Buenos Aires – I’d seen a posting for a photography show, at the Fernández Blanco Museum of Hispanic American Art, Suipacha 1422, of the work of Edward S. Curtis. It sounded fascinating, if nothing particularly “Hispanic American,” being an exhibition of some of his photos of North American Indians. His work entailed 24 years of painstaking photography and recordings, including over 50,000 photographs, mostly portraits, 10,000 cylinder recordings of music and languages, and cost nearly a half a million dollars. That was in the early 1900s! The exhibition takes up a couple of small rooms in the basement of this museum, and consists of 60 photographs (part of a two-exhibition travelling show). It’s quite interesting, and if you’re in the Retiro neighborhood, worth the trip (the exhibition moves on in late December).
The rest of the museum is devoted to “Hispanic American Art,” officially. In truth, it’s mostly works of the Catholic church, encompassing a variety of statuary, paintings, and artefacts of a religious nature, much related to the conquest and conversion of the indigenous population, and covering a time period from the 16th to the 19th centuries. These take up virtually the entire ground floor and the level above. The balance of the basement beyond the special exhibition is a few rooms of furniture, implements, and a bit of art from some clearly wealthy families of the Spanish colonial era.
While religious art, especially of a Catholic nature, is not my forté, I found one painting in particular a bit unusual. It’s a representation of San Vicente Ferrer, a Dominican missionary famous for the sheer numbers of folk he converted to Catholicism throughout Europe, including many Jews. He is apparently generally depicted holding an open book, usually the Book of Revelations, or The Apocalypse, while preaching, with a halo behind his head. What was unusual in this particular picture was that in addition to all of the usual symbolism, including the book of the Apocalypse (though closed in this painting), he has what appears to be a horn coming out of his head. Somewhat like a shortened unicorn horn, complete with a slightly spiraled and warped shape, it is growing right out of the center of his skull and is framed by the halo. The closest thing I could find to this was this painting, which depicts what I’d guess is some sort of flame coming out of his head – and it’s possible that in the painting in the museum it is supposed to be a flame as well, it’s an old painting, and somewhat faded. I couldn’t find any information as to why this peculiar addition to his depiction, but it’s the sort of thing that I find fascinating.
This is the memorial for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy back on March 17, 1992. It’s a small park where the embassy stood from 1950 until 1992 at the corner of Suipacha and Arroyo. As you can see, they’ve left the outline of the walls of the building where it was attached to the adjacent embassy (El Salvador). Interestingly, the information on the memorial, including what’s on the plaque along the wall, is that 29 people were killed and 242 were injured in the attack, but, the memorial only lists the names of 22 people who died. I have to admit to some curiousity about the missing seven…
In the same general neighborhood there’s a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try, Filo, at San Martin 975. I don’t remember who recommended it, but it was pointed out as one of the better casual Italian restaurants in the city. I like the style – very industrial modern. Real linen napkins and placemats (in vivid yellow and black), a well stocked bar (a huge selection of single malt scotches, including many difficult to find marks, plus bourbons and Irish whiskeys), and platters of focaccia chips on the bar. The crowd is an interesting mix of businessfolk, backpackers, and ladies who lunch. You can eat at the bar, something I like to do when solo. I snapped a couple of photos before being stopped by the bartender who told me that photography of the room was not permitted (well, here’s one anyway). I asked why. The reply could best be summed up as “We have many businessmen who eat lunch here with women or other men who might not want their wives to see who they’re with.” That’s a line I can’t argue with.
The menu is quite extensive, leaning towards antipasti, salads, pizzas, and pastas. It’s very Italian; much more so than what usually passes for Italian food here. If the rest of the items on the menu are as good as what I sampled, it’s no wonder that the place is packed (it seats about 100, when I first arrived, and snapped the photo above, it was about 1:00, by 1:30 every seat was taken and there was a line of people waiting for tables). I started off with this Cocktail de Funghi (I’m not sure why they used the English spelling of cocktail, but they did), which was an excellent stewed mix of various wild mushrooms served with two grilled tiles of white polenta.
The bartender informed me that their pizzas are really their specialty, even though the pastas are good as well. I looked around and pizzas seemed to be on every table, so I went along with the theme. Amongst the various offerings was a Pizza Filo, the house pizza, described as “put together in the moment to the chef’s whims.” I like to see how creative cooks can get, so I ordered a small one of those. The pizzas are thin crust, wood-burning oven pizzas, with toppings and a sprinkling of cheese – not the usual medium to deep dish drowned in melted mozzarella versions that are typically served in local restaurants. The “Filo” was not quite what I expected. I’d sort of figured on some sort of interesting combination of the moment that the chef felt like putting together. Instead, the pizza is divided into six slices, and roughly a dozen different toppings are used, but each takes up some random portion, roughly anywhere between 20-40% of the pizza, which means that they overlap in various combinations, depending on what part of the pie you’re eating at the moment. Quite good! I especially liked the small section where the spiced ham and hearts of palm overlapped, and the crispy bacon and arugula section.
I’ll be back.