by Laura Feinstein
Many emerging design capitals have vied for the fleeting attention of the art world in the past decade. Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Berlin and others have all sought the position, with various degrees of success. Buenos Aires, the bustling port capital of Argentina has in large part shied away from this global art competition—partly due to years of economic woes and political unrest. But now, with a series of new arts initiatives, and more foreign interest in developing local talent, it seems as if the city is ready to turn the page.
Recently named UNESCO’s first-ever City of Design, Buenos Aires will be the inaugural participant in Art Basel’s Art Basel Cities Program. This cross-cultural exchange will include a series of public events and programming, kicking off in late 2017. In addition, Buenos Aires has seen a flourish of new galleries, arts institutions, and cultural centers, only adding to a rapidly growing scene that now extends across multiple districts. This week, as thousands of curators, gallerists, artists, and art lovers descend on Buenos Aires for the annual ArteBA art fair, we scoured the city for some of the spaces to visit while exploring its dynamic creative scene.
As much an arts collective as a gallery, Isla Flotante (named after an especially tasty Spanish pastry) is one of the newest and most popular additions to the La Boca design district. The space, which also acts a home for workshops, exhibitions, and even wild parties, is known for highlighting emerging artists at the beginning of their career. This including Santiago Villanueva, Valentin Demarco and Mariela Scafati, co-creator of the Serigrafistas Queer proto-anarchist art movement. With the help of a new series of arts grants, the entire area around Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza is abuzz with studios, galleries, and installations, and provides the perfect cultural rest stop for those also hoping to check out the brightly colored houses of the nearby El Caminito neighborhood just a quick walk away. Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 1561, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
While Palermo used to be the spot for galleries and artists to live and work, these days many have migrated to nearby Villa Crespo in search of cheaper rent and a tighter-knit community. Here is where you’ll find the Nora Fisch gallery, one of the city’s most respected independent arts institutions. Born in Buenos Aires, the gallery’s eponymous creator lived in NYC for 20 years before returning and opening the space in 2010. Here, Fisch balances a global arts perspective with promoting local artists. In one of our favorite installations, “MAREADAS EN LA MAREA,” curated by Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Palmeiro, the duo pays tribute to the homegrown feminist movement Ni Una Menos, which saw thousands of women take to the streets to protest sexual harassment and violence against women. (On display are several of the actual signs from the protests, along with other protest-inspired pieces.)
Galeria Patio Del Liceo
The Palermo shopping district is not for the faint of heart. But locals know the best place to pick-up handcrafted and indie goods is at the Galeria Patio Del Liceo, a relaxed art and commerce space filled with clothing stores, artist spaces, book shops, and even a lush patio for lounging. Here you’ll find the excellent small gallery MITE, record store Mercurio (which features both international and local artists), as well as bespoke design brands like Greens, Monoblock, and Flor De Camisa, which features unisex hand-printed clothing and textiles.
CCK (Kirchner Cultural Centre)
Set inside an old post office formerly inhabited by Eva Peron and her husband Juan during the early years of his presidency, this public art space is known for hosting art exhibits, workshops, performances, and lectures. The largest cultural centre in Latin America (and the third largest in the world) the space was named after former president of Argentina Néstor Kirchner. Inside there’s a concert hall, multiple theater and concert auditoriums, over 18 halls for readings and performance art, 40 rooms of art galleries, and two rooftop terraces. As if that wasn’t enough, the main concert hall La Sala Sinfonica is a blimp-shaped, three-floor auditorium and opera house. Our favorite highlights include the Blue Sphere of Julio Le Parc, which hangs in the central hall of the CCK, their new series “Utopias / Dystopias,” dedicated to sustainability, ecological commitment, and creative activism in the Latin world.
Buenos Aires Design Center
Located in the historic Recoleta neighborhood, just around the corner from the famous Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, this three-floor commercial space is dedicated to all things design, and features dozens of interior, decor, and packaging creators. Here, pick up kitsch and vintage toys while also perusing richly designed textiles and one-of-a-kind furniture. There are also several artist studios, restaurants, an ice cream shop, and even an outdoor lounging area. Adjacent is also the Buenos Aires Auditorium, a 2000 square meter space that hosts social, cultural, and artistic events throughout the year.
Galeria Patio Del Liceo and Nora Fisch images by Laura Feinstein, hero image courtesy of Buenos Aires Tourism Board, all others courtesy of respective venues