About Center of Contemporary Art
  • Presentation

    The fourth headquarters of the MUNTREF is the implementation of a new milestone in the project of democratization of culture and art for all.
    Started in 2012, the MUNTREF-CAC is also located in the legendary Hotel de Inmigrantes de Buenos Aires. The multicultural dimension of memories, travels and hopes that this building encloses interact with what contemporary art artists that integrate and integrate installations and exhibitions express.
    Through research and dialogue processes between artists and curators, the Contemporary Art Center promotes and disseminates contemporary artistic and cultural practices, with the aim of consolidating the participation of diverse cultural and social actors. It is an active platform for dialogue, action and participation, where processes for the exchange of knowledge and experiences are generated, through the dynamics and strategies of contemporary art, culture and technology, with the aspiration to create in each exhibition and with each intervention a space of knowledge and interpellation to the public.

  • The History of the Hotel of Inmigrants

    With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the social, economic and political changes that it brought along, about thousands of people were driven to emigrate in search of better horizons. Until the 1870s, transoceanic trips were very long but technological improvements managed to shorten them to a couple of weeks. From that moment, the contingents of immigrants grew year after year. This situation forced the national authorities to provide effective assistance to the new arrivals. Different buildings were used for this purpose until at the end of the 19th century it became essential to face the construction of a complex that had all the comforts and services necessary for the adequate attention of newcomers.

    In 1905 the construction of the complex began, the first work was the wharf with all the amenities to provide assistance to the passengers of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and the Customs Office, the Prefecture and the National Office of Hygiene were completed at the end of 1907. The next year were built the Administration building and the Directorate building. In 1909 the Infirmary, Laundries and Baths were finished. Finally, the building where the dining room and bedrooms would be was inaugurated in 1911. The dining room, the kitchen, the bakery and the butcher shop were on the ground floor, the bedrooms were on the top three floors, four per floor with capacity for 250 people each. This building was one of the first built in reinforced concrete in the city and it respected all the standards of hygienism of the time: tiled walls, large windows to ventilate, wide corridors and easy to clean stairs.

    The routine of those who were staying there was very strict, at six o'clock in the morning the attendants woke up the guests and the breakfast was organized in shifts of a thousand people. Then the women would take care of the laundry and of the children while men processed their placement in the Labour Office. Everyone could enter and leave the Hotel freely. Lunch was served at noon, the menus varied between soup, stew with meat, puchero, pasta, rice or casseroles, and at three in the afternoon snack for the children. From six o'clock the dinner shifts began and at seven o'clock the bedrooms opened. Throughout the day courses were offered on the use of agricultural machinery, housework, there were also conferences and projections on history, geography and Argentine legislation. The period of accommodation was stipulated in five days according to the law, but many people could stay longer.

    The Hotel operated until 1953, and throughout its history about one million people stayed there. In 1990, by Decree No. 2402, it was declared a National Historic Monument.

  • UNTREF Management at the Inmigrants Hotel

    Contents about the restoration process carried out by UNTREF / MUNTREF in the IMMIGRANTS HOTEL

    The old Immigrant Hotel, which had been inaugurated in 1911 and records the passage of the last migrant hosted there in 1953, was later abandoned to its own fate in such a way that due to the passage of time and various different uses it entered into a process of increasing deterioration.

    When in 2010 we began to develop from MUNTREF what would later be the Project: BOLTANSKI BUENOS AIRES, we carried out a search of sites that by their history could be relevant for the French artist who would perform there a specific site installation and whose interest has always been to unveil the layers of memory as a constituent part of the contemporary human experience. In 2011 we made a "curated" tour of the city of Buenos Aires starting from Caseros, the MUNTREF headquarters on the campus of the University, where part of this vast exhibition project was carried out and from there we visited several places among which was the IMMIGRANTS HOTEL.

    That was one of the sites chosen for one of the major interventions that Christian Boltanski made. Recovering it for the cultural circuit of the city MIGRANTS which is the title of this installation occupied the entire third floor of the Hotel. The action of the UNTREF in this first stage was the cleaning, stabilization of masonry, windows, stairwells and general sanitation of the southern access, from the Ground Floor to the third floor including the stairs and the respective landings. In addition, among these tasks of stabilization of the building, the fixing of some areas of the facade was also carried out.

