Antonio Berni

Delesio Antonio Berni (Rosario, 14 May 1905 - Buenos Aires, 13 October 1981) was an Argentine figurative artist. He is associated with the movement known as Nuevo Realismo ("New Realism"), a Latin American extension of social realism. His work, including a series of Juanito Laguna collages depicting poverty and the effects of industrialization in Buenos Aires, has been exhibited around the world.

Antonio Berni
Delesio Antonio Berni

14 May 1905
Died13 October 1981 (aged 76)
Known forPainting, Engraving, Illustration, Collage
Notable work
Juanito Laguna
Ramona Montiel
La Manifestación
MovementNuevo Realismo


Antonio Berni
Berni in the 1920s

Early life

Berni was born in the city of Rosario on May 14, 1905.[1] His mother Margarita Picco was the Argentine daughter of Italians. His father Napoleón, an immigrant tailor from Italy, died in the first World War.[2]

In 1914 Berni became the apprentice of Catalan craftsman N. Bruxadera at the Buxadera and Co. stained glass company. He later studied painting at the Rosario Catalá Center where he was described as a child prodigy.[3] In 1920 seventeen of his oil paintings were exhibited at the Salon Mari. On November 4, 1923 his impressionist landscapes were praised by critics in the daily newspapers La Nación and La Prensa.[2]


The Jockey Club of Rosario awarded Berni a scholarship to study in Europe in 1925. He chose to visit Spain, as Spanish painting was in vogue, particularly the art of Joaquín Sorolla, Ignacio Zuloaga, Camarasa Anglada, and Julio Romero de Torres.[1] But after visiting Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Granada, Córdoba, and Seville[3] he settled in Paris where fellow Argentine artists Horacio Butler, Aquiles Badi, Alfredo Bigatti, Xul Solar, Héctor Basaldua, and Lino Enea Spilimbergo were working. He attended "City of Lights" workshops given by André Lhote and Othon Friesz at Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Berni painted two landscapes of Arcueil, Paisaje de París (Landscape of Paris), Mantel amarillo (The Yellow Tablecloth), La casa del crimen (The House of Crime), Desnudo (Nude), and Naturaleza muerta con guitarra (Still Life with Guitar).[1][2]

He went back to Rosario for a few months but returned to Paris in 1927 with a grant from the Province of Santa Fe. Studying the work of Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, Berni became interested in surrealism and called it "a new vision of art and the world, the current that represents an entire youth, their mood, and their internal situation after the end of the World War. A dynamic and truly representative movement." His late 1920s and early 1930s surrealist works include La Torre Eiffel en la Pampa (The Eiffel Tower in Pampa), La siesta y su sueño (The Nap and its Dream), and La muerte acecha en cada esquina (Death Lurks Around Every Corner).[2][4]

He also began studying revolutionary politics including the Marxist theory of Henri Lefebvre, who introduced him to the Communist poet Louis Aragon in 1928.[5][6] Berni continued corresponding with Aragon after leaving France, later recalling, "It is a pity that I have lost, among the many things I have lost, the letters that I received from Aragon all the way from France; if I had them today, I think, they would be magnificent documents; because in that correspondence we discussed topics such as the direct relationship between politics and culture, the responsibilities of the artist and the intellectual society, the problems of culture in colonial countries, the issue of freedom."[4]

Several groups of Asian minorities lived in Paris and Berni helped distribute Asian newspapers and magazines, to which he contributed illustrations.[2]

Desocupados, Antonio Berni (1934)
Desocupados (1934)

Nuevo Realismo

In 1931 Berni returned to Rosario where he briefly lived on a farm and was then hired as a municipal employee. The Argentina of the 1930s was very different from the Paris of the 1920s. He witnessed labor demonstrations and the miserable effects of unemployment[5] and was shocked by the news of a military coup d'état in Buenos Aires (see Infamous Decade). Surrealism didn't convey the frustration or hopelessness of the Argentine people. Berni organized Mutualidad de Estudiantes y Artistas and became a member of the local Communist party.[2]

