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“PUT THIS ON YOUR LIST!” “A unique way to explore San Telmo”

Most of my guests think that the San Telmo Art & History Walk is the best art tour in Buenos Aires.

From a recent unsolicited review:

“I’d highly recommend this tour and think you’d be an idiot to miss it.”

As much as that review made me laugh — and I had great time with you, Seth, on the two, count ‘em, two tours you took — I was happy to see this less incendiary 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.

Nos vemos!

Read more 5-star reviews here on TripAdvisor.

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New Free Tour in Buenos Aires: Mamba Contemporary Art Museum on Tuesdays

New Free Tour in Buenos Aires: Mamba on Tuesdays

The Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art in San Telmo, or Mamba, has long been my favorite museum in the city.

Sure, Malba gets the big international shows, as does Proa, but ever since curator Victoria Noorthoorn took over, the museum has been kicking ass, with a series of exciting and innovative shows that range from the mischievous and mammoth faux-photorealistic plasticene landscapes of Mondongo through the amusing and informative reconstruction and re-presentation of Argentina’s now mostly extinct railway culture — the upper floors smelled like iron for weeks — to the current, breathtaking show in the museum’s basement, El círculo caminaba tranquilo, developed in collaboration with the Deutsche Bank. This exhibit cites and cross-references the works of Argentine and international visual artists across several decades and presents them in a provocative and even a democratic way that functions like a walk through art history. So, that’s one reason why I respond to it so well.

Mamba used to be one of our stops on the main tour, and an important one. However, the museum has grown so large in recent months that it’s impossible to duck in and duck out and get anything out of it. Rather than ignore it, and following my mission to thoroughly and conscientiously cover the art and history in San Telmo for English-speaking visitors, I’ve decided to create a unique and separate tour centered around the museum that gives it its due. And I’ve decided to make it free.

FAQ

What does the tour cover?

I’ll tell you about the history of the museum itself, founded by the interesting poet and art critic Rafael Squirru, and describe how it integrates into the onda of the neighborhood. Then we’ll go inside and talk about the current exhibitions and how they relate to Argentine art movements and history. The museum finally provides English translation for most of its shows but it’s still good to get a live, educated voice and a unique perspective. (That would be me.) In addition, the museum doesn’t give guided tours in English so this is a special service in itself.

After we fill up on modern art, we’ll also walk a few blocks around the museum where I’ll show you one of the most important monuments in the city dedicated to the victims of the Dirty War and also visit the city’s most beautiful piece of public mural art.

When do we meet?

We’ll meet outside the museum at 11:00 in the morning on Tuesdays only.

How much does it cost?

I thought I said this already. :-) Well, it’s free, but I’ll happily accept tips with no pressure. Entry to the museum itself is free on Tuesdays as well.

How long does the tour last?

That’s difficult to say. Mamba is full of good stuff and how long it takes to see it all will depend on the browsing speeds of our group and the level of interest in the art we see. But, I would say a minimum of two hours, including the short walking tour we’ll take after the museum.

Do I need to make a reservation?

Yes, please do. There’ll be plenty of room on each tour but since art lovers on vacation don’t seem to be as common as cattle on the pampa, I would rather not stand outside Mamba all alone.

Please use the form below to book a tour. When I receive our reservation, I’ll respond with additional details, so please use your real email address.

That’s it, art lovers and arty lovers! Join me for a free museum tour on Tuesday in San Telmo. 

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New Free Pub Crawl in Buenos Aires! San Telmo Beer Bust

I thought we needed a free pub crawl in Buenos Aires.

I love beer. I love San Telmo. I love giving tours.

Why haven’t I thought of this before?

Beginning this Friday and hopefully every Friday thereafter, I’ll be giving a free craft-beer tour of San Telmo. There are number of bars, pubs and restaurants in the neighborhood that brew their own beer. We’ll sample as many as we can.

FAQ

Where do we meet?

We’ll meet outside one of the neighborhood’s most visible landmarks, La Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Convento de Santo Domingo on the corner of Belgrano and Defensa. It’s also the location of the Tomb of General Manuel Belgrano, an important figure in Argentine history.

