La Boca is a must-see on Buenos Aires sightseeing tours, but for security reasons visitors rarely venture beyond the blocks that comprise Caminito, the Boca Juniors stadium, and the two closest museums: the one of the painter Benito Quinquela Martín and the Proa Foundation.
Contrary to what is usual in the neighborhood, the residents were surprised on October 29 by the crowd that took over the neighborhood on Museum Night and have once again seen how the streets were filled again this weekend for the arteBA Focus fair. In its first edition, this younger sister of arteBA exhibits works by 80 local artists in an industrial warehouse of almost 2,000 m2 that functioned as a sand factory, a few meters from the highway.
The curators Mariana Rodríguez Iglesias and Florencia Battiti have given the fair a much more casual air than is usual in the great world artistic events: there are no walls between one gallery and another and established artists such as Luis Felipe Noé (Rubbers) dialogue with emerging like Soledad Dahbar (La Arte), located at the entrance to Focus with mirrored pieces in which the public is reflected, photographed and uploaded to social networks. On the left, an entire wall is covered with pieces by Fabián Liguori, represented by the El Gran Vidrio gallery.
The artists have joined the invitation with more experimental works than those seen in recent editions of arteBA, which this year celebrated its 25th anniversary. Among those selected there are many videos, projected in two microcinemas, such as the comic Radical Fitness with Intensive Steve by Juan Becú, which ironizes the hard physical training of the artists. Some large works also stand out, such as the mobile by Daniel Joglar (Ruth Benzacar), in which various geometric figures dance suspended in the air, and the canvas-skin paintings by Leila Tschopp, held and subdued by the ropes that tense and dominate.‘The Three Graces’ by Diego Figueroa (2009).
“The place has a very strong personality, with exposed brick and cement walls, which influenced the selection of works,” Battiti details. The industrial aesthetic of the space enhances the intense pieces by Luciana Lamothe, formed with tubes and interlocking wood, and her past as a sand factory resonates in the objects buried by Mariana de Matteis (Diego Obligado).
Already known material is also mixed with another recently created for the occasion. Thus, you can once again see the three graces of the suburbs created by Diego Figueroa in 2009 from nylon, plastic, paper, adhesive tape, rubber and wood bags and now exhibited by the Hache gallery and contemplate varnished iron sculptures recently created by Luis Terán (Document art-gallery).
Sales concentrated at fairs
In a year of economic recession, in which numerous small art galleries are experiencing difficulties, the appearance of this fair has been welcomed by dealers, especially thanks to the moderate cost of the stands (ranging from 450 to $1,500) thanks to a grant from the city government. “Increasingly, sales are concentrated in fairs. That there is a second fair in the year is essential to survive until next year,” they say from the arteBA Foundation, the organizer of the event.
The Buenos Aires government also wins. Art serves as a Trojan horse for revitalization plans -critics speak of gentrification- in the southern part of the city, the poorest. The two worlds look at each other with suspicion. On the day of the inauguration, some visitors fearfully walked the three blocks that separate the old sand pit from the Usina del Arte and few residents were interested in visiting the exhibition. Within the fair, purchases for hundreds and even thousands of dollars are closed. Outside, a few meters from there, there is a shantytown. The borders for now are only blurred in art.
Half a hundred art spaces in 10 blocks
Since the creation of the District of the Arts -which encompasses the neighborhoods of La Boca, Barracas and the southern part of San Telmo- dozens of artists’ workshops and galleries have been installed within a radius of 10 blocks, attracted by the tax benefits offered by the Government. The offer is completed with six museums, among which the Proa Foundation stands out, one of the beacons of contemporary art in the Argentine capital, which now houses a retrospective exhibition of the Russian Kazimir Malevich.