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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Chile police site opens as museum
File photo from 1971 of Chilean President Salvador Allende
Chile was a magnet for artisits in the early 1970s under Allende
Chile has opened its newest art gallery, housed in a police station where security forces eavesdropped on dissidents during military rule.

The idea for an art museum originally came from Salvador Allende, who was deposed and died during the 1973 coup led by Gen Augusto Pinochet.

"One of my father's dreams was that all people could have access to art," said his daughter, Isabel Allende Bussi.

The museum comprises 2,800 works, many donated by the artists themselves.

The two-storey building in the capital, Santiago, used to house the National Information Centre (CNI).

The basement still contains eavesdropping equipment, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Museum officials said people working on the refurbishment found passports and intelligence documents hidden behind a ceiling panel.

Works were donated towards setting up an art museum during Mr Allende's short time in office, when Chile was a magnet for artists and intellectuals from around the world.


Mr Allende's idea for an art gallery died with him.

During military rule, some of the works were displayed abroad by Chilean exiles, but many others lay forgotten and discarded in a basement of Santiago's Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum, inaugurated on Tuesday, will display works by Joan Miro, Frank Stella, Alexander Calder and Chilean artist Roberto Matta.

Also on show will be Mr Allende's personal belongings and visitors will be able to see the rooms where the security forces monitored opponents.

The museum's director said the building's new function was not incongruous with its painful past.

"A museum is always a place of memories," said Jose Balmes.

"It could not be any other way."

Row over Pinochet card omission
21 Feb 06 |  Americas
Profile: Salvador Allende
08 Sep 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
10 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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