Berni met Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros who had been painting large-scale political murals on public buildings and was visiting Argentina to give lectures and exhibit his work in an effort to "summon artists to participate in the development of a proletarian art." In 1933 Berni, Siqueiros, Spilimbergo, Juan Carlos Castagnino and Enrique Lázaro created the mural Ejercicio Plástico (Plastic Exercise).[7][4] But ultimately Berni didn't think the murals could inspire social change and even implied a connection between Siqueiro's artwork and the privileged classes of Argentina, saying, "Mural painting is only one of the many forms of popular artistic expression...for his mural painting, Siqueros was obliged to seize on the first board offered to him by the bourgeoisie."[8]

Instead he began painting realistic images that depicted the struggles and tensions of the Argentine people. His popular Nuevo Realismo paintings include Desocupados (The Unemployed) and Manifestación (Manifestation).[5] Both were based on photographs Berni had gathered to document, as graphically as possible, the "abysmal conditions of his subjects."[9] As one critic noted, "the quality of his work resides in the precise balance that he attained between narrative painting with strong social content and aesthetic originality."[4]

In a 1936 interview Berni said that the decline of art was indicative of the division between the artist and the public and that social realism stimulated a mirror of the surrounding spiritual, social, political, and economic realities.[4][5]

1940s and 1950s

In 1941, at the request of the Comisión Nacional de Cultura, Berni traveled to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia to study pre-Columbian art. His painting Mercado indígena (Indian Market) is based on the photos he took during this trip.[2]

Two years later he was awarded an Honorary Grand Prix at the Salón Nacional and co-founded a mural workshop with fellow artists Spilimbergo, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Demetrio Urruchúa, and Manuel Colmeiro. The artists decorated the dome of the Galerías Pacifico.[1]

The 1940s saw various revolutions and coups d'état in Latin America including the ousting of Argentine President Ramón Castillo in 1943. Berni responded with more political paintings including Masacre (Massacre) and El Obrero Muerto (The Dead Worker).[2]

From 1951 to 1953 Berni lived in Santiago del Estero, a province in northwestern Argentina. The province was suffering massive ecological damage including the exploitation of quebracho trees. While in Santiago del Estero he painted the series "Motivos santiagueños" and "Chaco," which were later exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Bucharest and Moscow.[2]

In the 1950s he returned to expressionism with works like Los hacheros (Axemen) and La comida (Food),[3] and began a series of suburban landscapes including Villa Piolín (Villa Tweety), La casa del sastre (House of Taylor), La iglesia (The Church), El tanque blanco (White Tank), La calle (Street), La res (The Answer), Carnicería (Carnage), La luna y su eco (The Moon and its Echo), and Mañana helada en el páramo desierto (Morning Frost on the Moor). He also painted Negro y blanco (Black and White), Utensilios de cocina sobre un muro celeste (Cookware on a Blue Wall), and El caballito (The Pony).[2]

Juanito tocando la flauta, 1973
Juanito tocando la flauta (1973)

Juanito Laguna

Berni's post-1950s work can be viewed as "a synthesis of Pop Art and Social realism."[3] In 1958 he began collecting and collaging discarded material to create a series of works featuring a character named Juanito Laguna.[1] The series became a social narrative on industrialization and poverty and pointed out the extreme disparities existing between the wealthy Argentine aristocracy and the "Juanitos” of the slums.[5]

As he explained in a 1967 Le Monde interview, "One cold, cloudy night, while passing through the miserable city of Juanito, a radical change in my vision of reality and its interpretation occurred...I had just discovered, in the unpaved streets and on the waste ground, scattered discarded materials, which made up the authentic surroundings of Juanito Laguna - old wood, empty bottles, iron, cardboard boxes, metal sheets etc., which were the materials used for constructing shacks in towns such as this, sunk in poverty."[5]

