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Fodor's Buenos Aires
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes Review
The world's largest collection of Argentine art is displayed in this huge golden-color stone building. Most of the 24 richly colored ground-floor galleries contain pre-20th century European art. The beautifully curated Argentine circuit starts in Room 22 with works from shortly after the country's independence. The plan is for the upper floor to encompass the museum's 20th-century collection.
The Rest of the River Plate. Uruguayan artists like Rafael Barradas and Joaquín Torres García are the focus of the hushed Colección María Luisa Bemberg.
Picturesque Portraits. Gauchos cut evocative figures in Cesáreo Bernaldo de Quirós's oil paintings. The highly colorful depictions of port laborers in Elevadores a Pleno Sol are typical of the work of Benito Quinquela Martín, La Boca's unofficial painter laureate.
At the Cutting Edge. The huge final gallery shows the involvement of Argentine artists in European avant-garde movements before adopting homegrown ideas. Emilio Pettorutti's El Improvisador (1937) combines cubist techniques with a Renaissance sense of space, while Lino Enea Spilimbergo's Terracita (1932) is an enigmatic urban landscape.
Movers and Shakers. Contemporary Argentine art exhibits include geometric sculptures and the so-called informalismo (informalism) of the '60s. Its innovative use of collage is best exemplified in works by Antonio Berni. Psychedelic paintings, op art, and kinetic works from '60s gurus like Jorge de la Vega and Antonio Seguí follow.
Tips and Trivia
Head straight for the Argentine galleries while you're feeling fresh, and save the European collection for later.
Information about most works is in Spanish only, as are the excellent themed guided tours. For English information, check out one of the MP3 audio guides (35 pesos), or purchase a map (10 pesos) or guide (30 pesos) to the collection.
You wouldn't know it by looking at the museum's elegant columned front, but the building was once the city's waterworks. Famed local architect Alejandro Bustillo oversaw its conversion into a museum in the early 1930s.
Cándido López painted the panoramic battle scenes in gallery 23 with his left hand after losing his right arm in the War of the Triple Alliance of the 1870s. His work spearheaded contemporary primitive painting. Local master Eduardo Sívori's tranquil landscapes portray less turbulent times.
The large modern pavilion behind the museum hosts excellent temporary exhibitions, often showcasing top local artists little known outside Argentina.
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