In the next couple of days, the richly illustrated coffee table book Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires, a Love Story by Art Nouveau collector and museum curator Anat Meidan will be released worldwide. A rare opportunity to learn more about the history of Buenos Aires, and how this magnificent metropolis in the southern hemisphere got to have such an abundant Art Nouveau architecture.
Let me side track you for a moment. When I was a little girl, I always knew I would marry a prince one day. The Dutch crown prince, that is.
He was born in 1967, I in 1971. We were both tall, blond, not too bad-looking and smart… What could possibly go wrong?
Twenty years later it turned out that he would marry another tall, smart, good looking blond girl ‘made in 1971’. But hey, who can blame him?!? Even I would fall in love with her!
Máxima Zorreguieta was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She grew up in the Recoleta neighbourhood, an area of great historical and architectural interest, due to its European-inspired architecture as well as the distinguished Recoleta Cemetery. Apparently, when they met, my prince told Máxima his name was ‘Alexander’. He didn’t want her to know he was a prince. She thought he was joking when he later told her that he was not only a prince, he was also the heir to the Dutch throne. I imagine they didn’t want the Dutch media to find out about their courtship right away, and often met far away from The Netherlands, in beautiful Buenos Aires.
Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires, a Love Story
At the same time as the romance between Máxima and Alexander developed from a tender first love into one of deep affection, yet another love affair developed in Buenos Aires. Anat Meidan, an Israeli collector of Art Nouveau moved to the metropolis to accompany her husband for work.
“One day, soon after our arrival in the city, I bought a postcard with photographs of doors, gates and domes in the style of Art Nouveau, with details of the location of the buildings. This was a fortuitous purchase! From the moment I first held this small postcard in my hands, I was sure that these images would accompany me on a fascinating journey, the course of which was yet to be revealed to me.”
Like I do when I travel, Anat strolled around the area of her hotel on the first day and feasted her eyes and ears on the sights and sounds of the city after many long hours of flying. In the days that followed, she attempted to uncover the city’s mysteries. Door after door, gate after gate, every entrance would reveal a dazzling new world to her.
“Sometimes a visit included a conversation with a resident who had difficulty understanding why I wanted to know how it felt to live in a historical building of such beauty that for him was simply a place of residence and not the destination of a pilgrimage.”
Anat admits that she was completely taken by surprise by the quality of the Art Nouveau buildings in the city and gradually it occurred to her that she should document, photograph and write about the colorful diversity of the buildings. As she realised she couldn’t do this alone, she asked the help of Gustavo Sosa Pinilla, a renowned Argentinean photographer.
“We were constantly struck by the graciousness and willingness of people who were ready to open the door of their homes to complete strangers and to allow us to take photographs from their balcony or window of the buildings on the other side of the street. To this day, after so many years, I still feel emotional when I recall these simple acts of trust and friendship that were such special experiences for me, and for which I will always be grateful.”
Anat worked 17 years on the book that is now about to be released worldwide so you and I can follow in her footsteps as she discovered the Art Nouveau jewels of Buenos Aires.
The first part of this impressive book is an introduction where Anat takes us by the hand on a journey in a city she so clearly loves, allowing us to see through her eyes. “I felt the desire to perpetuate the buildings…” and that is exactly what she did. I could feel her curiosity pulling me around the next corner to look at yet another beautiful building. Yes, I could even feel her feet when she would finally sit down for a coffee, overcome with fatigue from strolling hour after hour.
What the first part does too, is answer questions that come to mind during this journey into Art Nouveau Buenos Aires. Questions like “How did this bleak port town become such a world-class cosmopolitan in such a short period of time?”, “Which segment of the population was able to adopt the new Art Nouveau style and why?” and “What motivated architects, engineers and artists to leave their country of origin and migrate to Buenos Aires?”. This well researched history lesson gives the book the extra ‘bite’ that makes it stand out way above all the other coffee table books.
The second part of the book addresses the long list of architects responsible for most of the Art Nouveau buildings in Buenos Aires. Being Dutch, I was most surprised to find out that Club Español at 172 Bernardo de Irogoyen Avenue was designed by a Dutch architect called Enrique Folkers!
“Club Español was designed to serve the Spanish community and the architect adhered to the origins of this client. Upon entering the building it is easy to imagine that you have stumbled upon the cave of Ali Baba. I did not find gold coins and jewels, but I found a wealth of styles I had never come across before. As I slowly climbed the stairs I was overwhelmed by my surroundings and my eyes were barely able to take in the wealth of mirrors, ornate decorations, frescoes, paintings and sculptures carved by renowned Spanish artists.” Ha! Who said the Dutch didn’t do Art Nouveau!?
The last section of the book is called “The Beauty is in the Details” as Anat Meidan wants to draw our attention to what she calls ‘Unnoticed Decorative Ornaments’. “I wish to share these with you as they have played a key role in sparking my imagination and leading to my love affair with the Art Nouveau of Buenos Aires. The beauty is, indeed, in the details.”
Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires, a Love Story is a meticulously researched, richly illustrated book, with hundreds of splendid photographs. It’s a travel book and above all a biographical love story. And thanks to the excellent skills of Naomi Bousso who translated the book from Hebrew to English, it’s an absolute pleasure to read. In Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires, a Love Story Anat Meidan portrays the city and it’s inhabitants with such a warmth and enthusiasm, I am now more than ever convinced that everything has turned out just fine. While I have found myself a good man who is not so much a prince but loves Art Nouveau as much as I do, Máxima has what it takes to be our warm and compassionate queen.
Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires, a Love Story
Autor: Anat Meidan
Publisher: Ediciones Poligrafa S.A.
Size: 30.5 x 25 cm
No. of pages: 242
Hardcover (cloth with jacket)
Weight: 1,93 kg
Anat Meidan: Una historia de amor
Asociación Art Nouveau Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Art Nouveau Expo 2017
Club Español website
Club Español wikipage
The Art of an Enlightening Exchange
Máxima Zorreguieta’s Wikipage