Unlike other South American countries, Argentina is not rich in colonial art, mainly due to a lack of interest in the land from the first Spanish settlers. It took this nation of strong bohemian trends hundreds of years to develop its own artistic sense, and when they did, European influences led the way to magnificent Argentinean pieces.
In the 19th century the bourgeoisie of Buenos Aires were determined to bring European style to Argentina; they imported decorations, sculptures, paintings and even architects to design their mansions. Halfway through the century Argentinean artists had learned to copy what their foreign peers were creating, and they took a particular interest for Romanticism â€“ they would continue to follow European trends decades after they had flourished in the old continent. At this time, Prilidiano PueyrredĂłn (1823-1870) became the first Argentinean painter widely recognized for his costumbrist style and nude portraits (two of which can be admired at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes). PueyrredĂłn spent part of his life in Europe and Brazil, yet it was in Argentina where he developed his skills as a painter and architect; he designed a mansion that would later become the official residence of the President of Argentina.
It was the 20th century that finally brought with itself the creative explosion needed to jumpstart Argentinaâ€™s artistic identity. Out of Florida street formed a group of avant-garde, well-to-do intellectuals who proclaimed â€śart for artâ€™s sakeâ€ť in publications like MartĂn Fiero. The 1920s group was rivaled by another of its kind, the Boedo group, also named after the street they gathered on, this group was made up of leftist intellectuals who belonged to the working class in Buenos Aires.
By the 1940s the Florida group had grown into a more abstract style, now with the name MadĂ and a combination of painting and sculpting that came with Russian influences. The political turbulence within the group â€“ as well as around the world â€“ caused the group to dissolve, along with most of the creative inspiration in the Argentinean art world of the 50s.
The 60s brought a fresh whiff of artists, most of whom gathered in a particular block in the city called manzana loca (crazy block) and developed their art in the cafĂ©s and galleries of the area. Following the coup dâ€™ tat of 1966, the manzana loca experienced censorship from authorities, which left artists without venues of inspiration. In the 1970s a new Argentinean artistic style emerged called â€śNew Image Painters.â€ť The premise of this trend was to use quotidian objects in unusual settings in order to create a curiosity in the viewer who would then think of an explanation or a story as to why the object was in the picture.
Currently art in Argentina is being reevaluated through the foundation of art institutions. Places like Centro Cultural Recoleta (renovated as such in 1980), MALBA (inaugurated in 2001) and of course the National Museum of Fine Arts, which has gone through several renovations and improvements on a periodical basis since it came about at the beginning of the 1900s, foment artistic creativity in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, art in Argentina is still largely based on the capital, though there are museums and galleries in other major cities.
Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Argentina: Milonga & Tango, Biblioteca Nacional, Argentine Culture, Convento San Bernado, Museo de Deuda Externa, Gauchito Gil, Formosaâ€™s Fantastic Beings, Cerro de la Virgen, Dance in Argentina and Literature.