Artists: Roberto Aizenberg, Nicanor Araoz, Marcela Astorga, Hugo Aveta, Nicolás Bacal, Ernesto Ballesteros, Eduardo Tomás Basualdo, Diego Bianchi, Joaquín Boz, Marcelo Brodsky, Eugenia Calvo, Gabriel Chaile, Nicola Costantino, Ariel Cusnir, Julián D’Angiolillo, Flavia Da Rin, Marina De Caro, Andrés Denegri, Mirtha Dermisache, Sebastián Diaz Morales, Matías Duville, Leandro Erlich, Tomás Espina & Martin Cordiano, León Ferrari, Ana Gallardo, Alberto Goldenstein, Gabriela Golder, Max Gómez Canle, Sebastián Gordin, Jorge Gumier Maier, Luján Fúnes, Graciela Hasper, Carlos Herrera, Carlos Huffmann, Roberto Jacoby, Magdalena Jitrik, Fabio Kacero, Guillermo Kuitca, Fernanda Laguna, Luciana Lamothe, José Luis Landet, Martín Legón, Catalina León, Donjo León, Marcos López, Jorge Macchi, Adriana Minoliti, Marta Minujín with Mark Brusse, Guillermina Mongan, Margarita Paksa, Esteban Pastorino, Marcelo Pombo, Santiago Porter, “Middle School Liliana Maresca Project” (Lorena Bossi, Ariel Cusnir, Sebastián Friedman, Leandro Tartaglia, Dani Zelko) with the students of highschool n°44 of La Cava de Fiorito, Pablo Reinoso, Marisa Rubio, Mariela Scafati, Pablo Siquier, Elisa Strada, Eduardo Stupía, Pablo Suárez, Luis Terán, Valeria Vilar, and Adrián Villar Rojas.
My Buenos Aires
June 20 – September 20, 2015
Buenos Aires, Argentina
My Buenos Aires at la maison rouge continues a series of exhibitions that showcases the art scene in cities worldwide. The series was launched in summer 2011 with Winnipeg, Canada, followed in 2013 by Johannesburg, South Africa. Some regret what they see as a “standardized” art world, laying the blame at globalization’s door, and so this seemed the opportune moment to look at centres of creativity which, though out of the spotlight, enjoy a thriving art scene of works infused with the city, its territory, history and myths.
Buenos Aires, a mystery reinvented
A mirror city, established twice (in 1536 and then again in 1580), “Our Lady of the Fair Winds” stands on Río de la Plata, the “silver river” that gave the country its name. Buenos Aires extends over two hundred square kilometres and is home to three million porteños (“port-dwellers” in Spanish). The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation has a population of fifteen and a half million, making it Latin America’s third most-populated agglomeration after Mexico City and São Paulo.
Described by Malraux as “the capital of an empire that never existed”, Buenos Aires fuels many fantasies. The mere mention of tango or beef, of Borges or Maradona, of Argentinean beauties will plunge anyone, even someone who has never set foot in the city, into dreamy nostalgia.
The visual and cultural familiarity that greets a European visitor can disappoint those in search of instant exoticism and pre-packaged emotions. Yet this is precisely where its power of seduction lies; in the (un)acquaintance of what we find when we peel away the masks of this tentacular city, which in 1914 was home to as many immigrants as Argentineans and where still today 40% of its residents were born elsewhere.
Buenos Aires is a child of immigration, whether voluntary or forced; a city haunted by absence. To live there is to accept estrangement and to overcome loss. Hardly surprisingly then, Buenos Aires shares New York’s love of psychoanalysis, and has one therapist for 120 inhabitants.
Seductive, Buenos Aires is no less sombre. It bears the stigmata of violence endured, of uprooting, dictatorship and the mourning of the many disappearances including, since the financial and economic crisis of 2001, that of its own image as a “major European power” that would inexplicably have alighted on the American continent.
The public protests that arose following the 2001 crisis have shown a capacity for counterpower that has no equivalent in the history of modern nations. Even in the throes of crisis, strikes and the pillaging of recent decades, Argentineans continue to wield sarcasm, dark humour and irony as a remedy against resignation.
A chameleon city, Buenos Aires comes with all the accoutrements of a modern conurbation – urban violence, air and noise pollution – yet behind the jacarandas that line its avenues it conserves the extraordinary capacity to reinvent itself and to reveal, unabashedly and sometimes even brutally, the pressing need to live better.
