The Living Museum

Santiago Iturralde
A veces un cerebro y ningún ojo, a veces un ojo y ningún cerebro [Sometimes a Brain and No Eye, Sometimes an Eye and No Brain], 2019
Óleo y lápiz sobre tela [Oil and pencil on canvas]
35 x 130 cm

What is the mission of a modern and contemporary art museum faced with a scenario like the one we are living through? How to redesign its modus operandi in order to bring home the fact that a museum is much more than its buildings, galleries and exhibitions? How to bring the hundreds of researches and proposals produced by the museum to the public at large? What is the role of the museum’s curators, conservators, producers, publishers and educators, the chief interlocutors of artists and museum-goers? What is the towering role of the artist at this time?

The quarantine imposed by COVID-19 calls on museums to reflect and galvanise beyond their doors in order to meet the needs of the communities to which, in our own case at the Moderno, the community of Argentinian artists and society as a whole – the vast majority of whom today are at home – owe their existence. We are facing a global crisis ridden with distress and uncertainty. What is the role of culture – a fundamental right of people – in times like these? What is the role of imagination and creativity? What role can artists from all disciplines play, alongside museums and art centres committed to the mission of bringing these artists’ creations to the most diverse audiences?

This week the Moderno is inviting different artists, educators and cultural intellectuals to share their works, creations and thoughts in order to shed light on the here and now, and to present their vision of the museum’s role today and what the museum of the future should look like. What will museums be like when they reopen? What strategies will they deploy to provide spaces for their employees and visitors to learn and enjoy in safety and security? How, post-pandemic, do we become healing, linstitutions? Could we – all the museums together – encourage the development of a society that is more caring, more diverse and inclusive, more accessible, more sustainable and ecological, more egalitarian and – why not – more feminist? What are the values we want to share through culture and bring to the whole of society?

Victoria Noorthoorn

El arte como portal hacia nuevas formas de vida

Esta mesa toma como inspiración la causa de Maristella Svampa, quien se autodefine
como una intelectual anfibia y una patagónica sempiterna que piensa en clave
latinoamericana. En cuarentena, la gran activista argentina reafirma, a partir del análisis
de la crisis socio-ecológica, los movimientos sociales y la acción colectiva, la gran
oportunidad que tiene la humanidad para repensarse y habilitar una convivencia
sustentable y equitativa. Por su parte, desde tiempos inmemoriales el arte ha tenido
una dimensión utópica; los mejores artistas siempre se han adelantado a su tiempo
y han ensayado y diseñado otras formas de estar en el mundo, alejados de los
paradigmas imperantes del momento. Convencidos sobre la necesidad de pensar el
museo y el arte como portales hacia un nuevo mundo más justo, más democrático,
más ecológico y más feminista, los directores de museos argentinos invitados a esta
mesa comparten sus miradas y utopías, así como las de los artistas e intelectuales a
quienes siguen de cerca, y las acciones que impulsan para tornarlas realidad.

Invitados especiales:
- Maristella Svampa, Investigadora Superior del Conicet y Profesora Titular de la
Universidad Nacional de La Plata
- Fabiola Heredia, Directora del Museo de Antropología, Universidad
Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
- Teresa Riccardi, Directora del Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori, Buenos Aires
- Nicolás Testoni, Director del Museo-Taller Ferrowhite, Bahía Blanca, Argentina

Modera: Victoria Noorthoorn, Directora del Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires

Cuarto encuentro / Ciclo Administrar la incertidumbre
A conversation between Américo Castilla and Victoria Noorthoorn.

Una conversación entusiasta sobre el rol del arte, de la cultura y de los museos hoy
en la Argentina y en el mundo. ¿Cuál es el aporte de los museos a la sociedad?
¿Cuales son los valores que promueve o debería promover? La necesaria autocrítica
ante la crisis del Covid-19 y las posibilidades que se abren a futuro. El crucial rol del
artista en el pensamiento sobre la gestión de museos.


For one week starting on International Museum Day, Monday 18 May,
a curator from the Museo Moderno will be choosing a work from the
museum’s collection.


