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The Proa – La Boca’s Modern Art Museum

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Buenos Aires Street Art

For such a congested tourism hub, La Boca has a few wonderful places to escape the throngs. The surprisingly fun Wax Museum is one, and the excellent modern art museum Fundación Proa is another.

PROA

The Proa’s facade is that of a stately 19th-century Italian mansion, but the interior has been completely gutted and converted into a museum space, all clean walls and sharp angles. The contrast is startling, but works perfectly for the kind of art showcased by the foundation.

The Proa opened in 1996, and has three floors of temporary exhibitions. There is no permanent collection. The show we happened to see was called Of Bridges and Borders, featuring a number of works from international artists created specifically for the Proa, which focus on the real and imagined borders which separate us. Many of the pieces were fantastic, and we had a great time wandering around the spacious rooms.

On the top floor is a cafe with outdoor seating and a view over La Boca’s river promenade. We sat down with cold cans of Quilmes, and watched the masses below follow each other through the Caminito. The Proa, in comparison, was almost completely empty. Curious, how such a wonderful museum in a touristy zone like the Boca could be so completely overlooked.

Fundación PROA
Av. Pedro de Mendoza 1929
Tel: 11 4104 1000
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February 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm Comments (2)

Welcome to La Boca

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With its brightly painted houses and open air art, the southern immigrant neighborhood of La Boca is both enchanting and irritating. How much you enjoy yourself depends on when you go, and how allergic you are to kitsch.

Caminito

La Boca was settled by Italian immigrants, mainly from Genoa, and became a tourist draw in the 20th century when local artist Benito Quinquela Martin decided to bring life into his stagnating neighborhood by creating El Caminito: a tiny street which exhibits the best of La Boca: tango, brightly colored buildings and quirky art. Today, El Caminito is one of the most heavily visited places in Buenos Aires.

Good Times Buenos Aires

We went on a Sunday afternoon, which proved to be a mistake. Thousands of tourists were stepping out from hundreds of buses shielding their eyes against the bright sun, crushing our feet, stumbling into our pictures, smacking us with their fanny packs, and crushing our souls. Their flashing cameras and mindless mirth brings out the worst in La Boca’s locals. Every couple meters someone tried to hustle us into a store, sell us some piece of junk, or wrangle us into a picture.

Museo de Cera

To escape the crowds, we ducked into the Wax Museum. We didn’t expect much, but were pleasantly surprised. Very small and cheap, and the exhibits did a decent job of introducing Argentine history and culture. Besides, one can never see enough wax anaconda dummies.

Republica de la Boca

In 1882, residents of the neighborhood seceded from Argentina and declared the República de la Boca; it was a short-lived rebellion, but the spirit of independence remains. La Boca associates itself heavily with Boca Juniors, the working man’s football team, whose blue & gold color scheme dominates the streets.

BaSAres

The main tourists sights in Boca center on the Vuelta de Rocha, where the Riachuelo river curves briefly inland. It’s an interesting geographical phenomenon, but the lack of movement in the water and the heavy industry all around lead to an often unpleasant smell. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, a walk along the river promenade can either be charming or nauseating.

Panaderia Boca

Once you get away from the Vuelta, La Boca shows its less friendly side. In the barrio’s east, painted houses more authentic than those of the Caminito abound, but crime is frequent. Poverty is widespread and, if you must pass through at night, you’ll want to get a taxi. Four different concerned locals warned Juergen to keep his camera hidden, during the hours we spent there.

La Boca is an interesting place, home to utter destitution and crass touristic exploitation, but also possessing a unique, working-class spirit which makes it one of the must-see areas of BA.

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February 16, 2011 at 12:32 am Comments (13)
The Proa - La Boca's Modern Art Museum
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