Having been elbow-deep in various other obligations and pursuits, I have been a terrible blogger. But I’m actively scheduling some upcoming visits, so I had better work through my backlog here. I’m not going to say too much about the MALBA, as it is widely called, because…it’s really famous. If you’re an art-interested traveler touring Buenos Aires, it’s already on your agenda. As it should be.
There’s an impressive permanent collection, with all the usual suspects and more.
There’s also these amazing benches, probably my favorite museum seating in the world so far. It’s actually very comfortable.
I am very fond of birds.
What’s that? Fun, interactive pieces? Duh.
(Seven Unexpected Movements, Julio Le Parc)
The permanent collection is a real treat, but the MALBA also moves some pretty extensive temporary exhibitions through. When I visited, there was an exhibition of Pablo Suárez, an Argentine painter and sculptor with a pretty broad stylistic range.
You’ll burn a few hours in the MALBA, which is pretty much a can’t-miss stop in Buenos Aires if you’re at all into Latin American art and culture. Signage is in Spanish and English. There’s a nice restaurant with a solid menu, and a pricey gift shop. The museum is open from 12 to 8 (and an hour later on Wednesdays) except Tuesdays, when it is closed. General admission is, at the time of this post but haha Argentina inflation so do double check, $170 pesos (reduced admission for students, teachers, and local retirees is $85), except on Wednesdays when it’s $85 (and reduced admission patrons are free). Under 5 and disabled visitors are always free. Private group guided visits in English can be arranged by email.
The MALBA is located in Palermo, kind of between the Japanese Gardens and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, close to many other major museums and attractions. Fewer places in the city are easier to get to via bus, taxi, subway (D line), or on foot.
December is here, and despite my strenuous objections, spring is warming up the city. These will be the last weeks to enjoy the parks and gardens without feeling super hot and gross the whole time. It’s time to visit the plant museum.
The Buenos Aires Botanical Garden is, objectively speaking, the best place in the entire city. It’s one good soundproofing and a few shady hammocks from achieving empirical perfection. These are just the facts.
And there is a small sort of museum on the grounds: the main building, where garden designer Carlos Thays lived while he was director of parks and walks, so there’s a nice perk you don’t see in city governments much today.
Inside, you’ll find some models of the gardens and structures and antique prints and maps. The whole thing is very picturesque.
The museum/administration building is the center of the activities for the Garden, and there’s also a wee children’s library, which is adorbs.
The Garden itself has QR code labels for some of its collection, which is very handy for an outdoor museum (just go with it okay), as you see here on the artwork circuit.
And like many large public gardens, you can find contemporary art installations, too, such as “Instalación Mesológica” by Didier Rousseau-Navarre, which is meant to “question our relationship with the earth in the Anthropocene Age.” The seeds are made from the wood of their species.
The Botanical Garden hosts many workshops and activities and is a goddamn delight. It’s in Palermo, near the Rural, the Japanese Garden, the former zoo, the Museo Evita, and lots of other stuff. It’s a nice place in the city to find some birds; I saw a really pretty green hummingbird. It’s free and open every day except Mondays, and closing times depend on the season; check the website. It’s accessible via the Plaza Italia stop of the D line of the subway and a whole mess of buses.
I am still recovering from a “flu-like” virus, which wasn’t too bothersome as I mainly slept for three days, but I managed to make a quick visit to the Centro de Arte y Naturaleza (part of the Museums of the National University of Tres de Febrero, which also includes the Museo de la Inmigración). It’s in a really lovely building on the perimeter of the old Buenos Aires Zoo, which was chiefly built around the turn of the 20th century and as such is a fascinating example of old zoo architecture but was closed down for being a cruelly terrible zoo.
The Centro itself faces the large and busy Av. Sarmiento:
It’s quite small and doesn’t take much time to visit–but it is free, has a helpful staff, changes exhibits entirely every few months, and is right within a nexus of other attractions, making it an easy addition to any plans that include La Rural or the Botanical Gardens, or any other of the numerous museums and gardens within walking distance.
Two artists are currently featured. The first floor holds Zoología Fantástica, by Argentine biologist and artist Pablo La Padula. From the description on the MUNTREF website: “…it invites us to re-read the historical-cultural markers that reside in scientific devices and their interpretations, as well as in the decisions that are made for scientific dissemination, and the forms that these constructions assume in the social imagination. The materials that are used, the assembly, the lighting and the organization system, come together to place the spectator in the place of the scientist.”
