I get to coast into the weekend on this one, because not only is it an art museum, it’s also small and the exhibits change every few months. I’m going to show you the three current exhibits, but your mileage may vary, and that’s kind of awesome.
The museum is dedicated to what might be more broadly recognized as folk art, an art of the people–it has a collection of art from native peoples of Argentina and criollo art, such as items associated with gaucho culture. It also has a bunch of contemporary pieces as the museum is active in organizing art shows, so it has a pretty neat collection, sort of both niche and diverse, if that makes sense.
Let’s rub our eyeballs all over the current exhibits!
While the majority of the pieces are very dramatic, there is also a solo exhibition of the works by Nuria Carulla, and they are delicate and dreamy.
Next up: “El Mate y El Facón: De la Poesía Gauchesca a la Colección Criolla.” It includes mates and gaucho knives from the 19th and 20th centuries.
And, my personal favorite as a textile nerd: the Salón de Arte Textil (pequeno y mediano formato). This exhibit was a damned delight. There was everything from sculpture to traditional decorative techniques.
LOVE. IT. ALL.
The museum also has a nice patio with metal sculptures:
The museum has also centered itself as place of culture for the community, hosting numerous workshops and classes. With the frequent change of exhibits, I will certainly be back soon.
The MAP isn’t the easiest museum to get to; it’s a good 20 minute walk from the nearest subway station–but it is near other, larger museums, so if you’re in the area already, it wouldn’t be difficult to add it to your itinerary. No English materials or signs, but free English tours on Wednesdays at 2pm. It’s open Tuesdays through Fridays from 1pm to 7pm and Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10am to 8pm. Admission is 30 pesos (about a buck US) and free on Wednesdays.
Today, if you immigrate to Argentina, you will undoubtedly spend some time in the Migraciones building, near the Retiro train station and the port. You’ll be going to the same place immigrants have passed through for more than 100 years.
In 1906, the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants Hotel) was built at this site with the aim of acting as a kind of full-service center for immigrants. Part of the old hotel building, between present-day Migraciones and the Navy’s school of sea sciences, now houses the Museum of Immigration (and a contemporary art center).
The museum’s on the third floor; definitely take the elevator.
The museum does have some artifacts, but it also dedicates a fair portion of its small space to contemporary art with an immigration theme. It is more of a tribute to immigration than a strictly educational space (although it does also house historical records for research). It begins with this work, We Are All the Same Under the Skin (I would credit the artist but apparently the museum handout I was reading like an hour ago has been misplaced):
The visitor also sees a timeline of immigration legislation and its historical context:
The visitor moves through the experience of immigration, with the examples of travel documents and illustrations of accommodations:
In addition to the multimedia artwork, visitors can listen to and watch interviews with more recent immigrants. As you move into the immigrant’s process of starting a life in Argentina, there is a life-size model of a part of a dormitory in the Immigrants Hotel. There’s a voice singing, and I recognized the lullaby.
Next, you see the some of the things immigrants used to create and sustain their communities:
Finally, the museum has an exhibition by the EDO art collective, imagining a solution to the dehumanization and rejection of migrants by having them be given the legal status of fine art, and then regaining their full status as human citizens of their new countries (the transport ship, La Ballena, is organized into elements of first-world museums, as befitting works of fine art). It sounds weird but I promise the concept appears more coherent and creative in person.
The museum is free, and the hours vary by season. While the signage is only in Spanish, there is an English-language booklet available at the desk on the bottom floor (by US reckoning, I mean the first floor; by Argentine I mean the PB). Finding it is a little bit of a challenge, as the road in front of the Migraciones complex is currently severely torn up by construction (probably for years to come) and the Immigrants Hotel is set back from the parking lot. There are some large banners to help direct visitors, and it shares an entry with the Navy’s school–the sailors on guard duty were very pleasant and helpful in directing us the right way. You can get to the general area by way of a train or subway to Retiro station and walk about a kilometer, or by taxi.
Let me tell you, I have been a huge fan of sanitation infrastructure since reading The Ghost Map. No part of that sentence is exaggeration. It’s difficult to appreciate modern sanitary standards until you read about a virulent cholera outbreak, and the sheer amount of sewage in the drinking water. Yum.
This is the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, or Palace of Running Waters, which is incidentally the name of my future chalet. It was completed in 1894, designed to be a water pumping station. That’s right; this glorious eclectic construction of English terra cotta tiles, a French mansard roof, and polished landscaping was built to be a water tank cozy.
Today, the Water Palace houses administrative offices for AySA, the state water company, in addition to the museum (and archive and library).
