Interconnected spirit at Buenos Aires art museum stands out amid nationalism’s rise ahead of G20

  • Brazilian artist Tarsila Do Amaral's ‘cannibalism painting’ is a symbol of diversity and inclusiveness in Latin America
  • Artwork highlighted for tour spoke loudly that all regions globally were interconnected
PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 6:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 6:34am

As the Group of 20 leaders grapple with trade tensions, nationalism and other unpleasant subjects, host Argentina risks injecting another, more frightening, idea into the mix: cannibalism.

At the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA), which will host first ladies and G20 attendees on Saturday, a selection of artwork highlighted for the official tour spoke loudly that all regions around the world were interconnected.

Among the paintings by a group of Latin American artists from Brazil, Chile and Argentina, one of the most eye-catching was Brazilian artist Tarsila Do Amaral's oil painting Abaporu, a title which, in the extinguished Tupi language of Brazil, translates to “the man that eats people”.

At first glance, the brightly coloured work illustrated a bare-skinned abstract human figure basking beneath a bright yellow sun with a green cactus in the background. But the painting actually represented a character digesting a freshly eaten person, according to MALBA spokeswoman Soledad Alvarez Campos.

“The cannibalism sounds horrible, but the message is beautiful,” Campos said. “It is not about eating humans; it represents the absorption of different cultures into one.”

As one of Brazil's most important artworks, this painting has been a symbol of diversity and inclusiveness in Latin America. The Brazilian government borrowed it from Argentina when former US president Barack Obama visited Brazil in 2011.

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MALBA, founded in 2001 and boasting a collection of 700 artworks, is by no means the country's largest art museum. The Argentina National Museum of Fine Arts, which dates back to 1895 and has more than 7,000 works in its collection, easily dwarfs the modern art museum.

“Part of the reason this museum was chosen over the more established one is because the collection really represents the identity of Latin America” by showing the essence of the Latin culture, museum founder and chairman Eduardo Costantini said.

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That interconnectedness was also highlighted in 90-year-old Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc's Six Circles in Contortion, a kinetic artwork with six metal circles moving in tandem.

The piece sums up what the G20 represents by showing that “when one thing changes its shape, it is inevitably changing what’s surrounding it”, Campos said. “That's not just art, it's also true for our economy in the world.”