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“Guatemala: Past and Future”

A mural-sized reproduction of the 16th century “Canvas of Quauhquechollan” dominated one wall in an exhibit on Guatemalan art at Inter-American Development Bank headquarters in Washington earlier this year. Digitally restored by Francisco Marroquín University, the painting tells the story of how Spanish conquistadors allied with local Quauhquechollan lords to overthrow the Aztecs in Guatemala.

This fine example of how technology can help us understand the past set the tone for the IDB Art Gallery exhibit, entitled “Guatemala: Past and Future,” which honored the country that hosted the IDB's Forty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in April 2007.

The past refered to the legacy of the Mayas, a people who have lived in Mesoamerica for thousands of years and whose city-states reached their apex around 900 AD. Evidence of Mayan culture is found in many archeological sites, mainly in what is now Guatemala, southern Mexico, Honduras and Belize. The future was represented by technology, which was used to restore the canvas and to produce digital renderings of ancient Mayan cities and contemporary projects. Viewers at the IDB exhibit could explore the displays with the help of a computer.

The exhibit catalogue highlights the cultural legacy of the Maya Nation.

The exhibition included a nod to modern art in Guatemala with a series of lithographs by Guatemalan modernist painter Carlos Mérida (1891–1984). One of the most outstanding Latin American artists of the first half of the twentieth century, Mérida initiated the first pro-Indian art movement in the Americas years before the rise of Mexican Muralism. His lithographs in the IDB show were inspired by the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayas, and were first exhibited in Paris in 1943.

Two digital displays in the IDB exhibit were prepared by Studio ©, S.A., which is directed by Carlos Argüello, the Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor for “The Chronicles of Narnia,” in association with the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). One showed Mayan city-state Tikal at its zenith in pre-Columbian times, recreated with examples of existing architectural ruins. The other showcased the Art and Technology Center in Guatemala, whose primary purpose is to use technology as a training tool for young people to further progress and development in Guatemala.

Many archeological sites in Guatemala, such as Tikal and El Mirador, are located in the Petén region, which is also the site of 90 percent of all Guatemala’s oil production, making the region an invaluable natural and cultural resource. The IDB has worked with Guatemalan authorities to ensure the sustainable development of the region. These projects were illustrated in the exhibit with graphs produced by the Guatemalan authorities.

Exhibit Curator Felix Ángel, general coordinator and curator of the IDB Cultural Center, said that the IDB Annual Meeting was a propitious opportunity for the IDB to offer a tribute to the Maya Nation, recognizing its significant cultural legacy, for young Guatemalans who now embody their country’s hopes and goals. The exhibit was organized by the IDB Cultural Center in cooperation with Eduardo Cofiño, special advisor to the president of Guatemala on sustainable development of the Petén region, and Carlos Argüello, founder and director of Studio ©, S.A.

The IDB Cultural Center was established in 1992 to promote culture as a component of development. It organizes exhibitions in the center’s art gallery in Washington that reflect the history and artistic expressions of North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, donor countries in Western Europe, as well as Israel, Japan and Korea, emphasizing the relationship between culture and development.

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