The museum devotes a good deal of its space to the building’s construction and history.
After the section dedicated to the building, there are…
And a model of the Radio Antiguo area’s English-style drainage system, which collected storm water in addition to sewage. Not every sewage system does that, you know.
Historical artifacts of the water company (once called the Obras Sanitarias de la Nacion or OSN, no I was not kidding about the basketball team) are also in the museum. There’s an office from the 1920s-1940s era:
A magazine published for the nation’s sanitation workers:
Various and sundry piping-related materials, catalogs, and certificates:
But I know what you’re thinking.
“Does this sanitation museum include toilets? Because honestly why even bother otherwise.”
Well of COURSE it has toilets.
This room is scented by an air freshener that took me a moment to place, but is in fact the most common air freshener used in public toilets in Buenos Aires. I thought that was a nice touch of ambiance.
Visitors can also see the interior of the building–the former water tanks. The space has some of the larger artifacts and photographs relating to the history of water and sanitation service in the city.
If you aren’t on the tour, there are screens with virtual guides giving short talks throughout the museum.
Are there interactive exhibits? Heck yes there are, in a manner of speaking.
Bonus: Currently, there is also an art exhibit on the Antarctic.
The architecture alone is worth stopping by, and if you’re already there, the museum is certainly fun and doesn’t require much time. There is also a shop! A case just outside the museum shows its wares, which include the most affordable post cards in Buenos Aires, outside of free ones. Museo del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria is a couple blocks from the D line of the subway and open Monday through Friday, from 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm. Guided visits in Spanish are at 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
So what will you find in a glorious exposition dedicated to meat, that most Argentine of culinary indulgences?
But that is absolutely not all. No indeed. Got something meat-related in mind? NAME IT, SON.
Have you ever wondered if the Argentine relationship with beef can be statistically quantified? WONDER NO LONGER.
So what do Argentines use all that meat for? The interior patio holds the answers you seek, friend.
Are you more interested in “how the sausage is made,” so to speak? It looks something like this:
So, meat plays a pretty big role in Argentine culture. But what about Argentine pop culture? Has there ever been a famous sexploitation film in which meat featured heavily alongside a celebrated bombshell and a future father of an Oscar-winning writer?
But maybe your cultural tastes are more highbrow. You appreciate fine art. Painting, sculpture. These media speak to you and inform your experiences. You enjoy seeing beauty rendered immortal by the hand of a master.
You will find your treasure here, too.
All in all, “Carne” is a masterpiece. Obviously. It might be that someone in a position to affect these sorts of things noticed that it is the 50th anniversary of the film “Carne” and just ran with it. If that’s the case, this exhibition is even more superb. It’s open to the public, it’s free, there are promotional postcards–but it closes down on September 30th, so you only have a month to experience “Carne.”
Boedo is not a neighborhood that draws the tourism of a Palermo, but there are some cool things there, not the least of which is the feeling of visiting a non-tourist-centric barrio. It’s an old working-class area that drew a lot of immigrants, and Boedo has a rich history in socialist and anarchist politics, artistic movements (particularly left-wing and literary), and tango (for a brief primer in English, go here).
If you find yourself in Boedo (and you might, there are tango shows, historic cafes, and the Museum of Modern Art is also there), take a bit of time to visit the main drag (Avenida Boedo) and the few blocks of sculptures installed along it.
There are some neat ones, and you know you’re in a quality place when there’s art just lying around on the street.
Luján is a popular, actual religious pilgrimage destination as the site of a large Neo-Gothic basilica and the 388-year-old icon therein.
That icon is Our Lady of Luján, the official patron saint of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. I neglected to get a photo but it was Good Friday and the basilica was super full. The icon was commissioned for a man in Santiago del Estero, but when the caravan parked in present-day Zelaya, the oxen refused to continue until the statue was unloaded. This was seen as a miracle. The Virgin clearly wanted to stay in a tiny podunk that happened to be much, much closer to Buenos Aires than Santiago del Estero. That didn’t stop someone from moving her about 50 km away to the larger podunk of Luján 40 years later. The basilica was started in 1890.
But ALSO in Luján are some museums! I was only there for the afternoon so I didn’t even see them all! What I did see is coming up next!
Sooner or later, I’m going to get to some of the Big Museums of the city, but I must say, I really enjoy poking around the little gems. It doesn’t take long to go through them, but you can just feel the love, ya know? So today, here’s another wee treasure of culture and anthropology.
And therein you will find some rooms devoted to the native peoples of Argentina. The first room covers historical objects of and information on ancient cultures.
