You might not know this but the walls of parking garages in Buenos Aires are prime real estate. They’re big ‘n’ ugly and often their owners are happy to turn them over to an industrious street artist who can transform them into something distinctive. Hay un garaje de estacionamiento on Perú in San Telmo, near Independencia. I’ve seen it morph many times over the 5 years I’ve been giving tours in the neighborhood. After a brief period when it was turned over to a white-smocked group of school kids on a street-art field trip, a couple talentless taggers bombed the space and it stayed that way for far too long. I changed the tour route just to avoid looking at it. Then one day, a real bomb dropped.
I was happy to see this new review on my Trip Advisor page:
While visiting Buenos Aires earlier this year, we had the good fortune of being connected with Rick Powell and enjoy one of his wonderful art walks around San Telmo, which has remained one of the highlights of our entire trip.
Despite having walked around San Telmo ourselves just the day before, Rick was able to introduce us to a whole new view of the area, using striking graffiti as a way to lead us off the beaten track while all the while managing to share incredibly pertinent information about the historical, social and political background to the area.
Interesting, knowledgeable and engaging, Rick was excellent at sussing out quickly what we were most interested in and tailoring the walk accordingly, and what we expected to be an hour-long stroll past a few pieces of street art became instead a greatly enlightening 3.5h walk across the heart of Buenos Aires and many of its hidden gems. We truly cannot recommend this enough.
Although obviously I’ve given the tour a lot, because of our small-group size and because I tend to provoke questions from my guests and therefore tailor the walk to their interests — on-the-fly, as it were — each tour is different, even for me.
I’m glad Carlo and Colin had such a good time on the tour. I did, too. Thanks, guys!
Recently, I also got a connection request on LinkedIn from a guest who took the tour about 5 months ago. He said he and his wife still talk about the tour and that they have fond memories of it. Wow. It was one of those 5-hour tours that happen occasionally. This particular married couple knew more about contemporary art than I did so they had a lot of questions. Plus, we stumbled on a gallery opening that I hadn’t planned on. So we people-watched and got a little tipsy on free wine that day.
For some reason, I’m often on long-term visitors’ bucket lists but even for folks who have been in Buenos Aires for a while, my tour will show them something new:
My husband and I lived in Buenos Aires for six months, and the San Telmo Art Walk tour is one of the highlights of our trip!
And still more:
Rick is very friendly and has a lot of knowledge of both the art scene and the history of Buenos Aires. His tour is thourough and you get to see a lot of San Telmo, learn a little about the history of the barrio and see a lot of cool street art. We finished of in the park drinking mate. Well spent time and money, highly recomended!
Here’s a little comment on the price:
We spent more than three hours with Rick and it was so worth it. One of the highlights of our trip. BTW, this tour is way underpriced so, if you can, you should give a significant tip. Given the quality and amount of info imparted, its the right thing to do.
Anyway, I love my engaged guests and look forward to every walk.
Read more 5-star reviews here on TripAdvisor.
I had a small walking tour the other day and on a corner that I sometimes ignore, because it’s gotten so messy lately, we found an interesting and somewhat mysterious piece of street art.
I recognized the face of Argentine boxer Marcos Maidana, nicknamed El Chino — he’s the current WBA welterweight champion of the world, hence the crown. But I didn’t and still don’t know what the title, La brea salvaje, refers to or what the dogs mean. La brea is tar or pitch, as in the La Brea Tarpits. Salvaje can mean savage or wild… Your guess is as good as mine. I haven’t asked any porteño yet.
Regardless, it’s interesting because the bust of Maidana and some parts of the dogs’ heads are painted on heavy paper and then glued to the wall — a paste-up in street-art parlance — and the rest of the piece, including the rest of the dogs and the work’s title, is brushed directly on the wall.
It’s also well-done as a portrait, both as an expression of a personality and of a memorable face. I had to post it up quickly because paste-ups have a short life. Plus it just looks good.
Thanks to one of my guests, Paul Castro, for taking this pic for me. He left a 5-star review, by the way. I’m “patient, knowledgeable and fun!” Right back atcha.
