Fileteado porteño, traditional art from Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is city with a creative spirit. One of its most characteristic forms of expression is fileteado porteño, a kind of popular decorative art a million miles away from the paintings hanging on gallery walls in the city. Fileteado is characterised by its use of bright colours and intricate designs and has traditionally been used to embellish signs, labels, cars and walls.
History of fileteado porteño
Fileteado porteño was created in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century in cart factories, where it was used to decorate horse-drawn carts delivering food and other products. Although the exact date of its first appearance is undocumented and lost in the mists of time, we do know that it was started by Italian immigrants. Most experts agree that fileteado was developed by Cecilio Pascarella, Vicente Brunetti, Salvador Venturo, and their children.
They began by applying brighter colours to the grey municipal carts and then added the characteristic features of fileteado: flowers, ribbons, bands of curved lines, dots, the feeling of volume, portraits, popular sayings, ornamental letters and more. It draws on neoclassical style but also incorporates lots of ideas from gypsy craftsmanship.
Argentinian fileteado slowly became the distinctive symbol of the city of Buenos Aires, decorating walls, trucks, windows and shops, among others. However, it was ignored by art critics and was only recently recognised as a typically Argentinian form of popular art. In 2015 it was added to Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The tradition of fileteado porteño is still very much alive today, in part thanks to the artists who have used new media to paint on: clothes, shoes, bottles, bags and even tattoos. You can also see it in many streets in Buenos Aires, especially Calle Defensa and Calle Jean Jaurès, where there are several decorated facades.
Argentinian fileteado is officially celebrated on 14 September, commemorating the date of the first fileteado exhibition, in 1970.