Museums of Buenos Aires

Posted by Ashley Atkinson-Leon on 14th Mar 2018

If you’ll be visiting Buenos Aires soon, make sure you stop at these museums, and learn what else you can see and do in Argentina.

Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires

If you’re looking for a great art museum in Buenos Aires, you should visit the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires). Located in the posh Palermo neighborhood, their particular emphasis is on Latin American art in the 20th and 21st centuries. Normally I’m not I’m not a big fan of modern art, but they have many unique pieces that will make you reflect on history, identity, and society in general. (The works there certainly don’t make you wonder if your child’s finger painting should be hung in a museum as well).

They also had a few Frido Kalho paintings as well as some of Andy Worhol's works. The thing I was most impressed by was a wooden bench that sort of "melted" into vine-like branches that crawled up through the walls all the way to the second floor. Throughout the year, they’ll often host film exhibitions and other cultural activities, so be sure to check their calendar before you go. Don’t forget to pack your bag with your wallet, water bottle, snacks, and any other essentials you’ll need throughout the day.

National Museum of Fine Arts

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes holds a variety of art that is important in understanding the history and character of Argentina. In addition to work by Argentine artists, it includes art by Native American, Spanish, and other European artists as well. Among the more famous are those by El Greco, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Goya.

You’ll see works depicting ancient Greek mythology, fables from the Bible, portraits of aristocracy from the last few centuries, and more. With over 12,000 pieces, you’ll be able to start deciphering themes about empire, Christianity, motherhood, morality, civilization, and others in the various collections of paintings and sculptures. Even the grounds surrounding the museum are decorated with art, and you can get guided tours in English as well. 

Natural Science Museum

The Museo de Ciensias Naturales is great for both children and adults. At the time they were hosting a dinosaur exhibit that displayed many of the bones found in Tierra del Fuego (the "end of earth") off the south Argentine coast. They also displayed fossils from ancient fish (some were nearly 50 feet long!), ancient armadillos, ancient birds, etc. They also had a frog exhibit.

At any time of the year you’ll be able to find collections on invertebrates, geology, amphibians and reptiles, mammals, scientific instruments, and more. It’s definitely good for those who like science, animals, or archaeology.

Eva Peron Museum

The Museo Evita is a museum dedicated to the life of Eva Peron, the former first lady of Argentina. Evita is best known to US audiences through the musical “Evita” and one of its most popular songs, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” However, there was a lot more to the woman than the musical would suggest.

The actual museum is located in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires and features many of the designer clothes and jewelry that she wore, along with handwritten letters, videos, and photos. There are some signs with English translations, but with even a basic understanding of Spanish you’ll be able to follow the life of this fascinating woman, and you’ll leave wanting to know more.

A Brief History of Eva Peron

As someone who learned about Eva Peron through a historical perspective during my studies at the Universidad de Belgrano, the museum was quite thought-provoking. To this day, she is still despised by some Argentines, while others think she's a saint (literally: the pope was asked to canonize her).

To give a brief summary of her life: she grew up in a very poor family whose father had a "legitimate" family miles away, and he eventually abandoned Eva and her siblings to live in poverty. However, she dreamed of being an actress as a child, and when she was a teenager an agent offered her a role in Buenos Aires, and with permission from her mother, she moved to the capital to start her new life.

She landed some small gigs at first, and eventually worked her way up from modeling to radio acting. She signed a contract with a prominent radio company and even went on to co-own it. After achieving some financial independence, she soon met and started dating Colonel Juan Peron, and this was a huge turning point in her life.

They lived at a time when the military was poised to overthrow the government at any moment and the elite oligarchy had previously ruled for centuries. Amidst this chaos, Juan Peron had risen through the ranks of the military into prominent government positions. He became a very popular figure among the masses of workers because of his socialist policies, and when he was arrested by the military due to his rising influence, hundreds of thousands of people came together to protest and the military was forced to release him. Soon after, he and Eva married (despite her modest upbringing), and he went on to become president, and Eva became the First Lady.

Nationalist policies were implemented, including import substitution and raised tariffs, forcing private industries into the hands of the government, and in the background a huge foreign debt and hyperinflation loomed. Consequently, national industrialization was at its highest and the workers' force was at its largest.

Although Evita did not specifically deal in these sectors of economic development, she played an important part in redistributing large amounts of money through her charity foundation, often given as gifts from workers' unions, to the poorest groups of society.

Dedicating most of her days to meeting with the poor, Evita became like the Holy Mother to many people. Individuals who had never had more than a room for their large families suddenly inherited an entire house. Dentures were a favorite give-away, and all that was needed to obtain these gifts was unwavering loyalty to Peron and the Peronist party.

She died at the young age of 33 from cancer, having been granted the title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation.” Today, opinion is still divided on whether she was a saint or whether she simply wanted to aggrandize her contributions to the poor. In many instances, Evita has become fictionalized into something that barely resembled the true person she had been, which is outlined in Tomas Elroy Martinez’s book, Santa Evita.

Of course, it must be stated that she was a powerful woman in a male-dominated world, and this alone caused contempt for her. Many individuals in the upper classes also thought poorly of her because she had a "bad background," but to the poor who had never had much of anything in their lives, she was an idol. In fact, when she died, so many flowers were used in her funeral that Argentina had to import flowers from several other countries. The museum will give you a glimpse into this polarizing but hugely influential woman’s life.

If you’re more into parks, zoos, gardens, and historical monuments, check out our blog post, Things to See in Buenos Aires. Learn more about the rest of Latin America too!