Latin American art expert Mari Carmen Ramirez has described the Juanito works as an attempt to "seek out and record the typical living truth of underdeveloped countries and to bear witness to the terrible fruits of neocolonialism, with its resulting poverty and economic backwardness and their effect on populations driven by a fierce desire for progress, jobs, and the inclination to fight."[10] Notable Juanito works include Retrato de Juanito Laguna (Portrait of Juanito Laguna), El mundo prometido a Juanito (The World Promised to Juanito), and Juanito va a la ciudad (Juanito Goes to the City). Art featuring Juanito (and Ramona Montiel, a similar female character) won Berni the Grand Prix for Printmaking at the Venice Biennale in 1962.[1][5]

In 1965 a retrospective of Berni's work was organized at the Instituto Di Tella, including the collage Monsters. Versions of the exhibit were shown in the United States, Argentina, and several Latin American countries. Compositions such as Ramona en la caverna (Ramona in the Cavern), El mundo de Ramona (Ramona's World), and La masacre de los inocentes (Massacre of the Innocent) were becoming more complex. The latter was exhibited in 1971 at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. By the late 1970s Berni's Juanito and Ramona oil paintings had evolved into three-dimensional altar pieces.[1]

La Espera, Antonio Berni (1978)
La Espera (1978)

Later years and death

After the March 1976 coup, Berni moved to New York City, where he continued painting, engraving, collaging and exhibiting. New York struck him as luxurious, consumerist, materially wealthy and spiritually poor. He conveyed these observations in subsequent work with a touch of social irony. His New York paintings display a great protagonism of color[3] and include Aeropuerto (Airport), Los Hippies, Calles de Nueva York (Streets of New York), Almuerzo (Lunch), Chelsea Hotel and Promesa de castidad (Promise of Chastity).[2] He also produced several decorative panels, scenographic sketches, illustrations, and collaborations for books.[3]

Berni's work gradually became more spiritual and reflective. In 1980 he completed the paintings Apocalipsis (Apocalypse) and La crucifixion (The Crucifixion) for the Chapel of San Luis Gonzaga in Las Heras, where they were installed the following year.[1]

Antonio Berni died on October 13, 1981 in Buenos Aires where he had been working on a Martín Fierro monument. The monument was inaugurated in San Martín on November 17 of the same year.[1] In an interview shortly before his death he said, "Art is a response to life. To be an artist is to undertake a risky way to live, to adopt one of the greatest forms of liberty, to make no compromise. Painting is a form of love, of transmitting the years in art."[2]


Since the late 1960s various Argentine musicians have written and recorded Juanito Laguna songs. Mercedes Sosa recorded the songs Juanito Laguna remonta un barrilete (on her 1967 album Para cantarle a mi gente) and La navidad de Juanito Laguna (on her 1970 album Navidad con Mercedes Sosa). In 2005 a compilation CD commemorating Berni's 100th birthday included songs by César Isella, Marcelo San Juan, Dúo Salteño, Eduardo Falú, and Las Voces Blancas, as well as two short recordings of Berni speaking in interviews.[5]

Several Argentine government organizations also celebrated Berni's centennial in 2005, including the Ministerio de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología de la Nación, and Secretaría de Turismo de la Nación. Berni's daughter Lily curated an art show entitled Un cuadro para Juanito, 40 años después (A painting for Juanito, 40 years later). Through the organization De Todos Para Todos (By All For All) children across Argentina studied Berni's art then created their own using his collage techniques.[5][11]

