Mendoza doesn’t have the beautiful art galleries of Buenos Aires, it doesn’t have the serpentine libraries that inspired Borges to write and it doesn’t have the same clique of brooding creatives that gather in the capital’s dark and devilishly seductive coffee shops. Buenos Aires is definitely the ‘arty-est’ city in Argentina. But don’t write Mendoza off just yet, because what it does have when it comes to the world of art, is a hot art community bubbling under the surface and waiting to be tapped by art enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.
On your tourist map (or the one at the back of a copy of Wine Republic) you will see two galleries marked in Mendoza: the MAMM and the EAC. Is that it – two art galleries for Argentina’s third largest city? The answer is no, but finding other places to appreciate paint and canvas is not an easy feat here.
Both the MAMM (Plaza Independencia) and ECA (9 de Julio and Gutierrez) are nice modern art galleries – their exhibitions rotate regularly, they have quiet and clean spaces and host lots of different artists from around Argentina and South America. However your artistic route of the city will be over in less than an hour if you just go to these two. One way to extend your route around town is with the five star hotels – the Park Hyatt and Diplomatic both have changing exhibitions, but the hotel art prize undoubtedly goes to the Sheraton with its vast collection of art on the ground floor and on its top floor (with a great view over the city to boot).
Further out of the city in Lujan is a real treasure – Casa Fader. This old mansion was home to a wealthy Argentine family who hired the services of French painter Fernando Fader to paint some murials in the hallway and swimming pool room in 1906. Fader soon fell in love with the daughter of the family, Adela, and they married and lived there together. Fader became well known in Argentina as a Post-Impressionist painter but died at the young age of 33 and now the house, which the family donated to the local government as a museum in 1951, has the largest collection of Fader’s works as well as a changing exhition of different artists and a beautiful sculpture garden. Museo de Bellas Artes, San Martín 3651, Mayor Drummond, Luján de Cuyo (261) 496 022. Tue – Fri 8.30am – 6pm. Sat & Sun 2pm – 7pm
Back in the city though there are other ways to see great art, although not in your conventional gallery. One of the best ways to really get to know the local art scene is by visiting some artist’s workshops. Make sure you call and book ahead but there are a handful of artists in or around the city centre that happily welcome you in to their lairs.
If you want to get a feel for ‘latin american’ style art, Lucia Coria is your woman. Tucked away in a bright red house in the 5ta neighbourhood is her workshop and home. The workshop is a colourful space covered top to toe in her vibrant paintings and large dresses. Deeply feminine, her work has a very latin feel to it (think Frida Kahlo) and features many brooding self-portraits. One series is called ‘women drinking’ and portrays different self-portraits of those introspective moments that we all know too well, when drinking a glass of wine alone. To visit Lucia, call her on (261) 438 0707 or 15 510 4745. www.luciacoria.blogspot.com
A couple blocks up the road is another ‘taller’ that should be visited by those who have a love of eccentric artist characters – that of Martin Villalonga. Technically a very good artist, Martin teaches in Mendoza as well as working through a myriad of different styles in his own time. He has tried just about every type of art and most of it sits on canvases stacked around his house but you can also take back a more portable piece of art in the form of his entertaining wine sketches which are on sale at different wine shops around the city. To visit Martin call him on (261) 15 653 8993.
The 5ta section is a hub of local artists and among the streets you will find dozens of different artists workshops including Fernando Jerep’s beautiful studio – an essential stop on the taller route. If you want to see lots of different artists in one space, Santangelo Galeria de Arte has a good rotating collection of some of Mendoza’s cornerstone artists. This tiny space is packed with photos, sculptures, and paintings of all different genres and the gallery’s director Eduardo Jacky can guide you through the pieces (including lots of wine themed ones) in English. Santangelo, Olascoaga 631, Tues – Fri, 10-12:30 and 5:30- 9pm, Sat 10 -12:30. (261) 425 5205.
The best kept secret though is in the bohemian arty suburb of Bermejo. Just 5kms outside of the city, in leafy Guaymallen near the aiport, this neighbourhood feels a world apart and puts you right into the ‘campo’ (countryside). No surprise then that this is where lots of Mendoza’s artists like to work on their brushstroke. Not only is it home to one of the region’s big granddaddy’s of art, Luis Quesada, but also to another prominent golden oldie in the art world and an absolute master of sculpture – Roberto Rosas. With a house that screams pure fantasy from the outset, ringing the bell of his tall metal gate feels a bit like a Tim Burton filmset. But the intriguing world of Rosas doesn’t end there, rather it is just the beginning. Huge scultpures of women, angels and demons beckon you in and reveal his house and workshop, which in itself is a work of art. Inside is a museum of his quirky and enchanting style with over a thousand pieces adorning walls and stands. His gorgeous sculpture garden is the cherry on the cake. This is surely one of the art ‘must-sees’ in Argentina. Call to visit on (261) 451 1605, entrance is $30 pesos.
Another great sculptor around the corner is third generation carpenter Miguel Galdolfo. One of the most influential wood workers in Mendoza, he is responsible for some of the gorgeous furniture in different wineries including Monteviejo, Sophenia and The Vines, but more impressive are his conceptual sculptures. Geometrical in nature, he contorts wood into complicated knotted structures and colourful sculptures. Find out more about his upcoming exhibitions on www.miguelgandolfo.com or call for a visit on (261) 445 6888.
Another prominent art community in Mendoza is in Chacras de Coria. Around 20kms south of the city centre (accessible by bus or car) this quiet neighbourhood is filled with boutique wineries, restaurants, bars and an arty crowd. There are lots of artists workshops here that are worth the visit (including Gonzalo Anton) but getting around can be a bit of a nuisance without a guide. The best way to book and visit different artist’s workshops is with an art guide who has the right contacts. Gonzalo Cuervo is an art dealer and local oracle whose ‘little black book’ of names and numbers is at bursting point. He can organise a personalised art tour in any of the art communities or help put you in touch with the right people. His ‘closed doors’ restaurant, Ituzaingo, is also a haven of art and good music. Contact Gonzalo on (261) 15 666 5778 or email@example.com
Art in Wineries
There are so many reasons to visit wineries in Mendoza: great wine, stunning views, gourmet restaurants and some of the best art spaces! Most wineries have a picture or two embellishing the walls, but some have gone all out with dedicated art galleries and spaces:
With a separate art gallery, Killka, this is the bodega for art lovers. Out in the Uco Valley, thousands flock here every year to take in some good Pinot Noir and enjoy the collection of 19th and 20th century Dutch art and contemporary Argentine art. The owners from Holland are art fanatics and their permanent personal collection is an eclectic mix nicely complimented with temporary exhibitions of Argentine artists ranging from the well established like Sergio Roggerone to new talent like Sebastian Barrera. Open everyday for visits, Ruta Provincial 89, Tunuyan. (262) 242 9500. www.killkasalentein.com
This is the new kid on the block, and they don’t want to play by the rules. Out in Maipu, Trivento attracts a young crowd with their kooky events and DJ parties. With a large performance and art space they invite local artists to exhibit on rotation and have regular music nights to see art ‘en vivo’. For those who want a more hands on experience to wine and art, Trivento have also just started a photography workshop for visitors. Open Mon – Sat, Ruta 60, Maipu (261) 413 7100 www.trivento.com
Not only is there a beautiful cellar with a gorgeous art collection in Zuccardi, but this winery actually wants to ‘harvest artists’. In March this year, the winery invited all the artists that had been part of their art exhibition over the last year to harvest grapes and, after inspiration in the vineyard, to design their own wine labels. In May the ‘cosecha de artistas’ will come to fruition when the artists will be presented with their own bottles of wine with the fruit they harvested and the labels they designed. Open everyday, Ruta Provincial 33, Km 7.5, Maipu (0261) 441-0000 www.familiazuccardi.com
Taking it home…
If you are here visiting Mendoza and want to take some art home, be patient – there is a bit of prohitivive beauraucratic tape to step over. In an effort to protect Argentina’s cultural heritage, the State has made taking art out of Argentina quite a tricky process. You need to get permission to legally export it, which can often take some time. However if you are in a bit of a rush here are some tried and tested ways around it: a) say you bought it at an artisanal market and it isn’t worth anything, b) get a letter from the artist saying it is a gift (not paid for), or c) roll it up and traffic it in your checked luggage.
By Amanda Barnes
Published in the April/May 2012 edition of Wine Republic