Several blogs exist which discuss current events related to the Buenos Aires subte (ongoing construction, union & concession problems, maintenance, etc.), but someone could easily dedicate an entire blog to the system’s tilework. A few years ago, I almost put together a guided tour of the subway just to showcase the variety, artistry, originality & modern interventions being taken underground in BA. This post is a taste of that, along with some personal favorites.
The A Line is great for Old World charm but not so much for tile murals. The B Line hides its original tiles—they’ve been cemented over—but new panels are popping up all the time. One piece of art at the Carlos Gardel station incorporates children’s themes with the famous tango singer, but it comes off as creepy:
My favorite B Line artwork is down in the grungy Uruguay station: a 1991 comic tile panel depicting the science fiction work El Eternauta. Wonderfully spooky:
Modern panels seem to pop up everywhere. Mafalda makes an appearance, multiple references to tango can be found, Quinquela Martín depicts La Boca & there’s even a reproduction of the gaucho-themed “El de laj once y sais” by Florencio Molina Campos. Definitely work seeking out.
Another modern fave can be found in a tunnel connecting the Lima station of the A Line to the Avenida de Mayo station of the C Line. Placed in 2002 just after the economic crash, Horacio Altuna reproduced some of his classic characters to walk along with commuters in a life-size mural & made some interesting social commentary:
The C Line is a treat for me because I’m a confessed Iberophile. Construction of the line was financed in the 1930’s by a Spanish company who also imported tiles for its decoration. Murals depict different regions in Spain with their landmark buildings, & it’s fun to try to identify each before the train leaves the station. Copper & blue tiles with the text “There is no victor but Allah” in Independencia station obviously reference the Alhambra, but finding the Segovia aqueduct in the Avenida de Mayo station is almost like being there:
So much great art can be found on the D Line (top photo, depicting subway construction & downtown skyscrapers), but for unknown reasons many of the original tiles have been covered in recent years. I remember entering the Facultad de Medicina station one day & immediately felt disoriented. After a few minutes I realized that the blue tiles had been hidden. Shame on Metrovías… their concession should be revoked:
The D Line also has a bit of secret art. The tunnel which runs underneath Avenida Santa Fe at the Pueyrredón station contains three panels of 1930’s modern tiles by the Cattaneo company. They were responsible for much of the decoration of the line.
Stopping to study the panels, it becomes obvious that each row was reversed top to bottom on purpose. My mind could never quite put the whole image together, especially with everyone rushing by. But Photoshop comes to the rescue! Below is a full image of single panel as it appears in the tunnel, followed by a detail shot & the corrected version to show how the piece was originally designed. A few tiles are misplaced, most likely the result of having fallen off & no one having the original schematic. Way cool… someone should do the other two panels:
Most visitors probably don’t take the E Line through the southern part of Buenos Aires. Too bad because it has some stunning work as well. The banana harvesters in Jujuy station are lovely:
But my favorite of all scenes is in the General Urquiza station, depicting the arrival of Urquiza into Buenos Aires after the defeat of Rosas. All the victory celebration you’d ever need:
Hopefully this sampling of tilework in the BA subway will inspire someone to document it all, & help everyone stop to appreciate one of the best artistic bits of the city.