By Matt Chesterton
August 07, 2014
Credit: Mechika / Alamy

Buenos Aires lacks world-class museums—to be blunt, it has none—but that can be a blessing as well as a curse. Anyone who has ever put their back out trying to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa through a scrum of fellow pilgrims at the Louvre will appreciate the relative tranquility of BA’s cultural institutions. Only at places like MALBA do lines of any length form, and then only for popular temporary exhibitions.

It sounds obvious but unless you’re interested in Argentina—its history, its culture, its dizzying rise and slow but steady decline—you won’t be interested in Argentina’s museums. International exhibits are thin on the ground and, where they exist, rarely first rate. But if you’re willing to dive deep into the story of this fascinating country, you will come up clutching pearls.

For regular updates on what’s happening in BA’s museums, keep an eye on the city government’s useful Twitter feed.

Museo Evita

For an unbiased view of Eva “Evita” Perón’s life and legacy… well, good luck with that. No figure in Argentine history is more polarizing, and the association that runs this place is firmly in the pro camp of the former first lady. Still, the museum’s posters, paintings, lavish gowns, and other exhibits will at least help you understand Evita’s unquestionable, and persistent, significance. Don’t skip the beautiful terrace café.

Museo del Bicentenario

Housed in what used to be the city’s fort, behind what is now the Pink House, this impressive space was developed to mark the bicentenary of Argentina’s independence revolution of 1810. Exhibits range from old campaign posters (interesting) to the presidential porcelain (dull). The highlight is Mexican muralist David Siqueiros’s restored Plastic Army, a monumental work that he completed in collaboration with several first-rate Argentine artists, including Antonio Berni.

Museo Xul Solar

Sailor, mathematician, linguist, writer, crackpot (he claimed to exist in his own personal time zone), friend of Jorge Luis Borges and, most importantly, painter, Xul Solar (1887-1963) was a one-off. This museum—an award-winning purpose-built construction—exhibits many of his best-known paintings, in which contorted humanoids and fabulous creatures coexist with strange machines, creating a genre that might fairly be described as Paul Klee meets steampunk.

Museo de la Pasión Boquense

Attached to La Bombonera, legendary home ground of Boca Juniors soccer club, this loud and garish museum traces the team’s (mostly) glorious history. There are audio-visual gadgets to pull and push, clips of famous goals and copious tributes to Diego Maradona, as important (in sentiment if not in achievements; he only played one season there at his peak) to Boca as Babe Ruth is to the Yankees.

Museo Nacional del Arte Decorativo

Few of the exhibits in Argentina’s National Museum of Decorative Art match the grandeur of the mansion in which they are housed, an eclectic stunner of a construction from 1911. Still, there are scores of interesting pieces among the 4,000 on show, including sculptures by Rodin, paintings by El Greco and fine porcelain from France and the Far East.