The upstairs houses a show by Peruvian artist Claudia Coca called “Do Not Tell Me I Do Not Know How to Catch the Wind.” It examines the city’s life forms and their interaction, and includes embroidered verses.
If you’re already in the area, and if you spend much time in Buenos Aires at all you eventually will be, pop into the Centro and see what they have showing. It’s free and open Wednesday to Sunday from 2pm to 7pm. I really hope they put whale kid on a postcard.
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.
I’m working at a tiny disadvantage today, as I visited the Museo Evita a couple of weeks ago and photographs are not allowed, but fortunately for potential visitors, the website is well done with a lot of information.
The English-speaking world is often introduced to her first via the musical “Evita,” which is unfortunate, as it was sourced in anti-Perónist accounts and is historically inaccurate. In any case, regardless of the facts of her life, Eva Perón is subjected to the sort of scrutiny and sneering criticism that male political figures are rarely, if ever, subjected to.
It would be difficult, or even impossible, to overstate the cultural impact of Eva Perón in Argentina (as a foreigner here, I am reminded of this Sarah Glidden comic often). She is memorialized in very large ways, including the 100 peso note…
Small wonder then that the museum dedicated to her appears to be well-funded with a very engaging community presence. The vexing question of why the English-language Wikipedia identifies her primarily as an actress is perhaps a larger one.
Incidentally, wanna see how she’s identified in her Latin American Google results?
The building that houses Museo Evita and the cafe was built in the early 1900s and acquired by Eva’s social aid foundation in 1948 as Temporary Home #2, serving as a transitional support home for women and children.
These sorts of buildings present a bit of a challenge for chronological presentation, as you can see on the map that visitors receive:
But it’s not so difficult to navigate. There are signs and an abundance of security staff to make sure visitors know where the chronology goes next. Honestly, I would not change the set up at all; who ever feels like life moves predictably?
The museum assumes visitors have enough familiarity with Argentine history to understand the context of things, and the treatment overall is kept rather light. Most of the signage is translated into English, so English speakers will not be lost. Video clips are also subtitled with English.
Since I don’t have many photos to offer, I’m going to briefly mention my biggest impressions from the museum.
The woman had an exceptional amount of hustle. Evita was born in the sticks, the fifth child in a wealthy man’s illegitimate, side family. That man abandoned her family, leaving them in dire poverty. She went to the big city at age 15 to be an actress, which had to be at least as unforgiving an industry to women in the 1930s and 40s as it is today. She worked hard and was active in her unions, helping found the Argentine Radio Association and serving as its president in 1944. Evita took no half-measures and was probably incapable of doing so.
Women’s suffrage. Evita is widely credited with driving the issue of women’s suffrage to its political fruition, legalized in 1947 and first exercised in 1951. She also organized a women’s political party. The museum has a newsreel on the women’s vote, showcasing the government’s preparation of the new voter rolls and how to vote, and featuring a scene in which an Evita lookalike argues passionately with reluctant female family members on the civic duty of women to exercise their right to vote.
The funeral room. The room adjoining the funeral room shows a large video of the Cabildo Abierto del Justicialismo–a massive rally where the assembled people pressed Evita to accept the nomination for vice president–and the Renunciation, a radio address made nine days later where she declined the nomination (these would be among her last public acts; she would die of uterine cancer less than a year later). The visitor then turns and sees silent footage from her 14 day funeral, during which more than two million people came to pay tribute. Her voice from the Cabildo rally and Renunciation in the room behind is still heard over the funeral images, creating a moving impression of memory and legacy.
Before exiting through a nicely stocked gift shop, visitors can participate in the Millones photo project, taking a self-portrait with a photo of Evita using a mounted digital camera. I took one, but it doesn’t seem like the website has been updated in awhile.
Finally, I had some fun in the swag room, where I picked up the museum guide and the lady’s autobiography.
At 180 pesos (at the time, anyway; about US $6), it’s one of the more expensive museums I’ve been to. But it is certainly worth a visit! It’s easily accessible via the D line of the subway, and is very close to the botanical gardens. The cafe is really nice, too.