Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brushes with History

High on my list when visiting a major metropolis for the first time, is to check out its most fabulous art supply store(s). I had been in Buenos Aires a whole week already and had so far found a stationery store with some drawing pads and paints in the back. There was also a high-end store with fancy paint sets secured in sleek glass cases. So when I noticed the Association Estimulo de Bella Artes, I thought perfect, here’s where I can find out where the artists go. The raucous graffiti covering the building’s entrance, lead me to expect walls encrusted with posters and flyers, along with the requisite assortment of pierced, tattooed, and otherwise tribally marked art students.

The cool serenity of the interior took me completely by surprise, as did the emptiness.

After a nonproductive encounter with a Spanish-only speaking guard, I followed the irresistible curve of the staircase to my next surprise. A curious antique cabinet was tucked under the first landing. The forest of sticks inside it turned out to be a carefully installed collection of brushes. Each one stood upright in its own little hole with a white identifying label—each had once belonged to a teacher at the school. The palette perched atop the cabinet read ‘PINCELES CON HISTORIA.’

So I never did find the quintessential art supply store I imagined that there had to be in BA, but I was richly rewarded for my quest.

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