Síntesis [Synthesis] (1975)
by Hilda Mans


Hilda Mans
Síntesis [Synthesis], 1975
Oil on canvas
80 × 80 cm
Ignacio Pirovano Collection. Donated by Josefina Pirovano de Mihura. Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires.




Síntesis by Hilda Mans, donated to the Museo de Arte Moderno, is the only work
by an Argentinian female artist in the Pirovano abstract art collection. Its solitary
presence points up some conspicuous absences, notably that of Lidy Prati, who
played a part in the vanguard of concrete art enshrined by the Collection from the
outset but whose work doesn’t feature in it. This omission is probably due to Prati
and Tomás Maldonado’s divorce in the early 1950s, and the close relationship
between Maldonado – the Pirovano Collection’s artist and curator – and Pirovano.
The artist and poet Hilda Mans was the partner of painter Victor Magariños D., with
whom she moved to Pinamar in 1967. Unlike Prati, the close link between
Magariños D. and Pirovano qualified Mans for a place in this collection.

Argentina’s abstract art scene was marked by male homosociality. This, coupled
with the traditional limitations of women artists – privileging their male partners’
careers while shouldering domestic and family responsibilities – crystallizes in a
landscape of Argentinian abstract art marked primarily by universalist, patriarchal
references. We had to wait until the 1990s for mid-century abstraction to be r
eviewed from a gender perspective.

Síntesis foregrounds linear segments that organise the surface, colour and space:
the picture gives visible form to a moment, ‘synthesizing’ a fragment of the
trajectory of these lines that continue in real space. For me, by pointing beyond
itself, this painting challenges our ideas about the consolidation of selections
and omissions.

María Amalia García is an Associate Curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno
de Buenos Aires.

Mientras unos construyen otros destruyen
[While Some Build Others Destroy] (1979)
by Dalila Puzzovio

Obra Puzzovio

Dalila Puzzovio
Mientras unos construyen otros destruyen [While Some Build Others Destroy], 1979
Colour print
69.7 x 90 cm
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires Collection

1979 must have been a terrible year: the Dictatorship weighed heavily on Argentina,
a war with Chile seemed just around the corner and Mayor Cacciatore was laying
waste to Buenos Aires. I know of no other works that provide an image of the field
of rubble that was Buenos Aires in those days. Puzzovio witnessed the destruction,
but also something approaching a filament of light, the will to keep going forward
even when everything around us is crumbling.

Lucrecia Palacios is Curator of Public Programmes at the Museo de Arte Moderno.

Caracterizaciones de las opciones 1 y 2 para el sueño de la casita
propia[Descriptions of Options 1 and 2 for One’s Own Little Dream
House] (1972/2010)
by Elda Cerrato

Elda Cerrato

Elda Cerrato
Caracterizaciones de las opciones 1 y 2 para el sueño de la casita propia
[Descriptions of Options 1 and 2 for One’s Own Little Dream House], 1972/2010
Heliographic copy
60 x 90 cm
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires Collection

Elda Cerrato’s vast output begins in the 1950s and presents recurrences that
place her work in the imaginary of Latin American art. This piece from the
Moderno Collection dates back to the 1970s. It condenses key meanings of
her work, though there are also echoes of her contemporaries: maps as
symbols to think about identity and the territorial struggles of the Southern
Cone; a figurative graphic style used to represent the tensions between
opposing ideological projects; the undivided party-political militancy of artistic
practice; and topics related to socio-economic inequalities, like access to
social housing, are a few clearly located period markers. This can also be
seen in the materiality: after more abstract informalist paintings and drawings
made in the previous decade, Elda began this series of standardly reproducible
heliographs, whose economy of resources aided their realization and circulation.
Popular graphics associated with the dissemination of political slogans echoes
through this piece like the burning issues of the day.

I think of this work as a testimony to the convulsive political and social context
that was experienced during the civil-military dictatorships and that ever since,
like almost all Elda’s work, has empowered a vibrant memory, the issue of its
equally conscious and determined presence.

Carla Barbero is a Curator and Coordinator in the Museo de Arte Moderno
de Buenos Aires’s Curatorial Department.

