Modern Art Showcase


Art & Swap: The Innovative Fair Makes Its First Visit to Buenos Aires

Walter Raymond


A Belgian spin on traditional art exhibitions—artists exchanging their work for goods and services—is taking off in Argentina


A surprising backdrop. The port area of Buenos Aires with its high fiscal deposits. High traffic: trucks, heavy loads and machinery all moving under the watchful eyes of guards. To one side, and separated by railroad tracks, a gray area of humble homes. We are only about 20 blocks from the modern center of the Argentine capital, but we seem to be far away from anything. It’s an unexpected area for a modern art showcase.

Art & Swap
Mural by Belgian artist Spear.

Art for Goods and Services

This was the precise destination chosen by the creators of the Art & Swap exhibit, an unusual concept born in Belgium. The initiative is simple, yet impressive. It entails the exchange of exhibited art for goods and services offered by the public. During the event, proposed services were written on Post-it notes and attached to the side of each work. Later, artists chose whatever best fit his/her needs and an exchange took place.

Art & Swap is known worldwide as Art Truc Troc, a Belgian concept that has already become an event with a cult following.

Art & Swap is known worldwide as Art Truc Troc, a Belgian concept that has already become an event with a cult following. With every event, it brings together more and more established and emerging artists, of all disciplines, with an eager audience.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Belgium in Argentina actively supported the first Buenos Aires-based Art & Swap. At the press presentation, held at the residence of the Belgian ambassador Patrick Renault, it was articulated that art can open an enormous range of opportunities that are sometimes surprising because they exceed their own universe. Considering, in this instance, that cultural diplomacy is of vital importance in the current state of international relations.

Art & Swap
Right: Helena Heukeshoven and Ana Martínez Quijano, curators of the exhibition. Matt Fox-Tucker, and the architect Claudia Varela.

Works that Remain and Alter the Landscape

Now, a large mural created by Belgian artist Spear stands in the port. Merging color and art, and using more than 200 liters of paint, the artist illustrates the leader of a local recycling cooperative and a 2-year-old girl, who is the daughter and granddaughter of community members.

This is how the old port came to display the colorful explosion of Polo Cultural Saldías. The gray walls are now adorned with street art and murals, creating a colorful road on the almost forgotten corner of the city, converting it into a vibrant space for art and culture.

The summit brought together dozens of emerging and established artists of Belgian and Argentine origins under curators Helena Heukeshoven, Matt Fox-Tucker and the Argentinean Ana Martínez Quijano, and with the active participation of architect Claudia Varela.  ■


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