There area all kinds of museums in Buenos Aires; you have the usual suspects covering fine art, contemporary art, history, etc, but there is also the foreign debt museum (Museo de la Deuda Externa– their homepage video is quite dramatic) and the running water museum (Palacio de Aguas Corrientes). There are so many museums here that if I could probably visit a different one everyday for a month. Knowing me it totally makes sense that I would have gone to EAT at the Evita Museum (adjoining patio/terrace restaurant) and the Decorative Art Museum (Croque Madame, a café-restaurant) before actually going through the museums themselves. I’ve now properly visited them both but for the longest time, they were the only museums I’d gone to in Buenos Aires. I’ll do a separate post on the Evita Museum (interesting & one sided, fabulous dresses on display). But for the Decorative Art Museum I can wholeheartedly say that the museum building is unbelievable, and the collection of European and Asian (Chinese and Japanese) paintings, sculptures, vases, and screens are worth making a visit for. And the tapestries, the great hall, and the staircase are pretty awesome, too. As for the building itself, I think it’s one of the most beautiful examples of French architecture you can find in Buenos Aires.
From what I read, it was designed by a French architect named René Sergent in 1911. He designed a few other buildings (I think maybe 5 or so?) in Buenos Aires, including the one now being used as the American ambassador’s private residence on Libertador. I didn’t know it was the ambassador’s home when I tried to take a photo of it a while back; I just thought it was a gorgeous building.. well, I suppose the big American flag flying above the house should have given me a clue. But the guard who came out of nowhere to stop me and watch me delete all the photos from my camera gave me a clear enough clue that it was off limits. That building, if you’re curious, is on Libertador and John F. Kennedy in Palermo. Take my word for it, it’s a beauty.
On to the others. The weather forecast showed the city under rain clouds and thunderstorms for almost everyday last week so I decided I would make it all about museum visits. Of course it only rained on Monday and the rest of the week was hot and sunny, but I stuck to my original plan.
The Fine Arts Museum, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) in Recoleta was the first one I visited last week. It’s situated just across the street from the Centro Cultral Recoleta (CCR), the peaceful Basílica Nuestra Señora de Pilar, as well as the famous the Recoleta Cemetery. This museum had works from international artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir, Degas, as well as renown Argentine artists. I found the layout a bit disorienting as certain rooms were organized by who/where the donation/collections came from, rather than by artist, period, or artistic movement. But oddly what stood out for me was a collection of peintónes, large combs/amazingly delicate hair accessories upper class women used to wear…
Having already been to CCR and the Recoleta Cemetery, I chose to go to the church after my museum visit. Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar is beautiful both inside and out, and a lovely quite place to sit for a while. I’ll go back another day to see the cloisters, the crypt, and the tunnels there…
Wednesday afternoon I walked over to the small Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori and then spent a few hours in the rose garden (El Rosedal) afterwards. Again at this museum I was impressed not only by the collection of Argentine art from the twentieth century but also by the structure itself. It felt as I was walking around a large greenhouse made out of glass and concrete where paintings and sculptures were being nurtured. The entry foyer was entirely transparent with tall black beams casting artful shadows on the floor and the dark green trees all around the building serving as a canvas. In the back of the museum there is a lovely sculpture garden and an inviting café where you could stay undisturbed for hours.
On Thursday I went to San Telmo to visit the underground world of El Zanjón de Granados. This fascinating place was a house/plot of land an Argentine businessman bought in 1985 with the intention of building a restaurant over it. When they started to clean out the space they found a tunnel beneath the house and with that, an extensive excavation and restoration work began. In 2002 the museum (it’s also an event space) opened its doors to visitors, but after 30,000 pieces of artifacts and re-building/restoring the place, they are continuing the exploration beneath. The site is at a junction where two underground streams of water converged to flow towards Río de la Plata. The tunnels are very cool, but the history behind the former tenants of the house and the neighborhood was also very interesting…
Finally on Friday, I bundled my long walk to Barrio Chino with a visit to Museo de Arte Español Enrique Larreta. This museum was the home to Enrique Larreta, an Argentine writer who brought over a vast collection of Spanish art and furniture from Europe (he lived in France for a while). His Spanish style house now displays Renaissance and Baroque art, tapestries, modern Argentine art, as well as his personal items (Larreta’s desk, household silverware, etc). But more than anything else, what had me mesmerized was the garden and a huge ombú tree in the back of the museum. When I told a friend about my going to a small museum in Belgrano, she immediately asked, “the Spanish one with the secret garden?” Of course it was that very one. I now have a favorite green oasis and a favorite tree in Belgrano. I hope to sit under that tree again next week…
Evita Museum: Lafinur 2988 near Gutiérrez in Palermo; closed on Mondays; the restaurant’s entrance is on Gutiérrez or you can get in through the museum
Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo (MNAD): The Decorative Art Museum is Avenida del Libertador 1902, Recoleta; closed on Mondays, free on Tuesdays; Croque Madame, the restaurant is open from 10AM to midnight.
Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar: Junín 1904, between the Recoleta Cemetery and the Centro Cultural Recoleta
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA): Avenida del Libertador 1473, Recoleta; closed on Mondays, free admission
Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori: Avenida Infanta Isabel 555, Palermo; closed on Mondays, free on Wed & Sat but admission is only 1 peso
El Zanjón de Granados: Defensa 755, San Telmo; guided tours only (60 pesos)
Museo de Arte Español Enrique Larreta: Juramento 2291 in Belgrano; free on Thursdays but normal admission is just 1 peso
Museo de la Deuda Externa: Centro Cultural Ernest Sábado, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Uriburu 763 (between Viamonte y Córdoba) in Once; open Mon – Fri noon to 8PM
Palacio de Aguas Corrientes: Riobamba 750; open Mon – Fri 9AM to 1PM