Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno de la República Argentina [Mariano Moreno National Library of the Argentine Republic]

The National Library!

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Sometimes the beauty of a library is in the idea, and not the stupid brutalist architecture.

Established in 1810, the library inaugurated its current building in 1992, thirty years after it was first designed (because Argentina).  There are a few things associated with the National Library that I will be including here, such as the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, which is actually more of a small space for temporary exhibitions and events–not quite enough to do a whole post on.

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“…because the library is yours.”  Hell. Yes.

Currently, there’s a couple of exhibits up, one of which is on scientist, novelist, and impressive prizewinner Ernesto Sabato.  You might remember him from a really life-affirming subway display I found awhile back.

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“God exists, but sometimes dreams: his nightmares are our existence.”

The upstairs currently houses a show on Sara Gallardo.

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Like I said, not a whole lot to the museum itself, but as it’s at the back of the library complex, it can easily included in a visit to the whole shebang.

There’s some remodeling happening on the grounds of the library, but there is one small open building that houses the showroom of the Centro de Historieta y Humor Gráfico Argentinos (Argentine Comic and Graphic Humor Center).

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At the moment, the building is dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Patoruzú, who looks VERY QUESTIONABLE to me but is still an icon here, and widely considered Argentina’s first super hero (he’s got super strength and he’s also rich, which is Batman’s sole power, so Patoruzú already has one up on that guy).

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The main library building also has its own exhibit space.  You need an ID to go in, a fact that has stuck in my mind since the library played a small part in the story of a man who walked from Canada to Buenos Aires with the aim of visiting the library, only to be turned away because he didn’t have ID.

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Pictured: Most secure border in the Western hemisphere.

Right now, there’s an exhibit on the books of Arthur Conan Doyle.  It’s pretty fun.

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Sherlock Holmes fan fic has been a hugely profitable genre in its own right, and I especially enjoyed the inclusion of “Cat Holmes.”

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The Lost World room! Argentina is rich in dinosaur fossils, and that there is native son Bajadasaurus pronuspinax.
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Yeah, they even got the fairy stuff.
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Interview with the man himself in the spiritualism room.

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I can absolutely feel the librarian’s giddy enthusiasm for being able to create this room.

If I don’t get a haunted mirror for Christmas this year, why do I even have a family.

There were a few of these pictures that were activated when you walked close to them.  This whole thing was neat.

At the back of the library’s complex, near the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, is an adorable little shop.

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ADORKABLE

It’s the National Library’s bookstore for its publications, where you can also get sweet library merch, like a coffee mug or poster.  There’s also this TINY BOOK VENDING MACHINE SO BRING 20 PESOS IN COINS OK?

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Objects in photo less blurry than they appear

So if libraries are a thing for you (as they are for all quality people), you can roll a visit to the National Library into your Recoleta meanderings, as it’s a couple of blocks from the Recoleta Cemetery, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Las Heras subway stop on the H line.  There’s a cafe of the basic snack and coffee sort on the first floor of the main library building (second floor by US reckoning), but obviously plenty of other places are around.  Check the website for the hours of all the various elements mentioned here.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes [National Museum of Fine Arts]

Bellas Artes is one of the big dogs, obviously.

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It contains not one but two gift shops.

As such, it has a very fine collection, and since this is a blog post, I will not be providing a thorough overview.   For one thing, the museum has a very nice website partially available in English (and a guide app only in Spanish).  So I’m just going to do a light overview!  There’s just so much art!

Obviously, as a national fine arts museum, Bellas Artes has a strong collection of Argentine and Latin American art.  The international collection trends noticeably to European art.  Let’s have a peek, starting with these things, because I am a big fan of hair decoration:

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Who has this much hair
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How do these not cause headaches

These are peinetónes, very large versions of the Spanish peineta that were distinct to the fashion of the Rio de la Plata region in the 1830s, until shitty men took to criticizing the elaborate and expensive combs in the most sexist way possible (“terrible women neglect their families and whore themselves out in pursuit of this extravagance!”), and their use declined.  You can find several contemporary illustrations mocking the peinetón.  Certainly, there are reasonable criticisms to be made of fashions that are uncomfortable, inconvenient, and costly, but “look at these shallow immoral bimbos” is just the worst.

On to the older European stuff!

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St John here giving you a big hint as to who the principal subject here is, or else trying to draw attention to the incredibly inappropriate baby toy.

Early 1500s Virgin and Child with St John from Florence.

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If I ever have a castle, Imma get so many tapestries

This is a Belgian-made tapestry from the early 1600s.  As someone who can barely sit still long enough to embroider a simple outline figure on a handkerchief, I am always deeply impressed by tapestries.

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If you leave severed heads laying around, the baby is totally going to get into them.

This is a 17th century wood sculpture, “An angel with the head of St John the Baptist.”  This stuff is all pretty typical of the time and region.

Moving forward, time-wise, the collection includes examples from a lot of the big dudes, El Greco, Rubens, Rembrant, Degas, van Gogh, Monet, Kandinsky, Pollock, Rothko, and so on.

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Raymond Monvoision, “self portrait,” early 1800s France.
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Goya, doing Goya things.

There’s a lot of Rodin, owing to the museum’s first director’s admiration of him.

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“The Earth and the Moon,” 1898, because how many times do you really want to look at “The Kiss”
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Henry Moore, “Reclining Figure, External Forms

But let’s turn our attention to the Argentine artists, my very favorite feature of Bellas Artes.

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Cándido López’s “Wintering Eastern Army,” more beautiful in person than any photo I’ve seen.
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“To the Sunshine” by Fernando Fader, 1922, included here because she’s knitting.
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“Nude” by Emilia Bertolé, 1919

And into more modern styles:

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“The Improviser,” Emilio Pettoruti, 1937

And mixed media works, such as Jorge de la Vega’s “A Timid Person’s Intimacy” (1963):

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There are also, of course, Argentine sculptors represented, such as Alberto Heredia, who worked with discarded items to create his censorship allegory “The Gagged” in the early 1970s.

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JEEEEEZUS WHAT THE HELL MAN

I’m also tacking on Joaquín Torres Garcia, who wasn’t Argentine but Uruguayan, because I really love his stuff so much.

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“Contrast,” 1931

Finally, here’s views of a couple of galleries, to give you a feel for the place, and the difference between the classical art galleries and the modern ones.

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The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is big and pink and hard to miss at Av. de Libertador 1473 in Recoleta.  You can get there on a lot of bus lines and the H line of the subway.  It’s open 11am to 8pm Tuesdays through Fridays and 10am to 8pm Saturdays and Sundays.  It’s free for Argentina residents and 100 pesos (currenetly about 3 bucks US) for non-residents, although it is free on Tuesdays and 645pm-8pm Wednesdays through Sundays.  There’s a free English tour at 230pm on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Most of the signage is also in English.

J. M. W. Turner. Acuarelas de la Tate Collection [J. M. W. Turner. Watercolours from the Tate Collection]: Special Exhibition of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is, obviously, the big cheese of Argentine art museums.  Naturally, I’m a fan.

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Absolute unit of a museum

As you’d expect, it hosts some pretty impressive temporary shows.  Currently, there’s one I was not going to miss.

From my scant education in art history, I picked up a couple of things about J. M. W. Turner:  I love him, and he used very, very long titles.  Also that he was very prolific.  Ok, so three things.

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Curators need something snappy, however

Eighty-five watercolors from the span of Turner’s career make up the show.  They do not disappoint.

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Durham Cathedral: The Interior, Looking East along the South Aisle, 1797-8
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An Old Woman in a Cottage Kitchen (“Internal of a Cottage, a Study at Ely”), 1795-6  see I was not even kidding about the titles

These two are from earlier on in his life, and you can read details about the paintings written by people more knowledgeable than I at the links, which go to the Tate’s website.

For my part, I enjoy looking at Turners from different distances.  Here is The Destruction of the Bards by Edward I (c. 1799-1800).  It’s a wild, beautiful landscape.  Maybe you’re wondering where the slaughter of the bards is going on though.

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Squint
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Wait, is that a wall or sheep or what
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Oh there’s the mass execution.

The landscapes (and seascapes) are my favorites, with the expressive colors and elusive atmosphere.  I feel like I’m clearly looking at a scene, without being able to pinpoint what I’m looking at.  Does that make sense?  I feel like it doesn’t, but it’s the best I can do.

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The Vision of Columbus, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’“, c. 1830-2
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“Sea and Sky” c. 1845, one of many many many many “Sea and Sky”s from his late period, when his style took on a light touch, fluidity of color, and lack of detail, and he couldn’t be fussed with titles anymore.

Moving through his career and life in the form of his watercolors is a fine way to spend an afternoon.  The explanatory signage is in both Spanish and English.  The ticket into the show is AR$100, but it is free on Tuesdays and the rest of the week after 645pm (the museum is closed Mondays).  The temporary exhibition pavilion is rather tucked away, so hold on to your ticket and follow your map, as the path isn’t obvious.  As a major museum, swag is of course available, although Turner-specific swag has just two images to choose from.  The exhibition closes February 17, 2019.

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is easy to reach via the Facultad de Derecho station of the D line of the subway and sits between three major avenues in Recoleta.  Can’t miss it.