – are the contours, mannerisms and grimaces of César Manrique's unsatisfied mind.
The first ones we notice, we find them in the vicinity of San Bartolomé, in the heart of the island. We follow the Tinajo road when we glimpse a kind of modernist totem that stands out above the asphalt and surrounding fields.
The sculpture “Fertility”, from 1968, serves as a beacon. Guide us to the surrounding Museo del Campesino. Generation after generation, Lanzarote natives have found themselves in thrall to strenuous rural life, local or emigrant, on Lanzarote all the more ungrateful because of the difficulty in cultivating and producing produce from a rough volcanic soil.
With the monument and the museum, Manrique earned his descendants a work that dignifies and celebrates the era of his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. There we find a cluster of small white buildings with green windows and verandas that contrast with the surrounding volcanic blackness.
César Manrique endowed them with some of the unavoidable expressions of the peasant culture of Lanzarote: the vineyards on the lava, protected by basaltic stone walls, similar to those on the island of Pico. Installations with the most used instruments in land mining and livestock. Small weaving and pottery workshops, picturesque examples of the art that the people of Lanzarote have perfected over the centuries and shops that sell specimens in the form of Recuerdos.
Madrid, New York. From Lanzarote to… Lanzarote.
Manrique lived what he could in Lanzarote. In his teens, he moved to Tenerife. There he studied architecture without having completed his degree. Between 1936 and 1939, he enlisted as a volunteer in an army artillery unit serving Franco. In 1945, he moved to Madrid.
In the Spanish capital, he received a scholarship to attend the San Fernando School of Fine Arts. At this school, he graduated as an art and painting teacher. Manrique lived and exhibited his non-figurative works of art in Madrid for the next 19 years.
At that time, he was associated with the “informalist” movement that was gaining prominence in Spain at the time, seen as a committed abstractionist, obsessed with the properties and specificities of matter.
In particular, with those of the diverse volcanic material that Lanzarote was and is made of. In 1964, Manrique moved to New York. On arrival at Big Apple, returned to see the world with new eyes.
César Manrique, the Author and Multifaceted Artist
In permanent contact with North American Abstract Expressionism, with the pop and kinetic art that dawned, Manrique enriched his own style, ventured body and soul into various disciplines.
In such a way that, nowadays, no one dares to catalog him as a sculptor, painter or architect. Not even as belonging to one of these forms of art.
In New York, he was awarded a Rockefeller grant that allowed him to rent a studio and live in the city. He met and dealt with other renowned artists and personalities, including Andy Warhol.
His growing status and that of the works he created in the city have earned him three solo exhibitions at the renowned Catherine Viviano gallery. And growing financial relief.
The Raw and Unsurpassed Beauty of Lanzarote
In his mind, New York was, however, New York. No matter how cosmopolitan and artistic fascination the North American megalopolis aroused in him, no place could come close to his Lanzarote.
Manrique even uttered "For me, (Lanzarote) was the most beautiful place on Earth and I realized that if people could see it through my eyes, they would think the same thing." More than a declaration, these words of yours soon sounded like the mission. The New York adventure lasted two years.
In 1966, Manrique returned and gave himself heart and soul to his island. Around this time, tourism began to take over the most seductive towns in Spain and, in particular, the Canary Islands.
With its scenarios resulting from an eccentric volcanism, Lanzarote had the destiny shaped by an army of civil construction investors that proliferated out of control in Franco's Spain: being inundated with cement hotels and resorts that would welcome thousands of outsiders and encourage similar new constructions .
From an early age, Manrique fought for his ecological awareness of the landscape, for the preservation of his island and the Canaries. Despite the inexorable growth of local tourism, at least in Lanzarote, several of their requests to the authorities and the population continue to be met.
are rare the outdoors advertisements and fences infesting roadsides, tall buildings prove to be non-existent and residents captivated by Manrique's philosophy add harmonious pastel shades to the traditionally white walls of the houses. instead of the outdoors advertising, many roundabouts have been embellished with intriguing wind-powered devices.
