The show’s title is Lo que paso en la navidad de 1980 (What Happened in the Christmas of 1980), and it displays Works by artists Santiago Villanueva y Paula Castro


At Christmas 1980 the first robbery of the National Museum of Fine Arts organized by the military government was registered. That night they took 16 works and 7 objects from the Santamarina collection, only two small paintings that were robbed did not belong to it: a sketch from “Un episodio de la fiebre amarilla” from Blanes and a “Thibon” from Libian. During the investigations they tortured their employees trying to cover up the case.


One of the main hypotheses is that the works were traded to Taiwan for weapons, to sustain the final moment of the dictatorship that would end in 1983.


The episode becomes long and rugged. The exhibition does not reconstruct the facts, nor does it document them. It presents some of the material linked to the case on special bases and supports, which exchange the cane, the iron and the orthopedics. It points out the dangers of having a National Museum, but also the danger of the taste of the aristocracy. A question about why these two works with no market value were stolen. A call to attention on how justice worked at that time. All in the nebulous tone of the hypotheses, and of some fictions. The exhibition also opens up the desire for other forms of museums, which do not try to represent territories or nations, which do not accept to support and keep the taste of the rich as if it everyone should felt represented, but rather show it as a particular way of life - particular museums that do not represent but only exhibit, museums that are more like tables and that their claim is to be as small as possible.]


"The artists raise questions around the lack of success of Argentine art in terms of world artistic production, always remaining in an unbearable place. They delve, for this reason, in the search for some orthopedic piece that can fulfill the missing function of this our crippled art, one of them being the domestic curatorship (museum houses) as opposed to the typical museum curatorship” explains Leopol Jose Maria Mones Cazon, one pf the gallery directors



About Santiago’s work

My practice considers art history as an archive of danger, trauma, and feelings from which we can formulate new critical and revisionist counter-stories (or, counter-arguments). I gravitate to the dumb avant-garde, those who didn’t understand the rules or conventions of “the program”, openly spilling their mistaken interpretations and errors; studying the effects of those who carried the burden of their failures. To think of the visual culture of Peronism today as trauma, but also as pink surrealism; a misguided avant-garde. Returning to its images and histories to synthesize productive resources for the present.

Tables are useful for me to get closer to art history; as messy spaces, where the personal is unofficial - lines of desire.

The house museum’s approach arrives closest to my ideal model for museums. Far from authoritarianism and nationalism, they are the closest to a domestic curatorial model that allows us to think about territories from biographical points of view. Replace the national with the biographical, and imagine the historian as a biographer.

Orthopedics is another space that helps me think of a possible historiography, to consider the twentieth century in Latin American art as missing, as forms that come to replace what isn’t possessed, between desire and functionalities. Orthopedics could be objects to disorient common paths and easy categories for the works.



About Paula’s work

I establish a personal way, not necessarily intimate, to link my practice with the processes of concretion of images. Drawing is used as a report language. My practice is characterized not only by combining craft and reflection but also to manifest differently in each project. Investigations and results that even though are close to each other, never respond to the same structural form. During this stylistic avoidance, the repertoire overflows and incorporates other languages. Drawing migrates, reduces and increases its scale, acquire volume or becomes a moving image but never abandon its status as a molecular center. Where the involuntary thinking or making, produces a particular kind of event is where i stop.

My reproduction is endorsed by this coincidence turned into shape. I examine the possible attendance that a replica is capable of producing. What I have falsified leaves for a moment it’s spectrum of replica and it presents itself as original.

The signature, in this case, is more than the recognition of an author, it is the element that allows me to connect art history, to use the quote as a readymade or to discover the possible uses which may carry a work that has been already done.



These objects are based on excerpts or fragments from the stolen pieces on Christmas of 1980 in crossing with orthopedic elements (vase-crutch, walker-object). Orthopedics can be an element from which to formulate a possible historiography for Argentine art, but also to think about a case like the one that happened in the museum during the military dictatorship.




The court case of the theft of the pieces from the Fine Arts Museum was taken up by Judge Laura Damianovich, the only one removed from her position by the same military dictatorship for subjecting those who had to testify before her to acts of torture and beatings. This is why several of the museum employees were persecuted and tortured as part of the investigations, beyond being completely unrelated to the robbery. Among them was Samuel Paz, curator of the museum, who had achieved to get the pieces from the Santamarina’s family into the museum's collection.


This book, published several years after 1980 by Damianovich, was a reference for students of Law School at the University of Buenos Aires, and the former judge kept working not only as a teacher but also as a lawyer. After the robbery, the justice showed the museum’s watchman as the main accused without having evidence and fair causes, and he was detained for more than 20 days subjected to acts of torture.


This bracket created for Damianovich's book can only be held next to a wall and doesn't balance on its own.




This catalog is not directly linked to the theft. It is the catalog of the exhibition on surrealist art organized by Aldo Pellegrini at the Di Tella Institute in 1967, we think this exhibition in line with the works that were shown there and we added the binomial of conceptual surrealism as a category for the objects that make up this exhibition.




With the material collected in the investigation (press, articles, images, documents) a publication was made bringing together arguments and archives of the robbery against the ctitious plane in which the objects and images of the exhibition are presented. The publication includes the le that was opened in 2002 on the occasion of the appearance of three of the pieces in a gallery in Paris, and which were returned to the Museum a few years later.




The les and documentation of museum houses is a piece of work that was already present in the previous exhibition La personas habitan sus biografías como habitan sus casas (People inhabit their biographies as they inhabit their houses). In this case, this is extended to other spaces such as bars, waiting rooms and other museums. The largest number of images belongs to the Bangkokian House in the city of Bangkok, Thailand, a ctional location for the works stolen on Christmas of 1980. At the same time, a copy of Juan Manuel Blanes' An episode of yellow fever appears, detached from the series, a version that is at the Wellcome Collection in London. A small sketch of the larger painting was taken from the MNBA along with the works from the Santamarina’s collection, its whereabouts are still unknown and the reason why it was stolen as well.




In 1980, the MNBA (the National Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires) opened the exhibition "Gold in Colombia" with 300 objects that came directly from the Museo del Oro (Gold museum) in Bogotá, so the museum had to strengthen the security of its rooms. The Association of Friends of the Museum collaborated by hiring the company "Magister Seguridad Integral SRL" led by a retired military general, Otto Paladino, former head of the SIDE- Secretary of State Intelligence, appointed by Videla during the government of Isabel Perón. Paladino had in his possession the museum's oor plan for the deployment of the security operation during this temporary exhibition prior to the theft of the 23 pieces, and his company was strongly linked to the military government as a source of espionage and security. This catalog, and exhibition, is at one point the hinge that connects theft with the government, and reveals the connections between public and private security agencies to cover up criminal acts committed by the government itself.



Galería Isla Flotante

Viamonte 776 2do 4

(C1053ABP) Buenos Aires, Argentina