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Arts Culture Realism, Culture, and Art in Buenos Aires

Realism, Culture, and Art in Buenos Aires

Realism, Culture, and Art in Buenos Aires
By Tina Cuevas
August 01, 2018
On a 16-day trip to Argentina, cosmopolitan hotelier Tina Cuevas finds herself immersed in beguiling Buenos Aires with an atypical itinerary

Buenos Aires is one of the world’s largest cities— the “Paris of the South,” a remnant of European traditions and education, beating with the tango as its pulse into the modern age. The Old World peeks at every corner—some painted in bright colours and graffiti—that turn into streets lined with 19th century architecture; the New World stakes its claim on the art: the visual a depiction of Argentina’s emancipation in the 1800s, while its literature a diary of the mundane struggles strewn with otherworldly beliefs.

Tourists that visit Buenos Aires are, unsurprisingly, captivated by the city’s magic—and I was no different. I explored it with my friend Maria Elena Rudolf—she for art and tango, while I for a sojourn to enjoy a Latin American autumn in May. Elena is a good friend and she was the one who convinced me to join her on this trip and explore Buenos Aires for the first time together. Elena and her husband, Lorenzo, are quite the art enthusiasts. They are the founders of Art Stage Singapore and Jakarta and are also well connected in the art scene in Buenos Aires, which literally opened doors for us. In the Philippines, art is exhibited in galleries, but in Buenos Aires, the art exhibits I was invited to were held in private homes. That was the difference, and I liked it. And I loved the food, so good. I’m carnivorous and Argentine cuisine is really perfect for me.

Rainy day at The National Museum Of Decorative Arts in Recolleta
Rainy day at The National Museum Of Decorative Arts in Recolleta

One of the most memorable moments of our trip was be when the famous Argentine photographer, Aldo Sessa, invited us for merienda cena in his studio. It’s located in a very old and charming part of Argentina. Together with his son Luis, he showed us his massive vintage camera collection as well his iconic gallery of photographs. These photographs, of course, showcased a collection that included Los Gauchos—49 black-and-white pictures of South American cowboy culture out of 50,000 shots taken between 1993 and 2016 which, at the time of our visit, were about to be exhibited at the prominent El Centro Cultural Kirchner. I love paintings but he made me realise that good photography is something special, it’s not easy to capture a good photograph. Luis mentioned that when he was young, they would spend, three or four days in a tent, waiting to capture the best picture of these horses. The afternoon went on with Aldo and Luis telling us stories about the photographs in his collection... so merienda turned into dinner as we eventually ventured into Buenos Aires’ night.

One of the most memorable moments of our trip was be when the famous Argentine photographer, Aldo Sessa, invited us for merienda cena in his studio. It’s located in a very old and charming part of Argentina. Together with his son Luis, he showed us his massive vintage camera collection as well his iconic gallery of photographs. These photographs, of course, showcased a collection that included Los Gauchos—49 black-and-white pictures of South American cowboy culture out of 50,000 shots taken between 1993 and 2016 which, at the time of our visit, were about to be exhibited at the prominent El Centro Cultural Kirchner. I love paintings but he made me realise that good photography is something special, it’s not easy to capture a good photograph. Luis mentioned that when he was young, they would spend, three or four days in a tent, waiting to capture the best picture of these horses. The afternoon went on with Aldo and Luis telling us stories about the photographs in his collection... so merienda turned into dinner as we eventually ventured into Buenos Aires’ night.

Striking a pose with Andres Felipe Duran, Maria ElenaRudolf, and Ines Etchebarne after a museum visit
Striking a pose with Andres Felipe Duran, Maria ElenaRudolf, and Ines Etchebarne after a museum visit
An exquisite picnic under the sun
An exquisite picnic under the sun
Fresh harvest for the picnic de carruajes
Fresh harvest for the picnic de carruajes
A beautiful chapel in the middle of the family hacienda in Pergamino
A beautiful chapel in the middle of the family hacienda in Pergamino

Which brings me to share that, of course, we went out a lot at night. Parties and my party-going personality may be a lasting impression imparted by my 22 years spent in Spain. The people there were so friendly!

Souvenir shop in La Boca for football enthusiasts
Souvenir shop in La Boca for football enthusiasts

The encounter with Aldo and Luis Sessa preempted another photography exhibit. On this trip, we were lucky to have caught the exhibit of David Bowie in the city while we were in town. Getting to see his photographs (by photographer and videographer Mick Rock) up close and personal was quite an experience I will always remember. I had flown to Buenos Aires via London, one of my favourite cities, which the music phenomenon, also known by his glittery alter ego Ziggy Stardust, was from. Being able to see my favourite Frida Kahlo’s works of art at the MALBA—El Museo del Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires—was truly an amazing experience as well.

The stadium where legend Maradona played
The stadium where legend Maradona played

We had an unforgettable time out of the city, too. Indeed, the most memorable part of our trip together would have to be spending four days in an hacienda in Pergamino, three hours away from Buenos Aires. We were invited by Maria Elena’s friend. I enjoyed the lush greenery and the beautiful landscape—as far as the eyes can see. On the estate stood a chapel that I adored, a beautiful stone structure that our friend and host had been married in. Every corner of the hacienda felt like a scene from a telenovela!

Back in Buenos Aires, I had the choice to stay in modern hotels, but I was charmed by old buildings. In fact, I ended up staying at Sofitel Buenos Aires, a historic structure inaugurated in 1929. I wanted to stay where the location was bohemian, where all of the neighbourhood is art.

At the studio of the famous Argentinian photographer, Aldo Sessa
At the studio of the famous Argentinian photographer, Aldo Sessa
Wishes written on coloured papers hang at the Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens
Wishes written on coloured papers hang at the Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens
With Maria Elena Rudolf and Ines Etchebarne at La Gran Lampara room of El Centro Cultural Kirchner, which centres around Gaucho culture in Argentina
With Maria Elena Rudolf and Ines Etchebarne at La Gran Lampara room of El Centro Cultural Kirchner, which centres around Gaucho culture in Argentina

I also could not miss a visit to La Boca, a penurious barrio where the famous La Bombonera—the site on which the legendary Maradona played—was located. The district, though impoverished, has carved out a section that tourists can enjoy for its colourful houses and soccer fanaticism. Buildings here are covered in street art, an icon of the area, resulting from sailors in the past bringing home cans of paint, and decorating their homes and storefronts in whichever colours they could recover. There were tango dancers, who just dance on the streets. At the restaurant where we dined, there was a wonderful singer, singing nostalgic Argentine songs. For your first time in Buenos Aires, it’s a must—you really have to go there to experience it.

Unlike every other tourist, I explored the city with guided and wondrous eyes from its portosenos, what they call the residents of Buenos Aires. Overall, my 16-day trip made me richer through all these memorable experiences. I learnt so much of the Argentinian culture and went home with a deeper appreciation of its rich history and art.

As Told To: Aussy Aportadero | Photos: Tina Cuevas

This story was originally published in Philippine Tatler Traveller (Volume 13), available in all newsstands and book stores, and downloadable on Magzter, Zinio, and PressReader.

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Arts & Culture Travel Buenos Aires Argentina Arts and Culture

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