“Nobody seriously questions the principle that it is the function of mass culture to maintain public morale, and certainly nobody in the mass audience objects to having his morale maintained.”
– Robert Warshow, U.S. author, in The Gangster as Tragic Hero
Buenos Aires – Last night was a very special night here in Buenos Aires, and one that other major metropolitan areas ought to take note of. It happens each year on the first Saturday of October, and it’s called la Noche de los Museos. A government sponsored cultural program for “the masses” – the city of Buenos Aires opens up many (last night 76) of the government funded museums in town, for free, from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. Many of the museums put on special shows, offer special tours, food, drink, performances. It’s a cultural night out that’s great fun, and brings together a wide range of folk from across the ethnic and social spectrums. Most interesting to me, was the age spread. It wasn’t surprising to see, earlier in the evening, parents taking children to museums; what was different for me were the large numbers of groups of teens and young twenty-somethings, out on their own, touring the museums – without teachers, parents, or guides – just out of curiosity and passion. That’s something I wish I would see more of in the U.S.
The museums span a wide range of types as well, from traditional art museums to various specialty venues (there are small museums in many government offices – so there were open exhibits at the central telephone exchange, the water department, and many others. Fascinatingly, some of these offbeat museums attracted major crowds – it was expected that there would be masses of people at the Belles Artes museum, or the MALBA, but there was a half-block long lineup out front of the exhibit at the notary public school, for example!
I was on my own for the evening, and started off with a visit to The Flower. Long time readers may remember my daytime visit to this giant mechanical sculpture in the United Nations Plaza. It opens and closes with the rising and setting of the sun. Last night’s closing was a two-hour long affair with space age music (think Tangerine Dream on steroids) and a light show. Sorry about the camera phone pictures, but it’s easier to go in and out of various museums if you’re not packing a full-size camera… I spent about forty minutes watching part of the closing process, then moved on to the National Museum of Decorative Arts, one of my favorites in town – it was jammed with folks; then off to the Recoleta Cultural Center; then took a shot at the notary public museum since it was close by, but decided against the long wait in line. There were more to visit, but it was getting late and Henry wasn’t feeling well and had stayed home, so I headed back – at least now, I have a fascinating list of the various city museums to explore!