Argentina’s turbulent 2000s art scene on display

The Nora Fisch Gallery is showing Alejandro Ikonicoff’s private collection, featuring art works from the years following the 2001 financial crisis

“There was no money.”

Gallerist Nora Fisch recalls the Argentine art scene back in the early 2000s, in the aftermath of the biggest economical and social crisis in the country, with record figures for unemployment, poverty and destitution.   

“At the time, there were very few galleries and very little support for contemporary art,” Fisch told the Herald.

Her Nora Fisch Gallery in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, recently premiered the exhibit Alejandro Ikonicoff Collection – Works and Documents from the 2000s based on Ikonicoff’s collection, a private set of artwork from that turbulent period in the country. 

This exhibition, which closes on July 20, comes after several prior exhibits the gallery showcased over the last four years, which displayed art from the 1990s.

“As far as I know, there hasn’t been any institutional or private collection focusing broadly on that first decade of the century, so for us, it was important to start to cast an art-historical light on those years,” said Fisch. A well established gallerist in the local scene, she stresses the need to foster local contemporary art while keeping an eye on its recent history. 

The exhibition serves as a time capsule of that era, representing attitudes and activities of the contemporary art scene ushered by a time of financial crisis and social unrest and hardships. 

Many of the artists who began their careers around this time, and whose early works are part of the collection, are now among the most prominent Argentine artists in the global art scene. One example, says Fisch, is Fernanda Laguna, who will have a major retrospective at the Reina Sofía Museum in Spain in 2026. Or Luciana Lamothe, who represents Argentina in this year’s Venice Biennale.

The Collection

Ikonicoff himself was not merely a collector; he was intimately involved in the social atmosphere of the time, beginning with his introduction to the art space Belleza y Felicidad (“Beauty and Happiness”), founded in 2001 by Laguna and poet Cecilia Pavón. He also supported many emerging artists with their productions. Many of the works in his collection resulted not from individual purchases but from exchanges with artists whose showings and exhibitions he sponsored.

Fernanda Laguna

Belleza y Felicidad was an alternative art space that “flourished in the years following the crisis; very free, very open,” Fisch told the Herald. “It was one of the first places in Buenos Aires where queerness could be expressed openly; it was a party space, and there were lots of activities and exhibitions,” she added.

“Belleza y Felicidad became the icon of generational change between the 1990s and 2000s,” Ikonicoff added. He said that the aesthetics that developed there ended up encompassing a “very Argentine identity” that was also inspired by foreign artists like Thomas Hirschhorn and other representatives of the 1990s who relied on a more “trashy” style than what was aesthetically acceptable at the time.

Many of Diego Bianchi’s works, for example, use polyurethane and cement to disrupt the presentation of familiar objects or forms, fostering a sense of unease. His piece Sólo lo feo es atractivo (“Only the ugly is attractive”), a winner of the 2007 ArteBA-Petrobras Visual Arts Prize, satirizes artistic trends and movements by pairing hyper-specific labels such as “poetic utilitarianism” and “accidentalism” with everyday objects and trash in a setup that resembles a supermarket shelf.

According to Alejandra Aguado, the exhibition’s curator, the artists of the 2000s created “a cocktail that included futuristic fantasy, extreme crisis, and a sensation of takeoff.” In the introduction to the exhibit, Aguado noted that their works both represented and utilized “the tensions and experiences brought about by the world of consumption, technological developments, economic precariousness, the excess of urban panorama, and a landscape of social connections — friendship, love affinity — whose nature they made visible.”

Luciana Lamothe – No se pertenecen – 2005

Nora Fisch Gallery
Avenida San Juan 701
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays — 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.


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