Today, the River Plate is nowhere in sight, but the humming traffic circle that overlooks this underground museum behind the Casa Rosada was once on the waterfront. The brick vaults, pillars, and wooden pulley mechanisms are the remains of the 1845 Taylor Customs House and jetty, discovered after being buried for almost a century. In honor of Argentina's 2010 bicentenary celebrations the structure was restored and capped with a glass roof.
Each vault covers a portion
of Argentina's political history, recalling it through artifacts (often personal possessions of those who governed from the house overhead), paintings, photographs, film reels, and interactive screens. Temporary art exhibitions run on the other side of the museum courtyard.
The large glass structure in the center contains the star attraction: a 360-degree masterpiece by Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, which originally covered the walls, floor, and ceiling of a basement room in a client's home. When the house was demolished in the early 1990s, the mural was carefully removed in pieces, only to languish in a shipping container for 17 years. Thankfully, Siqueiros's innovative use of industrial paint meant that damage was minimal. Prompted by the campaigns of committed art activists, President Cristina Fernández intervened and the mural has now been fully restored and reassembled here. After donning protective shoes, you cross a small passageway into the work, which represents an underwater scene, against which the feet and faces of swimmers seem to press. The only male figure (swimming upwards on the wall opposite the entrance) is said to represent the artist.
A café at the back of the museum offers coffee, sandwiches, salads, and a set lunch menu.