       Pintura [Painting] (1957–1960)
       by Josefina Robirosa

      Pintura de Robirosa

        Josefina Robirosa
       Pintura [Painting], 1957–1960
       Oil on cardboard
       146 x 114 cm
       Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires Collection

Between 1957 and 1960 Robirosa’s brush floated between abstraction and
informalism. The forms she searched for in her paintings already contained
the lines, light colours and graphics of her earlier images but were beginning
to explore the raw textures and planes of Porteño informalism of those years.

Pintura borders somewhere on the clear energy Robirosa had been seeing
since the 1950s (shot through with a kind of mysticism for which there is an
invisible energy that pervades everything) and the existential darkness that
fuelled informalism.

Robirosa relates that, when Kenneth Kemble invited her to join the Destructive
Art Exhibition in 1961, she answered, “Look, I can’t, I’m up to my nose in water,
I want to construct myself desperately.” Robirosa’s images of those years seem
to stop at the point where unrecognizable forms strive to construct themselves
and appear with desperation. And it is precisely over that area of impasto
between the black, white and light blue of Pintura that our eyes linger most:
dark, light and water at boiling point. Robirosa’s visual investigation lies not so
much on the limits between abstraction and figuration but in the areas of contact
between the visible and the invisible.

Several years later, when Robirosa was striving to discover abstraction in the
exuberance of nature, she gave a precise definition of the artist that clarifies her
understanding of painting: “An artist is like a worm, grubbing beneath the ground,
digging something out, discovering or rediscovering something. Artists and
worms relay one another that something – we don’t know what it is – and this
never stops.”

Marcos Krämer is Assistant Curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires

Algunos oficios [Some Trades] (1976)
by Victor Grippo
Algunos oficios 1
Victor Grippo
Algunos oficios [Some Trades], 1976
Materials from five traditional trades (blacksmith, stone mason, builder, carpenter, farmer)
Donated by Nilda Mabel Olmos de Grippo, 2013

At a time when the discourse around what is essential is all over the front pages,
the practice of work involves instances of control and authorization, and rest may
– paradoxically – have taken the form of an imposition, or look like it will never
to come, Algunos oficios by Victor Grippo (Buenos Aires, 1936–2002), with the
captivating stealth of his works, tackles the questions that beleaguer us today
around how to wield what we know or can do, our capital of exchange. A series
of tools selected by the artist to represent foundational trades in society
– blacksmith, carpenter, stonemason, farmer, builder – are shown at rest as if
abandoned, while embodying the potential that could be tapped by their use.
Grippo was an idealist, but in this work he perhaps also expresses a degree
of weariness and frustration.

Algunos oficios depicts not only pause but clear division too. If in the present
moment production and development depends on the great collective brain, what
happens to the fragmentation of knowledge when we were alone – or less
accompanied – at home? Where does our independence lie and manifest itself?
What essential teachings have fallen by the wayside? Are we dependent on
others or can this fragmented making become a production line of community
value? And can this making be less hierarchical, more balanced in its
remuneration, its demands and its rest? Can we find in the hiatus the power
with which it unfolds in Grippo’s work over and over again?

Fundamentally stalled, their potential for enacting transformation – the result of
any trade, but more essentially of any action – ultimately frozen, the tools in this
work settle, age and wait. We might say they also think. What times, decisions
and changes are now desirable to shorten, as Grippo used to wish, the distance
from thought to action?’

Alejandra Aguado is a curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires.

Caspar (2013)
by Sofía Bohtlingk
Sofía Bohtlingk
Caspar, 2013
Oil on canvas
230 x 230 cm
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires Collection

At first glance Caspar looks almost monochrome and has a rhythm of regular
lines. Rigid and rational, it seems to shout geometrical abstraction. Its key,
however, is in the details: here the artist’s movements emerge, charging her
brush, producing textures, pausing at the edge of the canvas, coming and going
over the surface like the pendulum hanging from its apex. Slowly the blue
rhombus is transformed into a form bursting with subjectivity.