In July 2008 thieves disguised as police officers stole fifteen Berni paintings that were being transported from a suburb to the Bellas Artes National Museum. Culture Secretary Jose Nun described the paintings as being "of great national value" and described the robbery as "an enormous loss to Argentine culture."[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Antonio Berni". Buenos Aired Ciudad. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Biografia de Antonio Berni". Olimpiadas Nacionales de Contenidos Educativos en Internet. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Antonio Berni". Vivre en Argentine. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e Salinas, Esmeralda. "Antonio Berni: From Social Realism to Social Phenomenon". Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Salinas, Esmeralda. "The Power of Juanito: Antonio Berni and the Continuing Legacy of Juanito Laguna". Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Antonio Berni". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  7. ^ Plastic Exercise
  8. ^ "Modern Teachers". Antonio Berni. Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  9. ^ Barnitz, Jacqueline. Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. The University of Texas Press, 2001, p. 84.
  10. ^ Ramírez, Mari Carmen. Cantos Paralelos. The University of Texas at Austin, 1999, p. 190.
  11. ^ Rouillon, Jorge (July 15, 2005). "Juanito Laguna, revivido en fotos por chicos de las villas". Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Fake cops steal valuable Berni paintings in Argentina". AsiaOne News. July 27, 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2013.

External links

Alexander Witcomb

Alexander Spiers Witcomb (also known as Alejandro S. Witcomb in Argentina; Winchester 1838 – Buenos Aires, 1905) was a British photographer whose work is considered historical heritage of Argentina. where he established the first photography studio.The Witcomb collection has about 500,000 negatives, although people from his era stated that the General Archive of the Nation could have received about 700,000 negatives at that time to become part of the Archive collection.

Argentine painting

Argentine painting refers to all the pictorial production done in the territory of Argentina throughout the centuries.

Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art

The Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art known locally as the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires or MAMBA is a modern art museum located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Dalila Puzzovio

Dalila Puzzovio (born 1943) gained fame in her native country of Argentina for her accomplishments in combining pop art, fashion, and conceptual art.

Fortabat Art Collection

The Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Art Collection is a museum of fine arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Galerías Pacífico

Galerías Pacífico is a shopping centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, located at the intersection of Florida Street and Córdoba Avenue.

Juan Carlos Castagnino

Juan Carlos Castagnino (November 18, 1908 – April 21, 1972) was an Argentine painter, architect, muralist and sketch artist.

Born in the rural village of Camet, near the city of Mar del Plata, he studied in the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, and became a disciple of Lino Enea Spilimbergo and Ramón Gómez Cornet.

By the end of the 1920s, he became a member of the Communist Party of Argentina. In 1933 he joined the first Argentine artists' guild, and later that year he exhibited at the National Fine Arts Hall in Buenos Aires. His work, predominantly realist in his earlier years, became more figurative, later on, and though his Communist affiliation was reflected in numerous works with social undertones, he painted a wide variety of subject matter.Along with Antonio Berni, Spilimbergo and Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, he created a series of murals for a villa belonging to local businessman Natalio Botana, in Don Torcuato. Castagnino traveled to Paris in 1939, where he attended the atelier of cubist painter André Lhote, later traveling across Europe perfecting his art and in the company of Georges Braque, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso, among others. Castagnino returned to Argentina in 1941, where he enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires and obtained a degree in architecture.

He received numerous awards in subsequent years, including the Grand Prize of Honor of the Argentine National Hall (1961), the Medal of Honor at Expo '58 (Brussels, 1958), and a special mention for his drawings at the II Mexico City Biennale of 1962. His illustrations for a EUDEBA (University of Buenos Aires Press) edition of José Hernández's Martín Fierro (the national poem of Argentina), gained wide recognition.Castagnino died in Buenos Aires in 1972. Following its relocation to the landmark Villa Ortiz Basualdo, the Municipal Museum of Art in his native Mar del Plata, to which the artist had contributed over 130 works, was renamed in his honor in 1982.

Juana Lumerman

Juana Lumerman (1905–1982, Buenos Aires, Argentina) was a visual artist who painted in both figurative and abstract styles.

Lumerman graduated with a degree in painting in 1935 from the National Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. Lumerman studied there with European trained teachers including Aquiles Badi known for his Constructivist and metaphysical tendencies and es:Emilio Centurion known for his command of volumes and form, as well as with es:Carlos Ripamonte a painter of an earlier generation known for his work in an Impressionist vein.

