MALBA: Discovering Latin American artists

Our first day in Buenos Aires we decided to check out MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires), which was within walking distance of our apartment. I was really curious to learn more about Latin American, and specifically Argentine, artists. While I’ve become more familiar with European and American artists, I really had no point of reference for artists from the southern hemisphere.

It was fitting that on our walk over, we also encountered some really cool BA street art.

Plus, the museum was featuring a highly popular exhibit by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Although we got lucky in getting into the museum after a short wait, when we left, the line was around the block. Kusama is this very eccentric artist, who at 70 or 80 years old is painting in a vibrant red wig. Back in the 60s and 70s, she was known to stage naked protests at the New York Modern Art Museum. Vibrant is probably the right word to describer her art, too. Her colorful paintings lined the main exhibition hall, and each visitor got a sheet of colorful polka dot stickers to help decorate a polka dot-filled room. Let me just say, I’ll never look at polka dots the same way again. Even the trees lining the sidewalk outside the MALBA were wrapped in polka dots. The exhibit was overall very interactive – you got to actively experience her work, which was cool. I especially liked the room filled with colorful lights walled by mirrors.

But even more interesting than Kusama was the floor of the MALBA featuring Latin American 20th century art. While there were a couple of paintings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, it was cool to learn about a variety of other artists I’d never seen before, as well as all the artistic movements that took place in South America over the past century.

Here are a few of my faves…

1. Argentine artist Antonio Berni.
Berni seems to be the most popular modern painter in Argentine art history. His provocative paintings often feature prostitutes, including Ramona, an eccentric character Berni created. However, my favorite work of his was a huge collage called La Gran Tentacion (The Great Temptation).

Berni's La Gran Tentacion
Berni’s La Gran Tentacion

2. Antonio Dias
I really don’t know much about this Brazilian artist’s background, but I know I like his graphic red, white and black works.

Paintings by Antonio Diaz
Paintings by Antonio Diaz

3. Fernando Botero
His family portrait featuring a group of chunky parents and kids, titled El Viudo (The Widow) was so comforting with its big round shapes.

4. Romulo Maccio
His painting That Crazy Brother of Theo made an impression on me. I think it was the crudely-drawn figure of who I imagine is Theo.

That Crazy Brother of Theo by Romulo Maccio
That Crazy Brother of Theo by Romulo Maccio

5. Wilfredo LamI love his painting La Manana Verde (The Green Morning) for its rich green colors, and slightly indigenous-looking figures peering out from nature.

Lam's La Manana Verde - the photo doesn't do the colors justice
Lam’s La Manana Verde – the photo doesn’t do the colors justice

6. Miguel Covarrubias
There was a very cubism-looking painting by this artist that I liked called George Gershwin, An American in Paris. It was so pop-arty.

George Gershwin, An American in Paris
George Gershwin, An American in Paris

7. Guillermo Kuitca
His Siete Ultimas Canciones (Last Seven Songs) is an impactful work of art, dominated by a red canvas, two pieces of furniture and a suited figure standing in front of a what seems to be a woman lying on the floor.

guillermo kuitca siete ultimas canciones

On the way back to the apartment after MALBA, we stopped for a snack at a really cute cafe, Le Pain Quotidian. Apparently this is a chain, and there are even a few locations on the east coast, but I had never heard of it before. It had just the kind of open-faced sandwiches I love. And it felt so healthy – for some reason, it seems so much easier to eat healthy abroad than when I’m back home.

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