It’s easy to imagine the artist dragging her brush from side to side and to
observe how the blue deepens at the ends as it discharges and travels inwards
from the edge of the geometric frame. Bohtlingk constructs a territory to inhabit
the painting. Her body is the living geometric module moving within it: the size
of the canvas is adapted to her bodily proportions, and the pendulum hangs at
her exact height. I believe this abstraction is about the marks we leave in the
places we inhabit. It makes me imagine my own house as one big canvas where
the body forms a line drawing through its comings and goings in space, perceiving
its limits, navigating time. Beneath Caspar’s coldly calculated appearance, Sofía
Bohtlingk’s painting is a strange map of the body, not too unlike the folds imprinted
on our sheets by our nightly dreams.

The work’s title refers to the German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich,
who painted characters engrossed in landscapes – oceans and mountains of
bluish hues – that seem about to devour them. He was a master at representing
the sublime: that emotion that rises when we feel we can’t control nature, or
even begin to understand it. I kind of feel that way about abstraction.

Laura Hakel is a Curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires

Jules et Jim (1961)
by Zulema Ciordia
Zulema Ciordia
Zulema Ciordia
Jules et Jim, 1961
Painted zinc plate
126 x 90 x 72 cm
1964 acquisitions

At the centre of the photo Zulema Ciordia peeps out from behind her work.
Standing around her are Marta Minujín, Rubén Santantonin and Emilio Renart.
I don’t recognize the others. We don’t know if Ciordia’s work still exists. The
photo was taken at ‘Objeto 64’ [Object 64], the Museo de Arte Moderno’s
mythical exhibition signalling the shift from painting and sculpture to the object.
Photography is part of the Moderno’s document collection.

Ciordia belonged to that ’60s generation linked to the Torcuato Di Tella
Institute (ITDT) and the museum. Like many others she swapped the art
bookshop for the ironmonger’s, the zincworks and the timberyard. Colleagues
of hers still alive have told me her projects were extremely powerful and
eagerly awaited. But halfway through the decade, from one day to the next,
nothing more was heard of Zulema and her works.

The second photo shows Jules et Jim, a piece of hers in the Moderno Collection.
(Might it provide a clue? Is this story about a tragic love triangle?) The work
was exhibited at Objeto 64 and for a second time in Diego Bianchi’s project
El presente está encantador [The Enchanting Present]. Zulema’s two pipes
forming a single object dialogue with a being by Bianchi consisting of the bottom
halves of two showroom dummies. I think Ciordia could belong to a genealogy
that ranges across artists like @enlarge2, Luciana Lamothe, Luis María Terán
and many others.

Zulema’s is one of those mysteries lavished on me daily by the museum’s
collection, and I share it with colleagues like Sofía Dourron and Helena Raspo.
Maybe these days when we’re all so focused on screens are a good opportunity
to ask around and see if anyone has any information. And to rattle the bars
between museums, society, works, documents, researches, rumours
and fictions . . .

Javier Villa is Senior Curator at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires

Museums by their directors


#MuseoVivo Testimonio de Enrique Avogadro

Libro pirovano online

This publication is a catalogue raisonné of the Ignacio Pirovano Collection,
the keystone of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires Collection. Apart
being from the fullest technical and visual exhibition of its component works,
it brings together key documents and images from the story of its formation. It
also comprehensively charts various aspects of the collection in essays by
specialists from various disciplines of research and conservation such as María
Amalia García, Marcelo E. Pacheco, Pino Monkes, Hugo Pontoriero, Wustavo
Quiroga, Valeria Semilla, María Inés Afonso Esteves and Silvia Borja.

Libro online

Produced to accompany the exhibition Santiago Iturralde: Naked Painting, this
book provides a visual journey through the artist’s pictorial output, as well as a
critical article by Eduardo Stupía.


Artist's Museums

Marcelo Pombo


Benito Laren

Patricia y Rita, integrantes del Grupo de los 8
de adultos mayores del Moderno, nos regalan
un tango sobre la importancia de los museos
en tiempos de aislamiento.

Complementos es nuestro programa de actividades
integradas para personas ciegas o con baja visión.
Hacé click acá para acceder a más información