The exhibits then move into the contemporary culture and works of different peoples, which I am not going to try to get into too much because this has been a five-day weekend and my brain has melted. This includes the festival of Aréte Abáti, a harvest festival in the Chiriguano Chané community of Jujuy and Salta.
The masks are part of that festival, and, ever the fan of interactive museum exhibits, I was pleased to see a selection of masks available for handling.
Being a textile nerd, I also enjoyed the display and information on the weaving of the Wichí people (Jujuy and Formosa). A plant called chaguar is gathered (not cultivated) and its fibers are woven into a number of goods:
Representative crafts are also displayed from the Mbyá (Misiones region):
And the incredible silverwork and textiles of the Mapuche (southwestern Argentina):
There is also an exhibit on a culture that did not survive its contact with European settlement, the Selk’nam, who lived in the southernmost part of the country.
The upstairs portion of the museum currently houses a temporary exhibit (although it’s been in place since last year and has no closing date) called Objetos Poderosos:
This exhibit includes contemporary objects created for traditional celebrations and observances in Latin America:
And a small display of very neat works by Graciela Henríquez, including this kinetic piece of awesome:
And once again, a mask-themed interactive photo opportunity:
I borrowed this face for my photo.
And now, the deets:
LOCATION: 3 de Febrero 1378, Belgrano neighborhood
COST: It’s FREE, BABY
HOURS: Monday-Friday, 10-7
CLOSED DAY: Weekends and holidays
TIME: About an hour
LANGUAGES: All Spanish. The Microsoft translator app is best here.
TOURS: Yes, by arrangement, mostly in workshop form–it’s an education-focused institution. Not a casual tour kind of thing.
SWAG: Hey yeah there is! The entry hall has a couple of museum-branded bags as well as pieces of indigenous craft. There’s also a selection of (Spanish-language) books available.
HOW TO GET THERE: Close to the Olleros station of the D line of the subway.
KIDS: Sure! School visits are their jam, so they have tried to make the place kid-friendly.
FOOD IN THE AREA: Lots of cafes within a few blocks.
Among the many small but charming museums in Buenos Aires is Museo Larreta. Bearing in mind that my Spanish is, let’s say, “raw,” my translations aren’t super awesome and might be corrected as I, you know, learn more stuff.
The museum is in the home of Argentine writer Enrique Larreta, and the collection is principally his own, because when super rich people spend time abroad they often return with a lot of Renaissance-era tchotchkes. Larreta was born in 1875 to a wealthy family, wrote a book I understand to be an important piece of Argentine Hispanic modernism called La Gloria de Don Ramiro set in 1500s Spain, was ambassador to France from 1910-1919, and wrote some other stuff that does not get near the play that Don Ramiro gets. It might be charming-sized for a museum, but for a house in the middle of the biggest city in South America (when it was built), it’s damn near palatial.
The museum is mostly items from Renaissance and Baroque Spain, as Larreta was really into the Spanish Golden Age. He brought back furniture, paintings, carvings, and even curtains.
The museum includes rooms devoted to Larreta and his life, as well. The family’s chapel room, the dining room (where those curtains are located), and the writer’s study are set up for visitor perusal.
The museum has incorporated some multimedia elements, including the floor show pictured above in the main room. The best use of multimedia is the touchscreen information display for a large altarpiece in the Sala de Infancia de Cristo.
The room dedicated to Larreta’s most famous work also includes a decorative media element.
Other notable views for looky loos are the amazing Andulsian patio:
And the impressive, Moorish-influenced bathroom:
My favorite part of the whole shebang, though, is the garden. Full of paths and lovely features and also cats, it’s great for meandering.
The garden has a contemporary sculpture exhibit throughout, often incorporating living elements of the garden:
The best part of the garden is the ombú tree. Planted about 100 years ago by Larreta’s son, the ombú is enormous. It’s hard to get a sense of its scale from a photo.
So here’s the garden map, to give you an idea of its size.
TOURS: There are scheduled guided tours of the museum and garden in Spanish.
SHOP: There is no shop, but you can purchase a nice booklet of the museum for 80 pesos ($4.00 USD) or a fancy edition of La Gloria de Don Ramiro (for much more than that).
HOW TO GET THERE: The museum is very close to the Juramento stop of the D line of the subway and a yellow tourist bus stop.
KIDS: Not recommended for little kids. There’s nothing particularly interesting for them, pieces are out and easy to reach, and if they’re short and run off in the garden, you’re gonna lose sight of them.
FOOD IN THE AREA: There’s a nice cafe attached to the museum and several types of cafes and restaurants within a few blocks.