Buenos Aires Travel Planet

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Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo


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In a city with such great history, it is not uncommon for old buildings to be repurposed for new uses and projects. While this is overwhelmingly true for common houses, it is also sometimes the case for more important buildings, such as palaces and estates.

What started as a retirement home for a wealthy first-generation Argentine later became on of the city’s fine museums, the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, or the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo. This museum is unique in that the majority of its collection came to it before it was actually a museum.

It all started in 1897 when Matías Errazúriz, the Ambassador to France born to Chilean emigrants, married Josefina de Alvear, a member of the influential and important Argentine Alvear family. The Errazúriz were a quite powerful family in Chile, and so their marriage to the Alvear family made sense on many levels.

In anticipation of Matías Errazúriz’s retirement from the diplomatic corps, the newlyweds decided to build a grand retirement home in 1911, choosing French architect René Sergent for the job. Sergent is known for his work across Buenos Aires, and had quite an influence on the mansion culture here. For this particular building, he used almost all European materials, from the mirrors to the woodworks to the marble.

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At the time-from 1906 to 1917, in fact-the couple and their two children lived in France due to Matías’ political activity, and began collecting an immense amount of antiques and works of art.

Five years later, the Neoclassical palace was completed, and the couple immediately dove into the job of decorating it, furnishing it with all sorts of antiques and art pieces from all over the world, including Europe and Asia. Needless to say, the palace in and of itself had become a work of art. In fact, the current United States Ambassador’s home is modeled after the Errazúriz home, which was built by the Bosch family.

The couple, however, never got to enjoy their home as planned. In 1935, Josefina passed away, and grief-stricken Matías listened to his son and daughter, who pushed him to sell the building to the Argentine government. He did so on one condition: that it be converted into a museum. For more information on museums in Buenos Aires, see this Buenos Aires Travel Guide.

In 1937 his request was realized, and the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo was born. Not too much changed; the house kept its original layout and continues to display its original artifacts to this day.

The ground floor has an impressive entrance hall, antechamber and great hall, each built in a different style. While the overall style of the building can be called Neoclassic, in reality it was more of an experiment in eclecticism, with Regency, Rococo, Renaissance and Neoclassicism all coexisting. The ground floor is also home to a dining room, winter garden, ballroom, and the Room of the Madame and the Study of Mr. Matías de Errázuriz. The first floor is where the private rooms of the family were located, including their private living rooms, bedrooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms, of which each family member had one.

There are many temporary exhibits that are housed there today, and various cultural seminars are also presented in this Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo , as well as choral concerts. A café complements the museum, and visitors can enjoy their choices outside during fair weather.

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