UPDATE: I found out a couple days later that El Chino was slated to fight Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas. Hence the portrait. He lost by the way in a close fight. Someone has since took the paste-up off the wall. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
I am so sorry to see Macro go.
I’d been thinking about contacting Buenos Aires street artist Macro for months, having enjoyed the work that I had discovered while giving walking tours in San Telmo. Before we had a chance to schedule an interview in person, the holidays came around and unbeknownst to me, 26-year-old Cristian Rojas, aka Macro, moved back to his hometown of Mulchen in the south of his native country. I didn’t even know he was from Chile! Rojas says that the nickname, Macro, has followed him around since he was a kid.
I also didn’t know that he had painted one of my favorite murals — and one of the weirdest — in the neighborhood:
Read the rest of my interview with Chilean street artist Macro on My Beautiful Air.
The walls of Buenos Aires are rarely blank and they never stop talking. It’s just that maybe we’re not always listening. It’s hard enough to navigate the narrow sidewalks of Microcentro or San Telmo without stepping in dog shit or on the booby-trapped slabs of concrete that splash water up to your knees if you hit them just right. Hard enough that, those things, to notice much else.
Read my whole article on My Beautiful Air.
The San Telmo Art & History Walk is offered Monday thru Friday and Saturday by appointment. You MUST reserve a space ahead of time. Same-day reservations are possible but not likely to be confirmed.
The San Telmo Art & History Walk covers
- The basic history of Argentina and San Telmo including Spanish colonial origins, the Dirty War and contemporary politics. We will visit an important memorial to the disappeared.
- The story of street art in Argentina and in San Telmo including prolific barrio artists such as Grolou, Malegría and ene ene.
- The story of fileteado in Argentina
- Art and culture in Argentina and Buenos Aires, including contemporary art, public mural art and a visit to Mamba modern art museum; the Argentine writers, Jorge Luis Borges, Rodolfo Walsh, and Ernesto Sabato; and a little bit of tango
- Restaurant and bar recommendations (Of course!)
- Anything and everything we see as we walk the streets of San Telmo!
Note: Mamba museum is no longer open on Mondays but MacBA is. The entrance fee to MacBA is not included in the tour price. It’s 25 pesos extra.
There are two versions of the tour. The shorter version takes around 2 and a half hours and is offered twice daily Monday thru Friday. This tour costs USD $20 per person, or the equivalent in Argentine pesos. Please try to bring exact change.
The extended version takes about 3.5 hours and is a leisurely tour for visitors who want maximum exposure to the barrio and to its art in the streets. This tour is offered on Saturdays by appointment or throughout the week as determined by time and availability. First come, first served. This tour costs USD $28 person, or the equivalent in Argentine pesos.
I am also available on Sundays to guide you through the San Telmo Market. Formal tours are impossible on such a crowded day but I can point out the best things to sample in the neighborhood and provide translation when necessary. My fee for this is USD $25 per hour, or the Argentine equivalent in pesos.
It’s possible to customize this tour for folks with specific interests in the arts and/or history, including meeting with a fileteador or a local street artist or a local expert on history. Obviously, tours like this must be booked and planned well in advance. I have given 5-hour tours on Saturdays that have included lunch and a beer or two,.
Use the form below to make a reservation, which is required. Please give me 24 hours notice. If you are not able to show up, please cancel via e-mail or call me via the number you’ll receive in your confirmation. I keep tours small so it’s possible your no-show will end up with my standing on the corner looking like a prat. Please don’t make me look like a prat. :-)
On my way home after a fun art walk with these cool gals from Germany,
I stumbled on new mural by David de la Mano.
La Mano is a Spanish mural artist who paints all over the world. I’d seen a mural he’d done recently in neighboring Uruguay but didn’t realize he was in Argentina. He also paints on canvas and draws on paper. His aesthetic is minimalist in line but here in this mural, the silhouettes accumulate obsessively, suggesting something larger and darker and more complicated.
Anyway, I like it. It’s off the beaten track a bit in San Telmo so it’s not on the tour itself at the moment. However, I would be glad to show it and some of the other scattered work in the neighborhood to interested folks with some time on their hands.
There’s more art in the barrio than I can easily show on the walk.