Travelling in Argentina, Chile & Uruguay for Art and Antiques
Uruguay is a beautiful nation, filled with history and culture. Like Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile, Montevideo is a cosmopolitan metropolis which received a strong influx of immigrants throughout its history. The interesting combination of indigenous population and European immigrants resulted in a rich and varied culture that shares some of the old continent's features at the time it adds new meaning to some others because of its own particular evolution.
A perfect place in which we can witness that very unique combination is at Montevideo's markets and fairs.
Tristan Narvaja Fair is Montevideo's largest and most important antique fair, featuring apart from all sorts of antiques, collectibles and memorabilia, food, cloths and all sorts of kick knacks. Every Sunday from early in the morning to mid afternoon, the tens of blocks that conform the fair begin to populate with thousands of visitors, antique dealers, collectors and curious passers-by’s.
On Saturday morning, the option in Montevideo is the open air market of the old city: Plaza Matriz. Located in front of the Cabildo building, this fair less extensive than the Tristan Narvaja one has all sorts of antiques and collectibles, from books to medals, furniture, clothing and even some interesting handcrafts.
The main focus and attraction for dealers and collectors, as we said before is Tristan Narvaja fair. Interesting and appealing for all its evident virtues, this fair has a lot to offer to the visitor who understands the order in the mess, the sounds in the noise, and the particular smells in a mix combination of odours. That's the way fairs are. Complex, chaotic, complicated, and very interesting if one dares to experience the journey to its fullness.
This fair, like the majority of the Latin American fairs does not share the order and tidiness of European or American Markets. It is not solely an antique fair, it's a fair that features all things that might be needed by someone at one point, and that were owned by someone who doesn't need them any more. Many of the antiques shown there are not understood as antiques -though many others are- and that's why the range of price is so variable. All these kind of markets were established in Latin America during economical crisis, when people began to sell its belongings to make a living, and they remained as non-standardized Markets. The best ally when hunting in this market is the trained and keen eye of the expert who manages to highlight among a pile of useless junk a valuable collectible or antique, and who has the ability of bargaining the price with the owner. Someone once said that the best antique dealer's work takes place in a mix combination of detective skills and junkman, a treasure hunter in a packed warehouse of useless items where you might find that perfect object that's not only significant in terms of aesthetics and style but also in terms of cultural value.
Don't doubt it, these fairs are filled with amazing items, objects, pieces of furniture, artworks and other interesting findings, the key here is to have the virtue of patience and the keenness of the train eye.
Bob Frassinetti, Buenos Aires, Argentina