Skip to main content

Everybody Calm Down: The Tip of the Obelisco Is Safe and Sound

By | [email protected] | September 21, 2015 2:14pm


If you managed to set your resaca aside and crawl out of bed on Sunday, you were probably shocked and dismayed by a most peculiar site: a decapitated Obelisco.

After many double takes and conspiracy theories (as well as angry grumbling from camera-ready tourists), world-renowned conceptual artist, Leandro Elrich, pleaded guilty for what turns out to be a mere optical illusion.

The 42-year-old artist “hid” the Obelisco’s tip by placing an iron structure on top of it — an effective trompe l’oeil, or art technique that uses realistic imagery to play with the eye. A 3.5 by 3.5-meter replica of the tip was placed in front of the Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA) to allow viewers to take a closer look at the iconic structure.

“It’s not magic nor illusion, it’s art,”

said Elrich.

“The Democracy of the Symbol,” as he named the piece, “gives people the possibility to realize the fantasy of seeing the interior of the Obelisco. It democratizes access [to the Obelisco].”

“It’s like opening a window where there is none. These are situations that spark some hope to show that there are still things to discover, to think, to invent.,” he added.

In on the plan were MALBA, the City of Buenos Aires Government and Fate, the largest tire producer in the country.
As MALBA representatives explained, the Obelisco was not designed to be visited inside.

“This way, people can enter the top for free and enjoy the four aerial views of the central monument — using their imagination,”

they said of the piece.
When trying to seem knowledgeable while discussing the new exhibition this week, don’t forget these key facts about the Obelisco:

  • It was constructed in 1936 and designed by Alberto Prebisch to commemorate Buenos Aires’ 400th anniversary
  • It was built in 31 days and made from Cordoban white stone
  • It is 220 feet tall (67.5 m)
  • The four sides each represent defining moments in Buenos Aires history: the founding of the city (1536), its second foundation (1580), the first raising of the flag (1812) and the declaration of Buenos Aires as the nation’s capital (1880)
  • Intersects two of the most important streets in the city: Corrientes and the 9 de Julio

To get the conversation really going and show off your Porteño savvy, you may want to mention the following transformations the Obelisco has undergone:

  • Decorated as a giant Christmas tree in 1973
  • Covered by a giant condom to commemorate the World AIDS day  in 2005
  • Made to look like a giant pencil in 2006 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Night of the Pencils (the kidnapping and disappearance of young students during the last Argentine dictatorship in 1976).
Yes, that is the Obelisco dressed as a giant condom. Photo via Panoramio.

Yes, that is the Obelisco dressed as a giant condom. Photo via Panoramio.

Tags: ,