An artistic community that stand together
Authors and actors from all disciplines have in them this extraordinary and also determined capacity for reinvention. In the visual arts, decades of crisis and “getting by” have at least forged a community of artists who, irrespective of rivalries and conflicting views, face adversity as one.
Artists have responded to the lack of infrastructures and learning opportunities by throwing open their studios, hosting charlas (group discussions) where ideas can be brought out into the open. Those who do manage to enter the global art market willingly put their own money into supporting local creation. The grant endowed by painter Guillermo Kuitca, for example, gave an entire generation of artists between 1991 and 2011 access to a studio, and to critical and technical support with which to develop their work. Bola de nieve (“snowball”), a free website set up in 2005 by Ramona magazine, is a database of images where each artist invites another, thereby forming an endless chain. 1,135 artists now show their work there. In a similar spirit, an artist might often recommend visiting another artist’s studio, even when this means putting off visits to his or her own studio to another day.
A compelling movement
In the space of a few years, the map of Buenos Aires contemporary art has undergone substantial transformation to become more evenly spread between the city’s various neighbourhoods. Little by little, the art scene is moving away from the centre. Ruth Benzacar’s gallery, now in its fiftieth year, is leaving the historic Calle Florida for new premises west of the Palermo neighbourhood. New venues are opening in the north, such as Hotel de Inmigrantes. Further north still, the Haroldo Conti Memorial Cultural Centre includes a sculpture park that pays tribute to the men and women who disappeared during the dictatorship, and a cultural centre showing contemporary art. Di Tella, a private university with a famous past, launched an experimental research programme in 2010 under the directorship of the historian and curator Inés Katzenstein. To the south of the city, new director Victoria Noorthoorn is revolutionising the Buenos Aires Modern Art Museum (MAMBA).
The microcentro remains the city’s nerve centre at the heart of its history, and is still the site of numerous art venues, including the Fundación Osde, and galleries. The disgruntled still march on Plaza de Mayo while artists have begun to install works under the obelisk. This reconfiguration of Buenos Aires’ art venues symbolises a city that is gaining momentum, spreading its wings ready to fly. The direction it will take remains to be seen.
The city’s Culture Department is behind a number of initiatives which support this quality cultural provision.
The Patronage Law has forged stronger ties between business and the worlds of art and culture by encouraging the private sector to become involved with projects of cultural significance for the city. In a similar vein, thanks to the creation and development of the city’s southern zone (Polo Sur), artists have been able to revive parts of Buenos Aires which for decades languished outside the main exhibition circuits. Initiatives such as the arts district (Distrito de las Artes), the art factory (Usina del Arte), and numerous theatres, cultural centres and exhibition spaces have breathed new life into the south of the city whose industrial landscape now offers something new.
For several years, the successful Tandem programme has enabled art and culture taking place in Buenos Aires to resonate with comparable projects in other capital cities around the world, including Madrid, Amsterdam, Medellín and Paris.
Taking art into public spaces, installing sculptures in the city’s squares, organising open-air performances, launching new circuits such as in Calle Florida or the Borges Xul Solar walking tour… these and other initiatives illustrate the fusion between tradition and modernity, and show how new generations are embracing the city and its mythology.
My Buenos Aires, the exhibition
My Buenos Aires runs counter to the romantic vision of Buenos Aires. Paula Aisemberg and Albertine de Galbert seek to offer visitors to la maison rouge neither a portrait of the city nor a “who’s who” of Argentinean artists, but rather a sensation, an experience of the dynamics at work in the Argentine capital.
The exhibition moves back and forth between political and private, public space, the domestic and the unconscious, exploring themes such as instability, tension and explosion, masks, encryption and the strange.
Along their way, visitors will encounter remnants of facades, mutant scaffoldings, car bonnets, motorway junctions, burned-out houses and headless statues. They will decipher coded languages to the gentle sway of the music rising from the city and the whir of fans. When night falls, they can settle onto an old sofa and listen to a raspy tango, pick their way through the patched-up ruins of a kitchen that’s acting as though nothing was wrong, or study their reflection in the black ink of a white marble basin. They will sink into a waking dream inhabited by strangely unnerving doubles and faceless people falling from the sky, only to wake in the muffled folds of a stucco wedding cake.
With more than sixty artists working in all media, from installation to painting, sculpture, video and photography, four generations are represented. Established names such as León Ferrari, Guillermo Kuitca or Jorge Macchi will join others to be discovered. More than 15 of them will travel to Paris to work on in situ installations.
My Buenos Aires is an invitation to plunge into the mystery of Buenos Aires without attempting to resolve it, and to experience the unsettling strangeness of its multiple personalities.