    At the end of MIGRANTES, the space had been reinstalled, and began to operate within the cultural circuit. It was then when the rector of UNTREF headed by Aníbal Jozami (Rector) and Martín Kaufmann (Vice-Rector) decided to carry out a more ambitious recovery program. This involved, on the one hand, the signing of a loan agreement between UNTREF and the National Directorate of Migration - an institution that occupies part of the office and archive building - to carry out the recovery of part of the building and, above all, to develop the then postponed MUSEUM OF IMMIGRATION. To this, the development of the CONTEMPORARY ART CENTER for cultural diversity was added as a counterpoint. Both museums were designed by the Rectorship in collaboration with Diana Wechsler, deputy director of research and curatorship, as part of the UNTREF museum complex: the MUNTREF.

    Thereafter, UNTREF initiated the recovery process of the IMMIGRANTS HOTEL allowing optimum use of the spaces through successive stages. The criteria used for the restoration were the most current ones, which allow not only the recovery of the historical architecture but also its re-functionalization taking into account the reversibility of the actions carried out on the building in question. In this sense, the original tiles and floors were rescued along with the original ground floor (when dismantling later constructions that distorted it and put at risk the stability of the third floor given the weight overload that these spurious concrete constructions supposed for the old original structure ).

    Likewise, were eliminated partitions that cut the spatiality of the halls, and sanitary facilities that did not correspond to the original plant. In this way, the third floor was fully recovered, with its original spatial distribution: an extensive corridor, crossed by a large transept with a marble table and two rows of benches of the same material at its sides, plus two rows of wood and concrete benches coated with tiles on the perimeter of the west side of the transept and two long pools with their water dumps on the side walls on the east side of the transept. This net cross of a corridor and cruise delimits the four large rooms that once housed 250 people each, which meant that each floor could accommodate 1,000 immigrants.

    Of these four rooms, the two that face the city were aimed for the MUNTREF IMMIGRATION MUSEUM and the two with the river view for the MUNTREF CENTER OF CONTEMPORARY ART. The transit areas (corridor, transept, ground floor, accesses, stairs, landings) were fully recovered respecting the original materials and configuration, with the purpose of evoking the "memories of the place".

    The recovery tasks were carried out by the architecture department of UNTREF, directed by Architect Gonzalo Garay, and with advice of engineers and architects specialized in historic-and heritage value buildings. After a while, the Ground Floor was reoccupied: with the reception of the Museum where the public can consult the migration database and investigate their origins, consult the bibliography and see the EDUNTREF publications, as well as drinking a coffee in a reconstructed space that evokes the old dining room; using the small side rooms the Multiple Use Room was also installed on one side and on the other the UNTREF Preventive Materials and Conservation Research Center.

    So the task of designing and carrying out the construction of the external circulation column integrated by two elevators and an emergency staircase contained within a modern structure of iron and glass and connected by a bridge in PB and another in the third Plant of the same materials of the original building. This work was designed by Estudio Lama-Soler with a contemporary concept to differentiate itself from the original building, and was evaluated and approved by the National Commission of Monuments and Historic Heritage of the Nation, since the building of the IMMIGANTS HOTEL had already been declared National Historical Monument in 1992.

    The task represented a great challenge since the study of soils revealed the need for deep foundations. After a year, this transparent structure not only fulfills the functionality of facilitating access to the museums that operate on the third floor but it also offers the possibility of having views of the city and the river to the public, with complete free access as you can´t find in any other point of our seafront.

    In short, the task of rehabilitation of the IMMIGRANTS HOTEL, carried out by UNTREF, re-settled in the touristic-cultural and historical circuit of the city of Buenos Aires the active presence of an emblematic building of our historical-cultural memory. The standards of the undertaken work as well as the quality of the projects proposed in its rooms and halls puts MUNTREF, globally, at the same level of other spaces with the same characteristics.

    Dr. Diana B. Wechsler
    Principal Investigator CONICET
    Art and Culture Research Institute Director UNTREF
    Sub.Dir. Invest. and curator MUNTREF Buenos Aires, Argentina