While I’ve visited Buenos Aires many times during the past 10 years, I’ve yet to see all the museums here. This summer I returned to my favorite ones—MALBA (The Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires), to the Museo de Evita and to the Museo Eduardo de Sivori, all three located in the Palermo neighborhood. These three have been well described in most of the travel guide books, but some of the newer ones haven’t been widely written about thus far. Let me introduce you to a few I’d never seen prior to this year.
Come with me to the Cerveceria Munich (Munich Beer House) located in Puerto Madero, the not-to-be-missed historical Museo del Bicentenario, a new museum located just behind the Casa Rosada, the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario in Recoleta and the Museo de la Ciudad in San Telmo.
Because of these museum visits, along with a private tour my Argentine friend Daniel, an architect, gave me, I have been learning more about the history, architecture, and culture of the city and the country. I learned that the Casa Rosada was once two separate buildings (the presidential palace and the post office—joined together) and the Cabildo, across the Plaza de Mayo from the Pink House, was reduced in size from its full 12-arch length and shortened and slightly relocated for better visual harmony between the Plaza and the Obelisco, a panoramic view revealing the strong Parisian architectural influence at the time.
Some of the museums are noteworthy for the structures themselves, as is the Munich Beer House, while others shine more because of the specific exhibits on display, like the Museo de la Ciudad and the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario. And the Museo del Bicentenario has it all—an impressive space on the 1580-1855 site of the former Forte de Buenos Aires (located behind the Casa Rosada), as well as its impressive exhibits.
I found the Museo del Bicentenario to be a perfect complement to Daniel’s architectural walking tour. The museum, opened in May, 2011, celebrates 200 yrs of Argentine history (1810-2010) in the remains of a the former fort of Buenos Aires and the original Customs House, through a series of audio-visual presentations that take the viewer through various periods in Argentina’s history. All the video material and descriptions of objects are only available in Spanish, the videos displaying the physical changes in the city over this 200 year period, and video from the Dirty War (1976-83) are well worth a visit to history buffs in any language! The contrast between the museum space itself and the brick-and-mortar (and cannon guns) remaining from the old fort provide quite the contrast. A mural by the Mexican artist Siquieros, which had been boxed up for years, is on display.
At the Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, its building constructed in 1913, I saw two exhibits, the permanent “Many Voices, One History: Argentina 1810-2010” and the temporary exhibit “Mercedes Sosa, Un Pueblo en mi voz” (A town in my voice). “Many voices” is a video installation that takes the viewer through eight stages of the country’s historical, social, political, economic and cultural development through a series of mostly still photos, with quotes, narration and background music. An interesting exhibit, but not as well constructed and informative for me as were the video clips at the Museo del Bicentenario.
The Mercedes Sosa exhibit showcases the life of this wonderful Argentine folksinger from Tucuman who was known as “La Negra.” A wonderful video with interviews of some of the artists she worked with, along with clips of some of her performances plays repeatedly sending her voice and music through the exhibit room, as you follow a timeline of her life and performance highlights.
Cerveceria Munich was empty the afternoon I visited except for me, two other visitors and a few staff members scattered throughout this former German Beer House along the southern coast of the Rio de la Plata, which operated from 1927 and 1957 as a central gathering place for middle class and well-to-do Porteños. From its wonderful art deco style and exquisite stained glass windows, sculptured columns, water nymphs statues in the outdoor garden, to the late 19th century ambience inside, Cerveceria Munch is visually fascinating. Built in 4 months in 1927, the building had the refrigeration capacity to cool and transport three thousand barrels every day via a series of pipes tunneled throughout the building. A rich photo exhibit of old Quilmes posters added an additional turn-of-the-century flair. Though alone, I could hear the music of the people and musicians that filled the cerveceria on weekend afternoons. If only, I thought, if only I could sit down and enjoy a beer here—perhaps after the current restorative efforts have been completed in the coming year. This definitely is a place I want to come back to again! Currently it houses the administrative office for the city’s museums, but I hope they have plans to re-open the main hall; it’s a marvelous space!
An exhibit of children’s toys from the early 19th century was one of three exhibits currently on display at the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City), in the heart of the San Telmo barrio. Here I learned that what I knew as an Erector Set was called Meccano in Spanish and it was very popular, too, in Argentina, during the 50’s and 60’s. Replicas of early tin, wood, and metal toys, bikes, cars, dolls, and games from as far back as 1840, playfully filled the gallery, with early metal sand pails hanging above. Another gallery showcased doors—wooden, marble, iron, glass—and the third gallery a display of an early Argentine magazine series. There is no space for a permanent exhibit, so you can be assured you will encounter new objects with every visit! Lunch with my friend Maria Teresa, at a restaurant on nearby Avenida de Mayo, followed by a quick visit to the Casa de la Cultura’s tienda, housed in an amazing building, rounded out one of my museum afternoons.