“I don’t know about everywhere else, but here, all artists have an obsession,” Ral Veroni, the owner of Mar Dulce Gallery, surmised.
Veroni was one of several gallery owners we had the pleasure of talking with on the Palermo Gallery Tour, an intimate and engaging walking experience from Buenos Aires Art Tours that dives in to the booming art scene in both Palermo and Villa Crespo.
As our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide, Grace Portillo, described, this area has become a hotbed for contemporary galleries that have moved away from the historic San Telmo art district over the past few years.
Starting in 2012, many new art spaces began popping up in Villa Crespo because of its lower property prices and alternative feel. The migration set off a small-scale revolution that is as diverse and contemporary as the art itself—and people have taken notice.
Several recent articles in mainstream publications have noted that contemporary art galleries in Villa Crespo and Palermo are “changing the paradigm” of art in Buenos Aires.
It’s easy to see why. With its tree-lined avenues and a lively restaurant and shopping scene, Villa Crespo is similar in style to Palermo while still maintaining its familiar vibe. Cumulatively, the two neighbourhoods provide a hip alternative to Buenos Aires’ historic centre.
At Gallery Gachi Prieto in Villa Crespo (Aguirre 1017), artist Valeria Conte Mac Donell was working to install her newest project titled ‘¿Araña? No ¡Dibuja!’ The piece takes up the entirety of the small gallery, utilising metal wire strung from the walls with photos and drawings to create an encapsulating, three-dimensional experience.
The piece was not yet finished, so our group had the opportunity to watch Mac Donell work while her assistant showed us examples of the artist’s past exhibitions. She described her vision for the new piece, particularly that she hoped to create the sensation of an infinite space within a very small room (this is her first installation indoors). The exhibit is currently open and will continue until 7th November.
This first encounter set the tone for the tour: the experience focused as much on the galleries as the art itself. At each of the stops, Grace provided an insider’s perspective to the gallery’s history and introduced numerous artists and owners along the way.
Another popular art space in Villa Crespo, Gallery La Ira de Dios (Aguiree 1029), is host to numerous Argentine and international artists working on residency. An expansive space with a warehouse feel, the gallery provides artists the opportunity to work on and exhibit their art in the same space where various events are held for the public.
Argentine artist Ayelén Coccoz is currently displaying her piece ‘Still’ at La Ira de Dios. The exhibit seeks to capture the transient nature of the artistic process through wax formations and juxtaposing light, and is open until 17th October.
The highlight of Villa Crespo, however, is undoubtedly the Ruth Benzacar Gallery (Juan Ramírez de Velasco 1287). Renowned art connoisseur Ruth Benzacar initially opened the space in 1965 in San Telmo before her daughter — the current gallery director — moved it to an expansive warehouse in Villa Crespo in 2014. The move put Villa Crespo on the art map and spearheaded the migration to the neighbourhood.
The gallery was in a transition period between artists, but one of the attendants took our group behind the scenes and showed us numerous works from the gallery’s expansive collection. This was a truly exceptional part of the tour and one of the main draws: to see how the galleries work on a day-to-day basis and all that goes in to putting an exhibit out for the public.
Famous Argentine artist, Milo Lockett, established his own personal gallery in Palermo (José Antonio Cabrera 5507) to showcase his highly sought after work. Producing around two paintings a day, the gallery smells of fresh paint and is constantly in flux with new works coming and going.
Lockett is not only a renowned artist; he has gained fame for his charity work with children and for giving back to the Buenos Aires community. His art can be seen around the city, including massive murals on the Abasto Shopping Centre that hark back to his street-art roots.
Elsi del Río Gallery in Palermo (Humboldt 1510) also highlights the emerging notoriety of street artists. The gallery’s patio features a remarkable collaborative piece from three local street artists that worked on the mural at different times without any previous planning. Grace explained that street artists are (finally!) starting to be curated into Buenos Aires galleries, and she commended them for doing truly amazing things with their newfound opportunities.
Also in Palermo is the warmly lit Mar Dulce Gallery (Uriarte 1490). The friendly and knowledgeable gallery director, Ral Veroni, gave a brief history of the space and a broader history of Argentina in general to emphasise the historical importance of Argentine art.
It was apparent throughout that our tour guide Grace not only knew her art facts, but had also developed a genuine relationship with all of the artists and gallery owners, who were more than welcoming in explaining their spaces.
The newest addition to the art scene in Palermo, the Honeycomb Gallery, concludes its first exhibition 7th October. Owner Trystan Bates — an expat himself from New York — explained that the gallery pulls together multiple artists around one congruent theme for each of its exhibitions.
The first exhibition centred on the idea of identity. Each artist involved created two pieces for the exhibition — an identity and an alter ego. The pieces are not presented together, however, and the viewer is drawn into a little game of linking up the artist’s multiple identities throughout the gallery space. Two artists featured in the exhibit were there to meet our group and share some wine, which served as a perfect ending to the tour.
While the Identity exhibit ends 7th October, the gallery is hosting its next exhibition starting 14th October until 7th November. This time the focus is on the idea of Evolution and will again pull together numerous artists around the overarching theme.
The Palermo Gallery Tour is a great way to experience the bourgeoning contemporary art scene in Villa Crespo and Palermo. The knowledgeable tour guides give unparalleled access to gallery owners and artists alike, making this an amazing opportunity for all art lovers out there.
Tours are organised by reservation at Buenos Aires Art Tours and can be catered to specific group’s interests (US$50 a person). The group also organises other themed tours, including fashion, photography, and even craft beer.