The MALBA. Emerging from the rubble of Argentina’s crumbling economy in 2001, The Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires arose, a proud and prominent pillar of Argentinian culture. The museum’s founder, businessman Eduardo Constantini, contributed his collection of more than 220 works of Latin American art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Like New York’s MoMA, the building’s sleek design, with a lofty ceiling, clean angles, and spaghetti benches, is often accused of diminishing the priceless art it houses. I disagree. The clean, minimalist architecture compliments and even enhances the artwork inside. True, the museum’s structure steals your attention the moment you step through those doors, but it sets the tone for the afternoon (the museum opens at noon daily, closed on Tuesdays). Your mind acclimates to the surreal and bizarre, the creative expression that is modern art. I think of it like a teaser. That amazing basket of bread you receive at a glorious restaurant, whetting your appetite for the main event. Mmmm, this bread is amazing, you think. The food is going to be soooo delicious. I can’t wait. Perfect. Anticipation.
Yayoi Kusama’s temporary exhibit was one of the most fascinating I’ve ever encountered. Her bold and playful colors pulled me in to the paintings. Fixated on the large canvas squares, I found it hard to move on to the next floor. Had I not been with travel companions (urging me onward), I may have remained lost -in the art – for hours.
Some of Kusami’s artwork was three-dimensional, interactive. Like this black-lit living room, covered in glowing polka dots.
Or this mirrored, walk-through maze of dynamic, infinitesimal light strands.
Standing there, as the lights changed hues from blues to greens to reds, letting the world fall away, I was an astral body, drifting through the unending universe. Just for a moment.
Part of the exhibit was participatory. When we purchased our tickets (for a mere $2.50 USD, I might add), we also received a packet of multi-sized polkadot stickers. We had no idea of their purpose until we found the slightly psychedelic kitchen/living room at the end of the first floor. Visitors were invited to create their own art by adding their colored circles wherever they saw fit.
Alice in Wonderland meets Magical Mystery Tour.
This is Yayoi Kusama today. Still painting. What a rock star.
The Permanent Collection
I was equally, if not more impressed with the permanent collection on display. Masterpieces by Diego Rivera, Juan Gris, Frida Khalo, Antonio Berni. Ernesto Deira, Xul Solar, Guillermo Kuitca, etc. adorned the stark-white walls of the MALBA.
Until I visited the MALBA, the MoMA was my favorite modern art museum. I left the MALBA that day thinking, That was literally the best art museum I’ve ever experienced. I could attribute these sentiments to my overall state at the time, the fact that I started falling in love with Argentina, and Buenos Aires in particular, towards the end of our visit. Maybe this was just the icing on my cake, the cherry on top of an already delicious overall experience. Or maybe the museum was just that amazing. The most prominent attribute that my traveling companions and I all seemed to agree on was the scale and manageability of the museum. It was curated perfectly. Unlike many well-known art museums, the MALBA was never over-whelming. A visitor could easily see all the displayed work in an hour or two. You can spend as little or as much time as you like in there, but you will never leave with an unquenched feeling that you missed anything. Alternatively, you won’t feel exhausted and utterly spent from hours upon hours of walking and attempting to absorb too much.
The MALBA inspired me to embark on some artistic experimentation of my own- in video. Check back for next week’s Movie Monday to see my Vines and videos from the MALBA.
Have you ever visited the MALBA? How was your experience? What is your favorite modern art museum?