From street to wall,

and coffee shop to museum

By Sylvie Berthiaume

Literature... always


The reading of "real" books is still well appreciated and obvious in Buenos Aires. The merchants of old books, contemporary libraries, specialized bookshops in all areas (science, philosophy, cinema, for children, etc.) and street-corner kiosks, are legion in the city.


The same in parks, squares, cafés and bars which have the reputation of having inspired the greatest Argentinean writers, as Borges, Güiraldes, Sabato, Arlt, Corlazar and Girondo, - who have also sometimes written on these places - and who continue to attract literature enthusiasts. This is without counting the famous International Book Festival occurring each year between March and April, as well as the festival dedicated to children, in July.


All this has earned Buenos Aires in 2011, the designation of "The World's Book Capital", according to UNESCO as well as federations and international associations of publishers, booksellers and librarians.


The air of time and the era of today are still linked to the reflection and to the dream, put into words.


Teatro Colon


This iconic Buenos Aires’ building is moreover one of the greatest operas in the world: First for its acoustics praised by Pavarotti, Callas, Domingo, Caruso and Toscanini, and its capacity of 3,000 people, including 500 standing.


Comparable in shows' quality and importance to La Scala in Milan, Paris Opera and Vienna State Opera, it ranks among the top 5 in the world. It houses the ballet, the choir, the Orquesta Estable de Teatro Colón and the Orquesta Filarmónica of Buenos Aires.


Work of the Italian architects Tamburini, Meano and Dormal, erected on 58,000 square meters, it was inaugurated in 1908, and completely renovated to reopen in 2010. Its main room of seven red and gold levels, Italian Neo-Renaissance style, and French Baroque architecture, as well as its painted dome attract millions of visitors and photographers each year.


Apart from the functions related to the opera, the Teatro Colon encompasses a lounge of busts, a museum of costumes, the Higher Institute of Art, a library and a center of musical experimentation. It should be noted that all the costumes, sets and accessories are made on the premises.


No need to have a ticket for the opera if one wants to visit because guided tours take place every hour during the day. There is always a long queue before entering, but the wait is really worth it.


The art of proximity


Regardless of the neighbourhood and regardless of the building, virtually no wall, no surface of display, no door, escapes some kind of painting: artistic, historic, politic, social or comical.


Of traditional style, as the "Fileteado Porteno" technique (see large photo on homepage), or contemporary or resolutely modern such as graffiti, murals in Buenos Aires are indeed everywhere.


Concerning three-dimension works, there is of course a profusion of modern sculptures and historical monuments, not only in the parks but also at street intersections.


What distinguishes without a doubt Buenos Aires of many other capitals, is its comic books characters, reproduced on a human scale, who come to brighten up the urban scene, in the neighbourhoods of San Telmo, Montserrat and Puerto Madero.


At the top of the list for its photogenic attractiveness: The small Mafalda, known throughout the world. And numerous other icons created by Argentina’s artists, such as Quinterno, Sendra, Divito and Caloi.


The art of Buenos Aires is therefore accessible to everybody: Artists, city residents and visitors. There are also circuits for tourists and art specialists focused on the theme of the murals, graffiti and comic strips.


Stunning art


During our stay in Buenos Aires, we have been able to see the boldness and the intelligence of Argentina’s contemporary artists.


At the Museum of Modern Art


Buenos Aires has bet and won, without skimping on the means, to the benefit of local and international visitors by organizing the ineffable sensual and participatory installation called The Menesunda, from Argentine's Marta Minujin and Ruben Santantonin, meaning "A difficult or embarrassing situation."


Originally created in 1965, its absurd personality had made scandal at the time. In 2016, non-scandalous, but always irreverent, intriguing and sometimes crazy, it remains relevant to raise awareness of human sensations.


This real experience takes place on 2 floors: 11 rooms, totally different, where walls, floors and ceilings are covered with textured elements, hard or spongy, and arranged in a manner to make us live through troubling states, in link with the past, our childhood, and our contemporary era.


For example, stairs with obtuse angles, narrow corridors, high ceilings, low ceilings, exhibit in a circle, musical cage rotating of which we do not find the entrance door, glass cage in which you enter without knowing that this will turn off all the lights, a labyrinth of mirrors, doors of an hermetic fridge, hidden exit, bold flashing neon lights and then total darkness, clinical pink of a beautician salon, squeaky sounds and then oppressive silence, photos and video images, hot and cold temperature, storm of confetti, giant characters to discover through small holes in the walls, etc. and then - surprise…! - a couple in bed, who reads while listening to the music of The Beatles. All this, without knowing in advance.


Each visitor lives the experience in solo or as a couple, not more - slowly, on the tip of the toes, carefully, with curiosity, smile, fear or claustrophobic anxiety -, according to each one. We don’t come out of this intact, and the reflection-sensation continues during at least one hour after the visit.


At the Museum of Latin American art


The transparency bathing in sun the interior traffic areas of this museum, confers an aerial atmosphere, a certain lightness, contrary to most museums. The works that it presents - those of Argentineans and of other Latin painters and sculptors celebrated worldwide as Rivera, Kahlo, etc. - are nothing less than bold and dramatic.


During our visit, after being greeted by The ballerina by Koons, we were surprised by the kinetic movement works of several artists, the liquid and bright paintings of Kosice, the perspectives of Macchi, the manic-meticulous works of cut texts by Segura and the sculptures of paper pulp by Karjcberg.


Art in the window


All the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires team with private art galleries. The more trendy ones are found in Palermo district.


Buenos Aires is permanently and primarily a highly cultural destination.


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Teatro Colon