Click here for a Google Map.

Click for a photo of Belgrano’s tomb.

What time do we meet?

I like bargains, and I’m sure you do, too. So in order to make the most of the neighborhood’s early happy hours, we’ll start at 18:30, or 6:30 PM.

How much does it cost?

Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Of course, you’ll have to pay for your own beer and as in many bars in the world, tipping your bartender (and your tour guide) is customary and appreciated.

Why is it free?

Hopefully you’ll love the neighborhood (and me!) so much that you’ll want to come back and take a walking tour. If not, that’s fine. Click here to read what guests have said about me and the tour. Whichever, we’ll still have fun.

What’s it in for me?

You mean besides a good beer buzz, a satisfied palette and the pleasure of imbibing in the warm company of like-minded beer lovers? Well, you’ll get a very brief preview of my main tour and you’ll learn about the neighborhood as we stumble between bars — where to drink, where to eat, what to avoid, what not to miss. You’ll learn about the local brews and maybe learn a bit about beer in general along the way, if you’re not already knowledgeable. I’ll also introduce you to the barrio’s cheapest pint that nobody else knows about. Shhhh.

How long does it last?

That really will be up to us. Happy “hour” ends at 22:00 but there’s no reason we can’t continue to drink, as a few of my guests decided to do a week ago. That’s them up top. They were the inspiration for this new tour.

Here’s what they emailed me afterward about the tour:

We pretty much had a blast from start to finish!

Will there be food?

I’d love to provide you the crappy free pizza that other tour gives you…actually, I wouldn’t. But, no, I won’t be providing a snack at this time. However, some of the best food in the area comes from the brew pubs, and there are always empanada joints along the way.

Do I have to reserve a spot?

Please do! Use the form below. I’m just starting this so until I see how much interest there is, it’s better for all of us if you reserve a spot. Last minute reservations, say, two hours before, will probably work.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s take a beer tour!

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The Outsider Street Art of Malegría

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.

Read my interview with Malegría here on My Beautiful Air.

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La Brea Salvaje

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.

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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.

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Living in Buenos Aires Turns Traditional Artist into Street Artist

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.

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The walls of San Telmo talk

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.

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Book A Walking Tour In Buenos Aires

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 and public mural art. The extended tour includes a visit to Mamba modern art museum. We will talk about the Argentine writers, Jorge Luis Borges, Rodolfo Walsh, and Ernesto Sabato; and a little bit of tango.
  • Restaurant and bar recommendations (Of course!) If there is interest, we’ll stop off for a bite to eat or a beer at a recommended bar.
  • Anything and everything we see as we walk the streets of San Telmo!

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. :-)

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Pictures of Matchstick Men by David de la Mano

On my way home after a fun art walk with these cool gals from Germany,

Art Walk Guests: Sarah & Isi from Germany

Art Walk Guests: Sarah & Isi 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.

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Soup’s On at Mamba Contemporary Art Museum

Over the past year a few guests have expressed disappointment with the exhibitions at Mamba, Buenos Aires’ Museum of Contemporary Art. Admission to Mamba is included in the walk.

Although I don’t share that disappointment, I agree that there hasn’t been a show designed to “wow” visitors for quite a while.

Well, the new two-floor retrospective of the three-person collective known as Mondongo might just amaze you, as a guest from Turkey said it did her the other day.

The downstairs hall is curated by Kevin Power, who worked with Ai Weiwei, among other artists, and the newly opened upstairs hall is a unified exhibition called Argentina. It consists of large landscape panels made with some unusual materials, manipulated to create a relief or 3D effect. They’re impressive and contain a couple surprises if you look closely, and you will want to. They surround the viewer in the hall and their depths and textures beg for close inspection and even interpretation.

Landscape by Mondongo Pasaje Entre Rios

Downstairs, the gigantic portraits also reward getting close to the surface of the works. The artists expertly convey light and shadow on human skin with uncanny verisimilitude, particularly considering the materials used.

Come and see the exhibition on the San Telmo Art & History Walk and discover it with us.

Click here to book a tour.