The Ancestral Muses of Casa del Alabado


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“This is NOT an archeology museum. This is an art museum”, explains Lucía Durán, director of Casa del Alabado in Quito, “this is an art museum of the past”. I’d say more: one leaves this extravaganza of ancient creations as if literally returning from the past. As if, in that past, there had been a museum: this museum. The definitive museum of our ancestral civilization.

Only in Ecuador

According to archeologists, Ecuador is home to the oldest traces of ceramic and stone art in the Americas and there is no place in the world that reflects this more beautifully than “Casa del Alabado”, housed in a heritage residence with some 400 years of history and ranked among South America’s 25 “best museums”.

Pieces like this stone owl are among the oldest known relics of the Americas!

Museo Casa del Alabado boasts a collection of over 5,000 pieces of pre-Columbian art, a tenth of which is exhibited throughout its elegant themed halls. This is not a “historical” account, nor an educational, chronological exhibit. This is a poetic explosion that features over twenty ancestral civilizations living in our territory during 7000 years before the arrival of the Spaniards.

A spectacular colection of small “Valdivia dolls”!

Another level

You’ll find a shaman’s hall, for example. Shaman… with their heads, in the form of a pitcher open to the world… you’ll come face to face with shaman purging themselves in a vessel connected to their body.

Some of the museum’s most iconic pieces have this wonderful vertical garden as backdrop

You’ll find a room dedicated to what shaman see on their spiritual journeys: jaguars, beasts that only transcendental consciousness could discover in the depths of the mind; pieces that represent birth, others that represent the comforts of home, others that speak of cunning animals, such as the opossum that plays dead; soldiers, fishermen, musicians, philosophers deep in thought… dancers at festivals, drunkards, lovers, the dying, the sleepless watchman that represents lost time…

Millennia of art in one of Ecuador’s most important heritage homes…

This winding journey through interpretation and wonder is moving to the core. All great cultures have been melting pots of creativity at the highest level. Sometimes we forget it, but when visiting a true time machine like this museum, we can see it with our own eyes, in ceramic figures unearthed whole from time immemorial: our territory sits on the shoulders of thousands of years of the highest art.

The temporary exhibit “Pre-Columbian Architecture” will be on display until October 2023; it’s the museum’s most recent temporary show, collaborating with other institutions to create “ongoing cross-disciplinary reflections”.

Cuenca N1-41, Quito
Opening hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM
Phone: +(593 2) 228 0772
Instagram: @museocasadelalabado

PH: Murray Cooper
Feature image courtesy of Museo Casa del Alabado.

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