Saturday, 15 November 2008

Noche de los Museos... maybe

Today was decidedly cooler than any other day I've been here so far, which wasn't a bad thing. I was glad to be able to wear trainers, jeans and a hoodie again. My feet didn't get filthy from walking around the city (although I noticed that my bag is now getting very grubby - and my hands start to smell after carrying it for a while).

I actually had the opposite problem today to the one I had yesterday: I couldn't find a place in the park that was warm enough for me to sit and read comfortably. I picked up an old copy of 'El Escritor Y Sus Fantasmas' by Ernesto Sábato, which is every bit as interesting as I thought it would be. Sábato, although he only actually wrote two novels, is widely regarded as one of Argentina's great writers (like he says himself: if Cervantes made history with just one book, why should other writers be expected to produce a constant stream of novels?). His thoughts regarding literature are, unsurprisingly, thought-provoking and entertaining.

As the cold wind prevented me from sitting in the park all day to read this book, I decided that the time was right to visit the Museo Xul Solar. Xul Solar was an exceptionally intelligent and creative man, highly erudite, a mystic, an inventor, a contemporary and friend of Macedonio, Borges et al., and one of the most important artists of his time. The museum is Solar's old home, and, apart from the terrible music that they choose to have playing in the gallery, it is a wonderful place to be. I stayed for two hours. I won't say any more about Solar here, as he deserves more thought and attention than I have so far devoted to him...

As mentioned in the last blog entry, tonight was the "Noche de los museos", when museums across the city would let us in for free. I wanted to start my night at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, so I headed to Recoleta, which is a lovely, leafy part of town. I went there last Sunday, to visit the cemetery, but that was pretty much all I saw. There are some rather nice buildings in Recoleta, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes being one of them:

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

But, really, the building that really amazed me was the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences. It's HUGE:

Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Sociales

I had some time to kill before the museum would open its doors for free, so I wandered around and enjoyed the scenery. Really, this was the most enjoyable part of my time in Recoleta... As I'd expected, the "Noche de los Museos" meant that the museums would be absolutely rammed full of people. Going to a nightclub that's heaving can be a lot of fun. But when I go to look at art in a gallery, I need space and time. Free entry and the resulting big crowds are what keep me from the Tate Modern in London. Sure enough, when I got into the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, I found myself in a chaotic place that wasn't conducive to art appreciation in the slightest. Near the entrance, there was a fantastic painting by Juan Jose Cambre: "Autoretrato de Jack Kerouac". I could've stood and admired this piece for quite some time, but at first my view was obscured by a guy who'd decided to stand right in front of it while he read his guidebook (I'm not sure he even noticed the painting). That was pretty much the story of the whole gallery. In another room, a young couple made out in front of a Kandinsky (and, no, I don't think they were inspired by the painting). Elsewhere, people were running around, pointing at the names of paintings triumphantly before moving on to the next one. I was surrounded by tick-box tourists... 

There are a few rooms in the museum that display the kind of art I find appealing. The largest of these rooms had some wonderfully large pieces, like "Retrato imaginario de Brigitte Bardot" by Antonio Saura, and an untitled piece by Manuel Viola. Before I had a chance to enjoy what was on display, a guide put her stool down in one of the corners and ushered all of the children to come and listen to her. The room was now full of children and their parents, with no space to see the actual work. Some of the parents were coming close to stepping back into the paintings.

On the upside, at least I know what's on offer, should I decide to go back on a quiet day. I went to retrieve my bag from the cloakroom. As a rule, you have to put your bag in the cloakroom before going around the gallery. But the place was too full. The girls running the cloakroom had run out of space, and patience. While security was telling people to leave their bags in the cloakroom, the cloakroom was telling people to just carry their bags around the gallery. I got my bag and just left the chaos.

I couldn't face the same affair at the Biblioteca Nacional, so I ditched my plan for the evening and hailed a cab to take me home quickly. Still, I'll leave you with one of the sculptures to be found in the area, the crazy 'Floralis Generica':

Floralis Generica - Homenaje a Buenos Aires


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