Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Feliz Año Nuevo, and a note re buying art in Argentina

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

So for New Year's Eve in Buenos Aires, we attended a great party at Estilo Campo on the water in Puerto Madero.  The restaurant is a typical parilla, a place that serves the traditional grilled meat, sausage, etc, but for the holiday they took reservations for a single seating for the night's festivities.  We had the table for the night, and there was a dance floor with DJ, and intermittent tango shows weaving between the tables, and we could pop outside to take in the perfect weather and the fireworks over the water.  It was a blast and the crowd was fun and friendly; perfect for our party of four in a foreign city.  We also took home an excellent souvenir to remind us of our fun trip, this painting:

I noticed it hanging just inside the entrance right away as we were checking in, and since my wife loved it as much as I did, we quickly resolved to inquire about it.  As you can gather from the card in the corner, it was for sale, as were several other pieces throughout the restaurant.  In fact, they were painted by the wife of one of the owners.  But this first one we saw remained our favorite, and we ended up purchasing it.
Very happy with our new acquisition, and also thankful that we were able to keep track of it for the rest of the night and get it back to the hotel undamaged, the next day we tried to ship it home.  Here's the part you should take note of if you ever consider buying art in Argentina: after first being told that we could simply take it to the hotel business center where they would package and ship it for us, we were then informed that due to some law attempting to prevent the smuggling artwork out of the country, you are not allowed to ship such items without going to a bank and somehow obtaining a certificate of authenticity, or something along those lines, we still don't understand what was going on.  We were simply assured that we couldn't ship it, if we tried it would at best be returned to the hotel, at worst disappear down some hole in customs.  They did pack it up, and told us we should take it with us to the airport where we would be able to check it with our luggage, a rough and uncertain fate we were trying to avoid, but could live with.
A couple days later at the airport, however, while checking in the dude noticed our package and told us we could not check the package, due to the same law.  As an alternative, for reasons beyond silliness that escape me, we could carry it on ourselves.  But after inquiring to his superior, it was determined that it was too large for us to carry on. We were instructed to go to the police office elsewhere in the airport to get it inspected and get permission to check it.  So at the police, we find someone who speaks English, who then finds the guy who inspects paintings, who checks it and our passports out briefly and then tells us (through the translator) we are good to go.  No form or paperwork or anything, just an 'ok'.  So we re-pack the painting, go back to check in for the flight, nervously check it with our luggage, and cross our fingers and hope it makes it back to NY with us.
Luckily, it did make it back, happily rolling off the baggage claim at EWR alive and well, and it will be the first thing to grace our new home when we close in March and serving as a great reminder of our fun vacation.  Our other two bags, incidentally, didn't make our connection in Houston, but they too were eventually delivered safe and sound later that night.  So note to any would be art smugglers out there, don't lumber through the airport as English speaking tourists with a package obviously containing a painting and instead consider rolling it up and carrying it on your person or something.  I'm sure the law much successfully catch thousands of perpetrators yearly, how could anyone think of that?

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