Manrique´s City

Most visitors discover César Manrique at spectacular places such as Jameos del Agua, the Cactus Garden and the other Centres of Arts and Tourism on Lanzarote. But if you want to find out more about the man who changed the island, and whose centenary falls next month, then Arrecife is a great place to start. Shaun Addison and Sabrina Suppers discover the Manrique Route in the capital.

Our Manrique route begins in the gardens of the Hospital Insular, where Manrique erected a sculpture in 1968 in honour of Dr José Molina Orosa, the doctor who dedicated his life to the health of the people of Lanzarote and who built the first hospital on the island. Manrique’s sculpture, two huge volcanic boulders balanced by a metal collar, was erected in 1968, and is surrounded by luxuriant palms and stone flower borders. Read more...

Closer to the Charco de San Ginés we pass the house Manrique was born in, now the site of a busy bar and restaurant. The artist spent his earliest years playing around the Charco, watching the fishermen mending their nets and unloading their catches.

Across the Charco, we reach the Plaza de Palmas, where a busy market is held on Saturday mornings. Manrique designed this garden space, and the white spheres and walls reflect the emblematic 18th century Bridge of the Three Balls on the seafront, where generations of youngsters have hurled themselves into the sea.

Opposite the bridge stands the recently renovated Casa de Cultura Agustín de la Hoz, an exhibition space where two more Manrique murals are on display. This building was once the island’s Casino, and the murals were neglected for several years. They are still incomplete, despite extensive restoration, but they offer an impressive first glimpse of Manrique’s earlier period as a figurative painter.

Wine, women and wind
Across the Avenida, overlooking the oldest jetty in the city, is a square white building that is now the centre for Spain’s distance-learning university, the UNED. However, this building was originally the island’s only hotel – one of a network of state-run Paradores.

Ask permission at the desk and it’s possible to see one of Manrique’s finest works – the triptych of murals he painted for the Parador in 1950. The three works, titled “The Wind”, “Fishing” and “Wine Harvest” are as vivid as on the day they were painted, dynamic compositions that burst out of their frames, filled with sturdy peasants and charming details. In the library, another mural – “Allegory of the Island” is every bit as impressive.

Boats and fishes
Round the corner is the Royal Nautical Club of Arrecife, where Lanzarote’s smart set have always gathered and where César Manrique’s brother Carlos is a long-standing member. Above the bar is a recently restored mural titled “Anatomy of a Boat”, made with wooden beam from a wrecked ship and signed by Manrique in 1962.

Outside, replicas of Manrique’s charming fish mosaics surround the open-air pool, and upstairs our host Jorge unveils the most magnificent fish of all, created by Fine Arts students and signed by Manrique.

El Almacén
A few streets away is the El Almacén arts centre, a converted merchant’s home founded by Manrique and his artist friends Pepe Dámaso, Yayo Fontes and Luis Ibánez in 1974. For the rest of the 70s this “polydimensional space” was where Manrique could be found almost every day, a hive of furious artistic energy.

Now renovated, it houses various exhibition spaces, workshops, a cinema and a delightful café/restaurant. Although there are no works by Manrique here, it’s one of several places on Lanzarote where you can really feel his presence and energy.