Accessible art may be what we love most about Buenos Aires. Year on year the offering seems to grow, and so far 2018 has been no different. With a bumper crop of everything from Mexican art in MALBA to Renaissance art in Bellas Artes, we’ve (thankfully) been spoiled for choice. Fashion and photography have also not been skipped, with can’t-miss exhibitions by Jean Paul Gaultier at the CCK and iconic Argentine photographer Aldo Sessa at the Mamba.
Best of all, many of these exhibitions are free or can be, with a little pre-planning about which day you choose to visit. Although it may involve a bit of queuing, it doesn’t take away from all of the amazing world-class art made universally available to everyone. But I digress. One of the newest and most exciting offerings to add to your (hopefully) never-ending list of must-visit places in Buenos Aires is the Fundación Federico J. Klemm.
Located on Marcelo T. Alvear in Retiro, the newly re-opened private collection is essential for those art lovers who aren’t sated by MALBA or Bellas Artes’ respected collections. It’s named after Czech art collector Federico Klemm, an iconic figure in the art world who began involving himself in the happening Argentine scene during the 1960s. By the time the ’90s rolled around, Klemm had already gathered quite the impressive international collection and was known for giving young artists a much-needed leg up in the typically exclusive art world.
Any Argentine television buffs out there might remember Klemm from his television program broadcast back in the 90s, ‘El banquete telemático.’ Geared at making art history accessible to more sections of society than perhaps would normally enter an elite art gallery, the show was the start of Klemm’s mission of highlighting what can make art appealing to a broader audience.
Continuing the good work that Klemm started, his foundation has made some of his private collection available to the public. The foundation stands on the same space as his original art gallery, which opened back in 1995. Aimed at protecting global contemporary art in the middle of what Klemm described as a period of ‘moral and ethical crisis’ during the 1990s, the space just reopened in April after a brief hiatus. Now under a new direction, led by curators Guadalupe Chirotarrab and Federico Baeza, the newly presented underground gallery pays homage to Klemm and his incredible collection. Showcasing art from Argentine, European, and North American artists, both local and international greats are on display.
Just over 100 diverse and eclectic selected works represent worldwide art movements ranging from surrealism to pop art. Boasting a collection as prestigious of those in the MALBA and Bellas Artes, some of art’s biggest names like Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein can all be seen up close. For Argentine art aficionados, artists like Emilio Petorutti and trio Mondongo are also well represented, with a huge imposing Mondongo painted portrait of Klemm himself welcoming the visitor.
As one of the best-kept secrets of the porteño contemporary art world, the gallery feels a world away from the buzz of the microcentro and off the beaten track from the crowds of the more massive museums and galleries that fill the guidebooks.
Making the collection feel more personal, artworks are arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Walking around the gallery you’ll notice that each of the six rooms is like its own separate space, creating its own ambiance and way of displaying art. The blue room, known as the Salon Venecia, is said to be a reconstruction of one of Klemm’s own from his private house. Another notable room, known as ‘El amor al arte: el gesto del coleccionista’, (Love of art, the gesture of the collector) is filled with surrealist work by Man Ray, Salvador Dali, and Xul Solar. If pop art is more your thing, keep moving for pieces by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Marta Minujín.
This is art that’s easy on the eye and easily digestible – you needn’t worry about that all too familiar museum fatigue that so often sets in after a few hours of trekking round one of the big nationals. Instead, the six-room underground space feels refreshingly breathable and peaceful with pieces well spread out, making the art enjoyably absorbable.
Speaking of the significance of a gallery space like the foundation’s, Argentine artist Max Gómez Canle spoke of his pride of exhibiting among many other distinguished artists that are often exhibited at a national or international level. It’s a bit like seeing a compilation of the greatest hits of the 20th-century contemporary art world. The gallery presents them in intimate and non-overwhelming surroundings with something for the harcore art nerd as well as those taking their first steps into a gallery. Fundación Federico J. Klemm is the hidden art gem to add to your growing list.
Fundación Federico J. Klemm | Marcelo T. de Alvear 626 | Monday – Sunday 11 AM – 7:30 PM | Entrance is free | See their website for more details.