Iconic Argentine art piece ‘Manifestación’ gets tribute show 

Artistic duo Mondongo staged a version of Antonio Berni’s landmark 1924 painting and a site-specific installation of a deprived neighborhood in Buenos Aires’ MALBA.

Antonio Berni’s 1924 Manifestación, one of the main art pieces in the Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art’s (MALBA) permanent collection, is being honored by the contemporary art duo Mondongo in a new exhibition that opened on June 14 and will be on display until September 23.

An iconic painting of the new realism Berni promoted in the 1930s to denounce inequality, exclusion and poverty, Manifestation was originally conceived as a movable mural that could be displayed at strikes and political rallies. 

Antonio Berni’s Manifestación

The Mondongo Manifestación exhibit includes a three-dimensional clay-made version of Berni’s painting featuring contemporary artists, activists, and acquaintances of the artists in place of the original faces of low-income workers. According to the artists, the choices of the people in the piece were a way of stating a genealogical review of how Argentine art represented excluded communities and social protest. The piece was purchased by MALBA’s owner, art collector and real-estate mogul Eduardo Costantini.

The exhibit also includes a two-meter tondo piece called Villa II, which depicts scenes from slums in Buenos Aires, Dharavi, and Río de Janeiro. The show also features a large site-specific installation that recreates a non-urbanized community inside the museum, focusing on the precarious housing settlements (villas miseria) that emerged in Argentina in the second half of the 20th century. 

Mondongo’s Villa II

Born in 1905 in Rosario, Santa Fe, Berni advocated for an artistic commitment to social issues. In the 1920s, Berni made the series Juanito Laguna, which portrays the life of a poor boy and combines elements of collage and social realism to convey the plight of the disadvantaged in Argentina. He was also a political activist close to the Communist Party. according to him, in the face of a harsh reality that “hurts your eyes,” artists are forced to “live with their eyes open.” 

“Berni is a central artist in our work, because he somewhat paved the way for us to paint the world with diverse and meaningful materials,” said Mondongo artists Juliana Laffitte and Manuel Mendanha. 

Created in 1999, Mondongo’s production addresses recurring topics in the history of art, addressing existing debates around work — as a fundamental condition of human life — the economy and systems of power, usually through the use of plain, industrial materials. Famous for their portraits of relevant local figures (Diego Maradona made with gold chains, Che Guevara made with bullets), Mondongo became famous in the early 2000s when the Spanish royal family commissioned a series of portraits from them.

“We understand that the themes and forms that make up this multifaceted portrait that is Manifestation are projected from 90 years ago to the present day, and continue to have the ability to challenge us in a profound and beautiful way,” they wrote for the show’s introduction.

Manifestación in Focus

The Mondongo exhibit is part of MALBA’s institutional project Manifestación in Focus, an interdisciplinary investigation into the material, historical and cultural aspects of the piece, which began in 2021.

According to the project’s description, Manifestación’s materials and technique — tempera paint on burlap bags sewn together — are consistent with the situation of the popular classes it represented, while the new resources it uses, such as cinematographic framings, and multiple points of view, “accounts for a modern look on the subject”.

“The multiple study of this piece will allow us to know not only aspects of its materiality and pictorial procedures but will also expand the circulation of knowledge and ideas about the artist and the work, which so far have been limited to debates among specialists,” wrote MALBA’s chef curator María Amalia García. 

“This project — which will be gradually completed with new content — ​​is, without a doubt, a great advance in the study and the consolidation and promotion of the knowledge about the work and its author.”

Mondongo Manifestación
June 14 — September 23
MALBA –  Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415 – CABA
Sala 1. Floor -1
Guided tours on Mondays and Fridays at 5 p.m.
(IncIuded in the price of the admission ticket)


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald