Last month, Art Basel chose Buenos Aires as the host for its first Cities Week.
Unsurprising, given the Argentine capital has the perfect arts storm: a diverse array of fine art galleries, museums and public installations; and it’s a place where Argentine masters such as Antonio Berni can rub shoulders with a younger generation of contemporary artists. Plus there is a dedicated Latin American photography museum; the world’s largest street art mural; and a power station turned cultural space. Phew.
September’s Cities Week, which fused exhibitions, installations, performances and events under the moniker Rayuela (Hopscotch), brought Argentina face to face with the international art world.
Here are nine ways to explore Buenos Aires’ booming art scene.
See the largest mural in the world, Barracas
Graffiti is revered in Buenos Aires, given that impressive works often harbour political messages. It’s best to hire a guide to explain the ins and outs of El Regreso de Quinquela(The Return of Quinquela), a spray-painted 2,000-square-metre behemoth by Alfredo Segatori, who took the facades of edgy Barracas neighbourhood in the south of the city as his canvas. As well as honouring La Boca-born artist Benito Quinquela Martín and four of his works, Segatori also included portraits of local residents in El Regreso. See it at the cross-section of Pedro de Mendoza and San Antonio.
Visit Galería Union, Palermo Hollywood
While visitors can dip into an array of street art tours, the curators behind graffitimundohave also gathered an urban art collection under one roof at Galería Unión. Small-size works from the likes of stencil artists Cabaio and Nazza Stencil, Argentina’s leading female street artist Pum Pum and SAM, who deals in cubism, surrealism and futurism, are available to purchase at this Palermo Hollywood gallery.
Visit Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art, San Telmo
Following an extensive makeover, the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art (Mamba) reopened in July 2018 after doubling in size to showcase additional works by modern Argentine artists. A 7,000-strong collection including Alberto Heredia’s 500-work legacy and 72 recently acquired León Ferrari pieces; the Mamba also houses a graphic and industrial design collections.
Look at photography at Rolf Art, Retiro
Photography is the focus of this gallery’s game, putting photographers from Argentina and Latin America in the spotlight. Rolf’s owner Florencia Giordana Braun is respected in the field, given that she also set up FoLA fototeca photography museum. One recent exhibition featured bright, often ironic works by pop snapper Marcos López, whose work El mártir (The martyr) can be seen at Milión bar and the muse at Ña Serapia restaurant.
Visit the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, Palermo
A leading light showcasing contemporary Latin American art, this private collection accumulated by developer Eduardo Costantini houses an array of permanent gems by Frida Kahlo, Antonio Berni and Xul Solar. Their works form part of Verboamérica, which delves into Latin America’s social and cultural experiences. The Malba also curates temporary exhibits; recent turns include a retrospective of Argentine artist Rogelio Polesello and Sara Facio’s fascinating Perón access-all-areas photography exhibition. The Cindy Sherman Richard Prince Astrup Fearnley Collection is touring here until 29 October 2018.
Visit Galería Mar Dulce, Palermo Soho
Run by an Argentine artist and a Scottish curator, Galería Mar Dulce deals in small-scale Argentine works that are easy to transport home. Plus, the gallery has a high exhibition turnaround, showcasing austere oil on canvas landscapes by Sofía Wiñazki or art for the young at heart in its annual Sweet For My Sweet exhibition. Children’s illustrator Isol, who won the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2013, often shows at this cosy gallery.
Hang out in Calle Lanín, Barracas
The three blocks that comprise this residential street in Barracas form part of this open-air gallery community project spearheaded by Marino Santa María. Forty neighbours agreed to the artist intervening with their facades, and so the result is a vibrant array of murals that bring colour and joy to this working-class neighbourhood that he unveiled in 2001 then later enhanced with mosaics four years later.
Visit Museo Xul Solar, Recoleta
Trained as an architect and schooled in various artistic disciplines, Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari even invented two languages, Neo Criollo and Pan Lingua. Catch a fantastic array of Xul Solar’s (as he was better known) paintings at this gallery, his former home.Astrology and religion play a large part in his vibrant works, and one of the most well-known is his watercolour Entierro (1914), focusing on a funeral procession.
Visit Isla Flotante, La Boca
Looking after a tiny stable of eight contemporary artists who show at an edgy warehouse, Isla Flotante is one of Buenos Aires’ more groundbreaking galleries that’s committed to showcasing young Argentine talent. Having caught the eye of Art Basel Miami to show there in 2017, its most recent exhibition was Estilo eterno nuevo terror (Eternal Style New Terror) by Veronica Madanes.
Norwegian and British Airways fly direct to Buenos Aires from the UK from around £670 return.