Larisa Mantovani — Productive Uses of Time (and not so much): Tensions between Decorative Arts and Industry in the Textile Production in Argentina

This proposal aims to approach time from a social and labor perspective to problematize the production of textile art in the first decades of the 20th century in Argentina, in light of projects linked to technical education and industry. In this period, the State became interested in promoting the decorative arts; we can speak of an institutionalization process that articulated projects that came from the artistic, educational and industrial spheres. These arts received special attention, as they were viewed positively as a path to progress and possible economic growth for the country.

At that time Ricardo Rojas was a key actor, for providing guidelines for the creation of a national art, something in which the figure of Clemente Onelli also stood out, particularly interested in promoting textiles. The recovery of pre-Hispanic elements was characteristic within the field of decorative arts in the region, as a mark of local production that attended to its own past in pursuit of the construction of a “national” art and style; different from other revivals that previously in Europe had looked to exotic cultures to generate innovations.

These types of projects sought not only to promote local or even regional production, but also eventually to replace foreign consumption that generated great interest in the elites of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, this was a failed process. On the one hand, the upper classes of the capital city were not very interested in national products, at least not at a level that would allow them to stop competing with European manufactures. On the other hand, the production of textiles in which pre-Hispanic motifs and traditional techniques were sought to predominate, failed to fully adapt to mass industrial production and its timed times. In this sense, these types of projects did not completely materialize as such, but they are essential to analyze the searches, advances, and setbacks due to the creation of an art linked to the industry. On that account, the main objective of this work will be to trace the different difficulties faced by students, artisans and workers in the organization of time during the production of those textiles who were part of projects that aspired to deepen industrial growth, but whose tasks involved a strong craft component and domestic.

Larisa Mantovani

Larisa Mantovani was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she lives and works. She studied art history at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, where she got a bachelor’s degree (Licenciatura), and a teacher training degree in art history (Profesorado). She has a PhD in history at the Escuela Interdisciplinaria de Altos Estudios Sociales, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, with a dissertation entitled “The institutionalization of the decorative arts: links between art, education and industry in Buenos Aires (1910-1940)” that was presented in December 2021. She currently holds a doctoral fellowship from the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas in Argentina, is adjunct professor in History of the Decorative Arts at Universidad del Salvador, and teacher in Art History at the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, Universidad de Buenos Aires; she also coordinates the Núcleo de Historia del Arte y la Cultura Visual at EIDAES and is a member of the Centro Argentino de Investigadores de Arte. Her research takes place at the Centro de Investigaciones en Arte y Patrimonio (CIAP-UNSAM/CONICET), where she represents fellowship holders at the Board of Researchers meetings. She has recently published “Schools of arts and crafts in Buenos Aires: the training of artisans and workers in the Industrial Education Society” in Arte, Individuo y Sociedad, vol. 34, n°1, 2022.


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