In 1936, Lumerman won first prize in the VI Feminine Salon of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. In a 1993 essay, art historian Cesar Magrini evokes the period and describes Lumerman as "...a pioneer and an explorer of new paths. Those were years when one could count on the fingers of one hand those women who were permitted to paint, model or sculpt without its being considered a perversion."

By the early 1940s, Juana Lumerman was showing her painting in Buenos Aires with a mixed group of her accomplished peers. In 1941, Los Angeles County Museum of Art invited several Argentine artists to represent their country in a US exhibition; the group included Lino Enea Spilimbergo, Raquel Forner, Ramón Gomez Cornet, Antonio Berni, Emilio Pettoruti and Juana Lumerman.

In 1945, Juana Lumerman spent a year exhibiting, traveling and working in Brazil. Throughout Lumerman's career, dynamic images of carnival, soccer and tango were to serve as counterpoints to more statically structured, more metaphysical, cityscape and still life themes in her painting.

In 1948, Juana Lumerman traveled to Washington, DC for another invitational show and then toured the US. In 1950, the artist traveled to northern Argentina where much of Buenos Aires' intelligentsia had decamped in an attempt to avoid the constraints of Juan Perón's visual aesthetic.

Despite her travels to Brazil and to Argentina's colorful northern provinces, Lumerman's palette tended to be cool and tonally somber. The artist typically painted easel-size works in oil on board or canvas using a loosely figurative style notable for its fluidity of line and skillful paint handling.

In a 1952 article the British fine art magazine "The Studio" names Juana Lumerman, Raquel Forner and es:Mane Bernardo as the three key women in Argentina's visual arts scene.

Possibly by choice (?), Juana Lumerman exhibited rarely in subsequent years, with notable exceptions being a solo show at the respected Van Riel Gallery in 1967 and a prestigious 1968 Salon Estimulo show with Argentine masters and contemporary artists including Carlos Alonso, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Riganelli, Policastro, Carlos Ripamonte Berni and Raúl Soldi. In a 1978 newspaper interview, art critic Hugo Monzon quotes Juana Lumerman as saying: "I have always worked. I wish (now) that people might know my things, to break away from modestly, because ones work makes one naked."

Juana Lumerman painted in her studio on Paraguay Street in downtown Buenos Aires until her death in 1982.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires)

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Museum of Contemporary Art of Rosario

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Rosario (Spanish, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Rosario, often abbreviated MACRo) is an annex to the Juan B. Castagnino Fine Arts Museum that is devoted to contemporary art. It's located in the city of Rosario, province of Santa Fe, Argentina.

The MACRo lies beside the Paraná River, at the northern end of Oroño Boulevard, on the Estanislao López Riverfront Avenue. It was opened to the public on November 19, 2004.

The works took advantage of the Davis Silos (an abandoned grain silo complex, formerly part of Rosario's port facilities, now moved south). The bulk of the building consists of eight large concrete silos, painted in different colors, with a diameter of 7.5 metres. The idea, according to the official site of the museum, was "to integrally preserve the building, exalting the unique features of concrete, stressing austerity as a value." There is a glass elevator outside the building, for a view of the river scenery and the nearby islands.

The actual museum exhibition is located on an attached building that formerly housed the administrative offices. It has ten floors, for a total area of 970 m² (10,400 ft²), and as of November 2005 maintained a collection of 300 art works by 220 different artists, including Lucio Fontana and Antonio Berni.

Neo-figurative art

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Roberto Aizenberg

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Rosario Central railway station

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The station was part of the Mitre Railway network until 1977 when it fell into disuse. After being restored by the Municipality of Rosario, in 2005 the building was re-opened as the seat of the Center Municipal District, named "Antonio Berni".

