PRINT May 1998

World Report

rebuilding Buenos Aires

FOR A TIME AT the beginning of the ’60s, Buenos Aires felt a little closer to the rest of the world. A growing and febrile community of visual artists had for once reduced the city’s proverbial geographic and aesthetic isolation from the international scene. Then, following the coup d’état of 1966 and subsequent military dictatorship, it became clear that contemporary art—particularly Conceptual art, which had been overtly politicized in Argentina—would not be encouraged. For almost two decades the art scene lay stagnant.

The country returned to democracy in 1983, but the process of rebuilding an artistic community with international links has been slow. Luckily, in the last several years the pace has accelerated, and a number of Buenos Aires–based modern-and contemporary-art institutions—some public, some privately operated—have emerged.

One of the catalyzing events was the appointment of Jorge Glusberg to head the National Museum of Fine Arts—Argentina’s most important institution—in October 1994. Glusberg has been a champion of contemporary art since the early ’70s. In addition to exhibitions devoted to Niki de Saint Phalle and Richard Deacon, he has already organized major retrospectives of modern Argentine and Uruguayan painters such as Rafael Barradas, Joaquin Torres García, and Antonio Berni, as well as exhibitions of contemporary Argentine artists such as Luis F. Benefit—who works in a variety of modes, including installation—and the painter Pablo Siquier.

Meanwhile, in August 1996, Teresa Anchorena was named director of the Centro Cultural Recoleta. Previously dedicated to exhibitions by local artists, the former convent has become more international in focus under Anchorena's leadership, presenting shows last year by painters Enzo Cucchi and Miguel Barceló. Anchorena has now embarked on an ambitious renovation and expansion program to make the galleries in the Recoleta, suitable for large international exhibitions; she has also built a pavilion for theater and dance.

Another significant appointment came in mid-1997, when Laura Buccellato, the former exhibition director at the Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana and one of Argentina’s most active curators during the past decade, was named director of the Museo de Arte Moderno. Buccellato has announced plans to drastically expand the building. The work, to be carried out under the supervision of Argentine architect Emilio Ambasz, began this spring.

The flurry of activity has not been confined to city-owned art institutions. The Proa Foundation, a nonprofit contemporary-art space inaugurated in 1996, has mounted shows by the Mexican painters Rufino Tamayo and Julio Galán and American photographer Andres Serrano.

In late 1997, three young architects (Martin Fourcade, Alfredo Tapia, and Gaston Ackerman) from the province of Córdoba were selected to design a museum to house Eduardo Costantini’s collection of modern and contemporary Latin American art. Constantini’s recent acquisition, Tarsila do Amaral’s Ubapuru—a true icon of Brazilian modernism—will only add to the luster of this new institution.

Finally, a new museum is slated for construction in Buenos Aires, will provide a new home for the collection of Amalia Fortabat. One of the key benefactors of the arts in Argentina today, Fortabat has focused on modern and contemporary Argentine art. The coveted commission has gone to New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly, a native Argentine, recently celebrated for his Tokyo Forum convention center.

Carlos Basualdo contributes frequently to Artforum.

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent Martin.