If you only know Eva Peron from the musical “Evita,” you owe it to yourself to visit the Argentine Consulate in New York City for the free exhibit, “Evita: Passion and Action.”
This fascinating show includes 50 works of art and items from Evita’s personal wardrobe on loan from the Museo Evita in Buenos Aires. It provides a glimpse into the professional life of Argentina’s most famous first lady and explores how Evita’s image has inspired artists in the 60 years since her death.
Make sure to visit the Argentine Consulate soon, as the exhibit closes on September 28th.
The Many Faces of Evita
At the opening reception, Evita’s grand-niece Maria Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez explained the purpose of the exhibit: to present “the passion, the myth and the reality” of the cultural icon through her personal affects, archival footage and portraits.
Gabriel Ernesto Miremont, the Curator of the Museo Evita, described how many facets of Eva Peron’s life are explored in the featured artwork; one painting casts her as a revolutionary at a protest, while another depicts Evita as a worker in front of billowing smokestacks.
The Consul General of Argentina, Jose Luis Perez-Gabilondo, reminded the audience that, regardless of how Evita is portrayed in artwork, the most important aspect of this exhibit is to demonstrate “the timeless presence of Evita in our cultural heritage.”
That said, the assembled group of journalists, Argentine diplomats and relatives of Evita retired to the salon for Argentine wine (a delicious torrontes) and empanadas.
After glimpsing Evita’s wardrobe at this exhibit, I am not crying for the first lady; in fact, I am envious of her glamorous, 1940s-era dress collection.
During her humble childhood in the provinces, Eva Peron probably didn’t expect to own a Christian Dior black lace gown (valued today at $45,000) or black velvet sandals (currently valued at $5,000), which were likely created by the post-war Argentine equivalent of Manolo Blahnik. In addition to having a gift for connecting with the common man, Evita had an impressive sense of style. It was fitting that the opening reception took place on the same day as Fashion’s Night Out.
Evita’s dress collection is reminiscent of the Smithsonian’s exhibit of the first ladies’ gowns.
Portraits of an icon
The variety of artwork inspired by Eva Peron is impressive. As a cultural icon, she has become a symbol open to many interpretations. One of the more interesting works on display was Juan Maresca’s print, “The Only Privileged Are the Children.” The artist, born in Argentina and living in Brazil, depicted the first lady in a traditional head wrap from Bahia.
In the 1970s, the curator of Museo Evita explained, it was popular to depict Evita as a revolutionary, as in this painting by artist Daniela Jozami.
Driving home the many facets of Evita’s life and artistic interpretations, artist Eduardo Horacio Pla created a digital portrait of Evita comprised of many black and white photos, titled “Evita’s Thousand Faces.”
My personal favorite was Tiziano Fabris’ “Portrait of Eva,” created with enamel and tar on wood planks.
Eva’s niece explained that the opponents of the first lady had criticized her for giving houses to the poor, claiming the recipients had no idea how to enjoy this “luxury” and promptly ripped up the floors for firewood. Hearing her description gave deeper meaning to the work, which at first I assumed was a play on street art.
What: “Evita: Passion and Action” Exhibit
Where: The Argentine Consulate, 12 West 56th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), Manhattan, NY
When: Sept. 7 through Sept. 28, 2012
Hours: Weekdays 10 AM – 5 PM (Also open on one weekend: Sept. 22 and 23 from 9:30 AM to 5 PM)
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