Modern art. The perfect compliment to a great city’s classical masterpieces. One of the most important forms of cultural expression, art encapsulates local history and traditions within a framework of larger geopolitical trends. Like snapshots of moments in time, these windows into the souls of a people’s past prove fascinating.
An average person, like myself, may not prioritize art museum visits towards the top of their activity list when traveling to a new city. For me, it’s largely a factor of 1) time and 2) quality. In a perfect world, I would have infinite time to explore everything a new and fascinating city has to offer. Realistically, that’s just not possible. I am not an artist. I don’t collect or study art. I appreciate it as a medium of cultural expression. I’m an amateur admirer. If I have four to seven days in a city, and there is a notable art museum, I’ll likely make an effort to see it.
Thinking about all of my favorite art museums in the world: Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Reina Sofia, The Thyssen and The Prado in Madrid, The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The National Gallery of Art in DC, Vatican City’s museums, New York’s MoMA and The Met, Tate Modern in London, The Uffizi Gallery in Florence – the one thing that they all have in common is that I either made many trips to the city or had plenty of time there to see all of the other highlights (with the exception of Florence, but who goes there without a trip to the Uffizi??)
Living in Spain and DC afforded me plenty of time to explore many museums. Dozens of long-term stays in NYC allowed frequent pilgrimages to The MoMa and The Met. I didn’t make it to The Musée d’Orsay or Tate Modern until my second and third visits to Paris and London, respectively. (You may have noticed that The Louvre is conspicuously missing from my list. While it is impressive and imperative to visit, it’s not one of my favorite museums. I found it to be overwhelming and crowded, but my memory may be distorted from time-decay, as that was nearly 20 years ago!)
All of this to say, in a round about way, that it’s okay – for a day (just kidding)….It’s okay to travel to a new city and not make the time to visit it’s world-renowned art museum(s), especially if you don’t have much time and/or are in a new country. You probably wouldn’t enjoy it anyway, if you felt rushed and pressured to see as much as possible, as quickly as possible. That is not how art is meant to be consumed. In order to have the best and most meaningful experience, it’s better to feel that you’re starting to understand this new city, it’s people and culture. You’ve had time to traverse the neighborhoods, eat various foods, soak in the urban landscape, talk to different personalities. The apex of your learning adventure, a visit to an extraordinary classical or modern art museum, grafts all that your senses have absorbed together on to one clean, concise canvas- a perfect painting of culture, heritage, history, ideas and geopolitical moods.
The MALBA moved me, with its captivating architecture, bold paintings, and engrossing interactive displays. We were told, time and again, by so many, not to miss this highlight in Buenos Aires. It was one of my favorite experiences from our two weeks in Argentina. Here are some short (3 to 12 seconds) videos and vines from my visit to the museum.
Yayoi Kusama’s interactive rooms: