Lanzarote’s first son, the incredible artist César Manrique had a remarkable life, much of which was dedicated to transforming his beloved island into one big work of art. He is responsible for so much exciting and innovative architecture throughout the Canaries and is hailed as a hero by many for the rich and adventurous dreams he made into a reality during his life and work on this beautiful volcanic land.
The largest visitor attraction in the centre of Lanzarote has to be the César Manrique Foundation, which is located just outside the cosy village of Tahíche in the municipality of Teguise. Nestled in the suburban settlement of Taro de Tahíche, this amazing centre stands as a memorial to Manrique’s fabulous career and the clear visions he had about developing Lanzarote for tourism without compromising the natural beauty of the landscape.
At a roundabout marked by a silver coloured wind chime sculpture, a small street leads you to the Fundación César Manrique, founded in 1982 by the great artist and a circle of friends, with the objective of promoting architecture that is in harmony with the natural environment.
Four years later, he donated the house in Taro de Tahíche (which he had built for himself in 1968) to the foundation. He inhabited it until 1987, when he moved to a country house in Haría. After his tragic car accident in September 1992, his former home became the headquarters of the César Manrique Foundation and was opened as a modern art museum, already remodelled by him for this purpose.
Built on a lava field, where he discovered that a fig tree was growing out of a volcanic bubble, this house became the embodiment of the artist’s dream to live in harmony with nature. It was also the ideal place to combine all his artistic skills as a designer, sculptor, painter and landscaping architect.
Another outstanding example of Manrique’s preference for colour and movement – an impressive mobile, reminiscent of an enormous children’s toy – can be seen at the entrance to this extraordinary ‘home’. There are two levels; one above ground, the other below and the entire space is huge. Outside there is a lovely garden filled with cacti, plants and a bougainvillea overgrown entrance leads to a modern art museum, which was converted from Manrique’s former dwelling.
Besides many examples of Manrique’s own works and project designs, the museum displays works by many big names of 20th Century abstract and modern art, including Picasso, Miró, Tàpies and Jesús Soto.
From here, you can enjoy views through a huge window, which looks out over the lava fields. Outside – in what used to be his garage – there is a souvenir and bookshop as well as a café-bar.
Steps lead down to the lower floor, where everything becomes even more staggering. Linked by narrow galleries are five volcanic bubbles, created by solidifying lava. Each compartment – measuring around 16 ft (5 metres) in diameter – was transformed into an elegantly designed room, with its own distinctive character, furniture and colour.
Amazing and incredibly fascinating, the Cesar Manrique Foundation definitely deserves a visit.
Opening hours are from Monday to Saturday from 10.00 to 18.00 hrs, and on Sundays from 10.00 to 15.00 hrs. (from November 1st to June 30th) And from July 1st to October 31st, the opening hours change and the foundation is open daily from 10.00 to 19.00.
There is also a small entrance fee.