San Martín Palace

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Santa Rosa, La Pampa

Santa Rosa (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈsanta ˈrosa]) is a city in the Argentine Pampas, and the capital of La Pampa Province, Argentina. It lies on the east of the province, on the shore of the Don Tomás Lagoon, at the intersection of National Routes 5 and 35. The city (94,340) and its surroundings hold 102,610 inhabitants (2001 census [INDEC]),Census-ar 2.010 hold 124.101 inhabitants the capital y Toay around a third of the population of the province. Its current mayor is Leandro Altolaguirre.

Founded in 1892 by Tomás Mason, Santa Rosa did not develop into a relatively important agricultural centre until the second half of the 20th century. It is still one of the smallest provincial capitals of the country after Patagonian Rawson, Ushuaia and Viedma.

City sights include the Fitte neighbourhood (1930), the monument to San Martín, the Palace of Justice, the Teatro Español Theatre (1908), the Provincial Art Museum (with paintings by Raúl Soldi, Antonio Berni, Quinquela Martín and other important Argentine painters) and the Provincial Natural History Museum.

The Santa Rosa Airport (IATA: RSA, ICAO: SAZR) is located 2 kilometres from Santa Rosa on Route 35, and serves regular flights to Buenos Aires and Viedma.

Near Santa Rosa is the city of Toay, together both cities form the Gran Santa Rosa metropolitan area.

Timoteo Navarro Museum of Art

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Villa miseria

A villa miseria (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbiʃa miˈseɾja]), or just villa, is a type of shanty town or slum found in Argentina, mostly around the largest urban settlements. The term is a noun phrase made up of the Spanish words villa (village, small town) and miseria (misery, dejection), and was adopted from Bernardo Verbitsky's 1957 novel Villa Miseria también es América ("Villa Miseria is also [a part of] the Americas").

These settlements consist of small houses or shacks made of tin, wood and other scrap material. Generally, the streets are not paved and narrow internal passages connect the different parts. The villas miseria have no sanitation system, though there may be water pipes passing through the settlement. Electric power is sometimes taken directly from the grid using illegal connections, which are perforce accepted by suppliers.

The villas range from small groups of precarious houses to larger, more organized communities with thousands of residents. In rural areas, the houses in the villas miserias might be made of mud and wood. Villas miseria are found around and inside the large cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario, Córdoba and Mendoza, among others. The villas draw people from several backgrounds. Some are local citizens who have fallen from an already precarious economic position. In most cases, a villa miseria is populated by the children and grandchildren of the original settlers, who have been unable to improve their economic status.Villas miseria are known to house criminals, from minor thieves to drug dealers, because the houses are typically safe from police and they are really cheap and easy to acquire.These shantytowns are euphemistically called asentamientos ("settlements") or villas de emergencia ("emergency villages"). In most parts of Argentina, the non-modified word villa usually refers to a villa miseria.

Argentinian painter Antonio Berni dealt with the hardships of living in a villa miseria through his series Juanito Laguna, a slum child, and Ramona Montiel, a prostitute.

The Argentinian writer Hugo Pezzini, in his book, The Latin American Literature of the Neoliberal Crisis: The Emergence of a Postmodern Post-hegemonic Heterotopy (Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam - Cultural Analysis Summer Academy, 2013), commenting on writer César Aira's 2001 novel La Villa says the following:

"The apparent absurdity of César Aira's novel La Villa provides an instance of resourceful mediation to semantically reorganize a situation of emergency and locate it within its particular rationale. In Argentina, a slum is popularly called 'villa miseria,' or simply 'la villa.' In politically correct language, that is, officially, is called 'villa de emergencia.'”

The slum of Aria's La Villa is an organized-organic post-hegemonic microcosm whose symbols and rational design are only understood by its post-hegemonic inhabitants, who are also its architects and engineers. To them their semantics are perfectly logical and knowable."

Ángel Berni

Ángel Antonio Berni Gómez (9 January 1931 – 24 November 2017) was a football striker.

Ángel María de Rosa Municipal Museum of Art

The Ángel María de Rosa Municipal Museum of Art (MUMA) is an art museum in Junín, a city in the north of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.

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