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The MALBA – Museum of Latin American Art

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Modern Art

“Well, this sucks”. We had just arrived in Mataderos, hoping to partake in the fun of its Sunday fair, but rain had forced its cancellation. Moping over a pitcher of Quilmes, we mulled over our options. “We’re on the other side of the city, but how about we catch a bus and go to the MALBA?”

Malba

You don’t really realize how big Buenos Aires is until you take a bus from Mataderos to Palermo. That mother took two hours. But it was an entertaining ride and, by the time we arrived at the MALBA, the sun had come out and was gleaming off the magnificent building. Designed by young Argentine architects from Córdoba and financed with private funds, the MALBA opened its doors in 2001.

Even if there hadn’t been any art inside the MALBA, it would have been fun to wander around. But there was plenty of art. The permanent Constantini collection is comprehensive; it seemed like every major Latin American artist of the last couple centuries was represented. I’m no expert in the field, but recognized many of the names: Frida Kahlo, Xul Solar, Fernando Botero, Diego Rivera. The collection was laid out chronologically, and a couple interesting temporary exhibits rounded things out. The size of the museum was perfect; small enough to see comfortably in an hour.

We finished our afternoon on the terrace of the museum’s cafe. By now, there wasn’t a cloud left in the sky, and the canceled Feria de Mataderos and our marathon bus ride seemed like distant memories. Amazing how a good museum can so quickly take your mind off any troubles. MALBA is one of the few must-see museums in Buenos Aires.

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April 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm Comments (3)

The National Museum of Fine Arts

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We confidently strode up the stairs of an impressive neoclassical building, convinced that it was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Passing between the massive gray Doric columns, a guard brusquely informed us that we were actually at the University’s Law School. He shoved us off toward a nearby clump of dark red clay, which had been been molded into the form of a building.

Museu-Nacional-de-Bellas-Art.

In this neighborhood of refined elegance, the museum definitely stands out. It was built in 1870 as a drainage pumping station, and converted for use as a museum in 1933. The building’s age is evident; inside, paint is peeling off the walls and the air is impregnated with the unmistakable atmosphere of slow decay. Exhibits were poorly lit, trash was strewn carelessly about the floor, and the visitors, laughing loudly and using cell phones, weren’t treating the place with any respect. Overall, it was a far cry from what we expected of the country’s premier fine arts museum.

Still, the museum holds an astounding collection, which we spent a couple hours taking in. The first floor features masters from all over the world, including Cezanne, Rembrandt, Guaguin, Van Gogh and Monet. But we most enjoyed the upper floor, which serves as an excellent primer to the history of Argentine art. There was a healthy blend of the classic and modern, featuring artists mostly unknown outside of the continent. We loved Guillermo Kutica’s mattresses made of maps, and were puzzled by the mystical, post-modern works of Xul Solar.

By the end of our visit, any complaints we’d had about the building had faded from memory. It helped that entrance to the museum is completely free, making it difficult to gripe at all. Still, once the city has a little extra cash on-hand, another round of refurbishment for this otherwise excellent museum might be in order.

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April 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm Comment (1)
The MALBA - Museum of Latin American Art
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