César Manrique Foundation: the gradual and pivotal project that Manrique never saw finished
It's one of those bizarre but mesmerizing mills that welcomes us and fixes our gaze when we reach the entrance to the César Manrique Foundation, a real experimental base and art gallery expanded from the house he used to live in Tahíche.
This, even before he moved to his beloved Haría, a village full of palm trees, green to match, located in the north of the island.
At the Manrique Foundation, we unveil, half-believers, what the open home he settled in after his return from New York, a lot with 3000 has become.2 much of it on lava from an XNUMXth-century eruption of the Tahiche volcano.
As we progress through white-grey space lava, speckled with teasels thorns and an improbable assortment of works of art: the artists' studios occupying the former rooms on the upper floor.
The basement arranged to group five large lava chambers bequeathed by the solidification of magma, each decorated in its own unusual style, one of them opening onto a garden bordering the lava tide itself, embellished with a swimming pool, an area of barbecues and even a dance floor.
Works by Manrique but Not Only
Back in the context that took us there, the Foundation also houses a gallery that exhibits several of the works by Manrique, others obtained by him throughout his life, including original sketches by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.
Starting in 1982, the Foundation was expanded by Manrique and a group of friends. It would only be opened to the public ten years later, after a road accident that occurred in the vicinity of the foundation that would shorten its life.
The César Manrique foundation turned out to be a gradual project. Also because Manrique and his colleagues developed it simultaneously with parallel interventions that forever shaped the island of Lanzarote and helped it to conquer the protective classification of Biosphere Reserve, the second to be awarded by the UNESCO to the Canary Islands in 1993, ten years after the classification of La Palma.
A Fascinating Tour through Others of Manrique's Interventions
As Manrique himself defined "I try to be the free hand that shapes geology." And, in fact, his mind and hands forever shaped Lanzarote and other Canary Islands.
After the short visit to the restaurant “The Devil” from the PN Timanfaya and from the sensory adventures of the Museu del Campesino and the Foundation, we progressed north.
We enter the Jameos de Água and Cueva de los Verdes, both located in a vast tunnel produced by the eruptions of the Corona volcano, in the heart of the Natural Monument of Malpaís de la Corona.
The first appears on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the last, further inland, with a concert hall that, with mere chairs and a stage, takes advantage of the magnificence and special acoustics of the chamber.
There, we are dazzled by the decoration, landscaping and light play borrowed by Manrique and his ally Jesús Soto.
As we enter the depths of the Jameos, the colorful and luxuriant elegance of the chamber adapted to the dining room insinuates itself as a harbinger of the unusual underground that follows.
We walked down the steps to the edge of a blue lake. Some visitors arriving before us squat for minutes at a time.
We took a while but we realized that they make an effort to photograph the albino and blind crabs (munidopsis polyorpha) endemic to the cave, on a background painted red by the artificial light concealed there and which contrasts with the oil blue of the lagoon.
We crossed to the other side. From the opposite bank, as if by magic, we see the red staircase mirror and double in the water. Back on the surface, we are open-mouthed to contemplate the kind of tropical-volcanic and sunken beach with which Manrique continues to captivate visitors.
From Jameos del Água to Mirador del Rio
A few kilometers further north, we pass his house in Haría, located in the middle of a palm grove and where furniture and belongings are preserved, as well as the new studio in which he worked until his death.
Arrived at the northern and abysmal threshold of Lanzarote, under furious trades, we let ourselves be dazzled by the royal mirage of the small neighboring island of La Graciosa and the Chinijo archipelago. This has always been one of the sights that generated the most admiration in Manrique.
Unsurprisingly, Manrique raised the Mirador del Rio, a building that blends in with the nature on the border and, through shapes and light, makes it richer and more welcoming.
César Manrique also said loudly and in good tone that “Lanzarote was like a work of art without a frame and unassembled, which he hung and held for all to admire”.
We could have spent another week exploring and praising the artistic-naturalist empire he bequeathed to his island.