Day 4: Argentina

In addition to my adventures on the horse ranch and the Casa Rosada, I explored other cultural institutions in Buenos Aires. One evening, we went to a tango show. Now, Buenos Aires is  truly the land of tango. I really love watching tango and I can’t get enough of it.

The first time I was in Buenos Aires, I saw an incredible variety of tango. We were there during the World Championships of tango. We went to several matches of people sashaying and spinning around the stage for fame and glory. It was really cool. Tickets were free so we went several times.

We also went to an actual tango club frequented and loved by locals. We were just there to watch, not dance. I’ll never forget that they used Madonna songs to clear the dance floor. This was the land of the bandleon (the accordian-like instrument) and don’t you forget it! I looked at the schedule that went until 6 am. We left around 3am but people of all ages were going strong. (Buenos Aires is a late city; dinner is at 9pm but I’ve seen restaurants get crowded after midnight.

On various well touristed streets, we’d see tangoing couples busking for change. It was rather charming. However, this trip was lacking in dancing street performers though that might be because I didn’t go to Caminito at Boca. For those of you who have seen pictures of brightly colored buildings and statues in BA, that is probably Caminito.

Caminito, Buenos Aires The place I didn't go to on this trip.

Caminito, Buenos Aires
The place I didn’t go to on this trip.

On the past two trips, I went to two tango shows. They are clearly intended for tourists. Both shows involved a meal, which was okay. Two years ago, I went to see a larger show full of glitz and glamour. I enjoyed the spectacle of it all and the dancing was pretty good. We even had a “lesson” beforehand, which was neat.

Tango show from 2012

Tango show from 2012

This time we went to a smaller theater called the Corner of Carlos Gardel. He was a very important and revered singer of tango music who died tragically in a plane crash. This was a smaller production but the dancing was very good. Like all the shows, there were different varieties of tango from ballroom tango to sexually charged acrobatic tango. There was even a bit when a character started tangoing with two mops in a skirt. It was quite brilliant. The live band and singers were also bonuses too. I’m glad I saw this show since the quality of dancing and music was quite high. It didn’t have the pazzaz of the other show but I felt this was more authentic. Well, as authentic as any tourist show can be.

In addition to tango, I decided to go to MALBA, or the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires. This relatively new museum collects art from all over Latin America. The collection is small but spectacular. The permanent collection has some of the greats like a wonderful self-portrait of Frida Kahlo with parrot and monkey. There was even a triptych called “Icon” by Remedios Varo, a surrealist painter who incorporated alchemy, astronomy, and more into her work. Her work is very otherworldly; figures turn into inanimate objects in magical ways. “Icon” is a wooden triptych depicting a wondrous flying machine. See some of her works here. And there was a brilliant painting by Botero, one of my favorite contemporary painters, called “The Widower “ It shows a family in mourning presumably for the death of the mother. The father, the children, and even the dog are crying.

They also have a collection amazing photograph collages. My favorite was by Grete Stein that depicted a giraffe driving a car while a woman relaxes in the passenger seat. Such mischief there!

"Dreams No. 9" by Grete Stein, MALBA

“Dreams No. 9” by Grete Stein, MALBA

There are some neat kinetic artworks. You pushed a button and the piece would move pieces, shine lights, and more. I felt a little bit like a kid playing with these pieces. There was also a painting by Luis Fernado Benedit called “Habitat for a Fish” that had a real fish living in a tiny tank at the bottom. Curious! There was a beautiful Cubist inspired statue of a bandleon player by Pablo Curatella Manes.

"Habitat for a Fish" by Luis Fernando Benedit, MALBA

“Habitat for a Fish” by Luis Fernando Benedit, MALBA

The special exhibition was  photography by fashion photographer Mario Testino. He photographs models and celebrities in these incredibly brash and bold photos. Some contrast ethereal outfits in crazy rooms of chandeliers or chairs. Other photos range the spectrum of nudity. Some photos honestly border pornography. But his photos seem to embody everything about celebrity culture. His photos have adorned Vogue and other well-known fashion magazines. You’ve probably seen a photo of his and not realized it. Here is his website of his work.

Anyway, I thought it was well worth a visit. Given a choice between this and the Museum of Fine Arts, I think this has a more intriguing collection.

That’s all for now!

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