Popping In

(Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanle AR.)

My first narrative piece for Juanele AR. It’s an account of my weekend with the 20- and 30-something artists of Pop Up Galleries, a four-day art “intervention” in Las Cañitas. Pop Up is interesting for a bunch of reasons: The building which Pop Up’s artists were given to transform is a mansion located in one of the first of the city’s tenement districts to gentrify; it was disused for decades and now it’s going to be a boutique hotel. Though many of the participating artists work primarily in the street, photographers, performance artists, and gallery artists were also included, and everyone was really excited to see everyone else at work. The general public was invited in to watch the whole process. And the event, which seemed to overflow with street cred, was sponsored by a multinational beverage manufacturer. So there was a lot to work with.

I’ve copied the intro below. You can read the whole thing on Juanele’s website, where you can also see a bunch more of Andy’s photos.

* * * * *

The original idea was to blow it all up.

Find a crumbling building, assemble a group of artists, give them 72 hours to transform it — and then, kaboom.

“I wanted to remove the idea of possession,” Poeta explained to me, coloring his explosive fantasy with a more intellectual hue. Yet the long-disused early 20th Century Las Cañitas mansion doubling as backdrop for our conversation — a space suddenly teeming with a dozen artists launching into three days of creation — wasn’t going to be detonating any time soon. It was going to become a boutique hotel.

Poeta — a Buenos Aires street artist born Christian Riffel and a contributor to the walls of Juanele HQ — had put his initial plan on hold in order to organize Pop Up Galleries, the first in a series of artistic “interventions” in “unconventional” spaces. It was to be, he told me, “something very new” in a “very old house.”

(Poeta. Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanele AR.)

Bringing together young creatives from across the visual arts spectrum — street muralists, gallery painters, a photographer, a performance artist — Pop Up Galleries gave its participants a theme (“The passage of time”), three days to work, free supplies, and their own room. On two of those three days, Pop Up would invite the public in to watch it all unfold. And then, after one final afternoon of public viewing, it would close its doors, leaving the art to be preserved or destroyed according to the future hotelier’s whims.

Poeta and I were standing in what felt like an impromptu supply room — a gorgeous wood-paneled salon which had weathered its years of abandonment remarkably well, and which the Pop Up crew wasn’t allowed to touch. There, sharing space with paint-splattered tarps, brushes, and a full spectrum of spray-paint cans, was a small army’s worth of Red Bull promotional products waiting not to be appropriated (as street artists are wont to do) but to be deployed. The company’s House of Art campaign — already responsible for a two-year-old artists’ residency in Sao Paulo — was going to make its Buenos Aires debut by bringing Poeta’s vision to life.

Red Bull had given Pop Up its wings. I had come to see if it could fly.

(Click here to keep reading.)

(Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanele AR.)

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