Elga Wimmer

Alfredo Hlito: Efigie observada, (1992)

Buenos Aires, called Baires colloquially, a vibrant city excelling in art, music and architecture, with a largely European rooted population, is much more than the current news headlines of economic doom and political chaos.
My trip in early September of 2023 – included a visit to the ArteBA art fair, as well as art exhibitions, museums and galleries, tango presentations, even an estancia (polo farm) outside of the capital, discovering amazing and surprisingly affordable restaurants for a foreigner due to the collapsing Argentinian currency.
While leaving much to be desired on the economic front, Argentina is rich in art and culture. Art collectors from neighboring countries and around the world flock here to discover emerging talents, and acquire tomorrow’s important artworks at a fraction of the American and European market. To be sure, that could change soon, given the renewed interest in Latin American masters from past and present – note the extraordinary Retrospective of Leon Ferrari at the Pompidou Center in Paris last year, and the excitement around Latin American artists shown at the Bass Museum in Miami — in collaboration with the Ama Amoedo Foundation, Argentina/Uruguay, a non-profit focused on developing the contemporary Latin American art ecosystem.
Galleries across Buenos Aires held art receptions coordinated with ArteBA
VIP events causing all of Buenos Aires, unlike art capitals where the art scene is often concentrated in a small area, to buzz with art.
Gallery highlights included Herlitzka & Co (located in Recoleta) featuring Deliah Cancela’s Catwalk, an exhibition of works on paper and a video documentation of a performance at Theatre Le Palace in Paris, 1979, in collaboration with her then partner Pablo Mesejean, which was accompanied by 76 drawings of her fashion creations. She was one of the first artists in the 1970’s to combine art and fashion.
Ruth Benzacar Gallery, founded in 1965 by Ruth Benzacar, now run by her daughter Orly Benzacar, is located in the fashionable Palermo district, the SoHo of Buenos Aires. The artist couple Chiachio & Giannone presented Juntos Somos Mejores (Together We are Better) in October 2023, celebrating twenty years of art, life, and the bonds of a shared identity they have built together. Perhaps not surprisingly, the exhibition is about love and art saving the world.
MCMC Gallery, located in the elegant Recoleta district close to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, had a booth in ArteBA and showed Eduardo Costa, a prominent Argentinian artist who lived, for an extended period in New York, before returning to Buenos Aires over a decade ago. Costa is a multidisciplinary artist noted for his video works (Names of Friends: Poem for the Deaf-Mute, 1969, shown at MOMA, New York 2015/2016) and three-dimensional paintings made entirely of acrylic, a post-minimal answer to body and performance art.
Edgardo Gimenez, showing in Buenos Aires at MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), had an installation of his colorful pop sculptures at MCMC Gallery’s booth at ArteBA.
Nora Fisch Gallery is located in a historic townhouse in the heart of San Telmo, a center for antiquities, markets, and Sunday afternoon tango dancers on the main square. Always on the lookout for new, promising talent, Nora Fisch presented the Uruguayan artist Guzman Pas (b. 1988). Pas builds small-scale scenes in pieces that combine painting and detailed, laboriously handmade sculptural elements, a visual language at the crossroads of pop culture and a playfully baroque sensibility. Mid-career artist Ana Tiscornia, also from Uruguay (b. 1951) but residing in New York, presented cardboard constructions, paintings and collages derived from architectural plans for domestic spaces, and designs by both classical and modernist architects.
Argentinian curator Maria Jose Herrera showed artist and architect Edgardo Gimenez at MALBA, No Habra Ninguno Igual (August thru November 2023) while at the same time presenting painter Alfredo Hlito, at MNBA (National Museum of Fine Arts), Una Terca Permanencia (July thru October 2023). Both notable contemporary Argentinian artists, Gimenez (b. 1942) and Hlito (1923 – 1993) could not be further apart in their artistic trajectories. Edgardo Gimenez started out in graphic design, before he branched into painting, sculpture, design, scenography for films and architecture. His first sculpture, as you enter the show, is a portrait of Divine, the underground film actress in drag and cult figure (1945 to 1988), in a red, skintight dress, and excessive Kabuki make-up, pointing a gun at the viewer.

Alfredo Hlito: Ciudad lejana, (1992)

This image which served as inspiration for Gimenez’ sculpture once adorned the cover of a Time Magazine special edition profiling the 100 most influential people, and was featured in a movie poster for John Water’s cult classic film, Pink Flamingos in the 1980’s. The sculpture brings a cinematic tone to the exhibition, No Habra Niguno Igual (One of a Kind). This playful mix of installation, live performance, sculpture and architecture, explores obsessions in daily life, mixed with a dose of humor. In one installation we see a huge, cracked egg, performers playing with pink balloons, clad in pink and blue bodysuits. Is it the battle of the sperms or germs?
In another part of the show, brightly colored geometric sculptures, blending art deco with pop art, recall the Italian Memphis group design from the 1980’s. More installations with an oversized rabbit in a teacup, Daliesque furniture and mirror-like surfaces covered with flowers and phantasmagorical creatures invite the viewer to take a deep dive into the often bizarre world of Gimenez’ Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). As per the French apt expression, ca fait rever (it makes you dream), what better sentiment then, to leave this exhibition in a dreamlike state.
At MNBA, curator Maria Jose Herrera staged the first retrospective of Alfredo Hlito since his death in 1993, titled Alredo Hlito: A Stubborn Presence. Hlito was one of the founders of the avantgarde of Argentine concrete art in the 1940’s.
Abstract in the early years, Hlito’s paintings started including an effigy, a sort of counter image or self-reflection, that the artist talked to, wrote to, and that accompanied the artist in his work to the end. In a late work, Ciudad Lejana (Far Away City), 1992, a figure sits in a closed space looking out onto what looks like a Cityscape. In Efigie Observada (Effigy Observed), the protagonist lies flat on the ground, with two figures hovering, observing. The feeling in these paintings recall Dubuffet’s figures, becoming darker and darker towards the end of the artist’s life, until they almost disappear into the background. Hlito’s work, like Dubuffet, has a poetic, melancholic ambience.
Art, culture, fashion, architecture — today’s Buenos Aires beckons the free spirit. For those chasing the endless summer, the four seasons are reversed. When harsh winter settles in, in other parts of the world, the sunny cultural splendor of Baires offers the adventurous a mecca of art discovery.