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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (
MainStreet) -- As one of Latin America's premiere art events, as well as one of the preeminent fairs in the contemporary art world,
ArteBA has grown in its 21st year to expect more than 120,0000 visitors for the five-day event starting Friday. Much like New York's Armory or Art Basel, the event features a series of gallery shows and parties in a whirlwind week of art festivities and fair that's almost entirely open to the public.
There are more than 68 art galleries participating in the event as well as exhibitors from neighboring countries such as Chile and Uruguay. This year will feature an extensive auditorium series offering daily Q&A sessions with the industry elite, from curators to critics, including lively art debates and educational exchanges. ArteBA 2012 is to again feature Barrio Joven-Chandon, a festival program that showcases emerging Latin and Argentine talent in a stand-alone exhibition.
ArteBA is a preeminent art event that has grown to envelope the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires every year in May.
Key to the event, running from 1 to 9 p.m. daily, is Buenos Aires' La Rural, a nearly 30-acre complex near the city center that offers top eateries and such tourist destinations as the city zoo and botanical gardens. Those looking for the most convenient hotel address during the fair should opt for one in the trendy Palermo neighborhoods such as Palermo Soho, where they'll discover an array of boutique hotels such as
Jardin Escondido --- the home turned micro-hotel of Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola.
Jardin Escondido is a stylish refuge, largely unknown to fans of the larger, glossier hotel names present in the city such as
Four Seasons and
Park Hyatt(H). Like the chicest bed and breakfast you've ever stayed in, the Jardin Escondido property is available on a per-room or wholly reserved basis. Its meandering compound is covered in vined foliage along three levels that frame a main courtyard, pool deck and outdoor kitchen with parrilla. Rooms capture cinematic Argentine at its best, from their rustic hardwood or terra cotta floors to step-out balconies where a sommelier kept on staff is more than happy to deliver you one of Coppola's own bottles.
Those staying at the
Faena Hotel + Universe during ArteBA will find convenient access to the
Faena Arts Center, one of the city's newest modern art destinations. Having already made Puerto Madero one of the city's hottest and most expensive neighborhoods with a famed hotel by Philippe Starck and nearby residential projects such as El Aleph by architect Norman Foster, hotelier Alan Faena has spearheaded a namesake project that looks to root further development in the area with cultural landmarks built around art. A member of the Tate's Latin American acquisitions committee and benefactor of the Faena Arts Prize, Faena plans an Arts Center exhibition of large-scale installations by Cuban artists Los Carpinteros during ArteBA.
There's no shortage of high-wattage dining options to satiate VIP art buyers, but look for newcomer
Unik in Palermo Soho to be one of the toughest reservations of the weekend. Unik's architectural storefront houses the work of owner Marcelo Joulia, including dark hardwood floors that contrast with exposed concrete beams and a lofty design that connects a rear garden and dining room arranged with '60s and '70s midcentury items from Denmark, France and Italy. Upstairs are the design offices of Joulia, who in addition to Unik has penned more than 20 restaurants worldwide, including in Paris.
In terms of nightlife, a few names remain a Buenos Aires constant for burning the 4 a.m. oil, from Tequila to Jet Lounge, which offer more VIP dancing per square foot of canvas than even the best New York clubs. For a few less amps there's
Frank's Bar, which recreates a Prohibition-era New York speakeasy infused with some of the coolest characters in Buenos Aires nightlife. The design of the space can wow even art purists with its brocade Victorian-era wallpaper and polished mahogany bar and chrome stools. Double crystal chandeliers are suspended from the rafters as DJs spin a mix of indie rock and house in an arty scene that's just as lively at 10 p.m. as it is at 2 a.m. during ArteBA weekend.