Curator, gallerist and arts collective director Trystan Bates welcomes us into his Palermo art gallery, Honeycomb, to talk about his experiences as an artist in Buenos Aires, the collaborative spirit that keeps him here and the best places in the city to get lost in art.

It is impossible to discuss the evolution of the vibrant young art scene in Buenos Aires over the last decade without mentioning the contributions of New York City transplant Trystan Bates. Since his installation in the Argentine capital more than a decade ago, the work of his art collective Honeycomb has helped local, emerging artists connect with colleagues around the world, and it was one of the first places to ignite an explosion of new spaces for them to exhibit and sell their work in the city. 

Bates’ decision to pack up and move from his native Manhattan to Buenos Aires wasn’t unlike those of many long-term expatriates. “I chose the place where I could last the longest with the least amount of money,” he says, but he radiates with the spirit of a local  a desire to collaborate and be part of a community, an openness to new people and ideas, and what sounds like a hundred overlapping creative projects. He directs an arts collective, owns and curates an art gallery, and somehow finds the time to develop his own body of work exploring the history of the world.

Conversacion Triple at Honeycomb Gallery via Facebook

“When I arrived here, there really wasn’t a community,” he recalls. “The scene was small and very hoity-toity.” Bates’ arrival in 2003 was at the beginning of a burgeoning street art scene, when artists were just getting their footing and beginning to decorate the walls of Buenos Aires with large-scale murals. A few years later in 2008, he founded his art collective, a project that “bridged the gap between where I was living and where I was from,” as he says, and that also invited many street artists to begin exhibiting in a gallery setting. The nontraditional space was originally run out of his residence, throwing art events “that felt like parties at a friend's house.”

A decade and a half later, the Buenos Aires that welcomed Bates is different from the city we see today, where an eclectic street art scene has found a home in the city’s galleries and has become an integral part of the urban landscape. Here, Bates shares his experiences starting a collective, the collaborative spirit of Buenos Aires and his favorite places in the city to enjoy art. 


Coming from New York City, how was it getting involved in the Buenos Aires art community? 

It was hard. It was easy to show my work, but it was difficult to get into a community because the community wasn’t there yet. There weren’t very many venues for people like me, or for the people that I was interested in working with. There was nothing except hoity-toity awfulness. That was part of the reason for starting Honeycomb. For an artist, the best way to grow is to collaborate with other artists, and the global community was always the motivation. 

Honeycomb Gallery via Facebook

What do you think distinguishes Buenos Aires from other cities? 

I really love the people. I like the openness of the people I am surrounded by here, my friends and the people I meet through the gallery. When I exhibit in New York there is a certain judgment that you feel that puts pressure on the work — here I don’t really feel that. Here I can flip flop with projects in a way that isn’t possible everywhere else. Right now I’m working on a quick residency program in Panama, a new show and the release of a textile company.


What are some of the projects that Honeycomb has done? 

The first project was with six or seven people, with people in New York and people that I admired here that were doing things that weren’t copies of things they saw in other places. We linked up with Puro (local clothing brand) and everyone painted canvases, which were then sewn onto a series of shoes. Then we started doing large-scale projects, and live events where lots of artists could come collaborate and interact with the public. 

Honeycomb x Puro via Facebook

What is the role of street art in a city? 

I’m not a street artist, but I’ve always been friends with a lot of street artists. I’m on the fringe of it; it’s just not something I see myself doing. I don’t do large works. The idea just doesn’t translate. I also like my work to last. I don’t know if I would be okay with it not being there. It sounds awful, but it’s true  I don’t know how I’d feel if someone covered my stuff. But I think that street art is essential to a city and to contemporary art. The interaction between the art and public is important. I just choose to interact with people in a different way. 


What are your favorite art galleries in the city? 

I really love Meta. There is something special about it, just a really great energy. When I walk in, I never feel like I’m walking into an art gallery. It always feels more like walking in to someone’s living room. I love going there. Mar Dulce is another one that I really love because I love small format. I always find something I like there. I tend to gravitate toward spaces like that that are homey. If I want to go to a huge space with all-white walls, I’d rather go to a museum. I feel like I have more of a personal connection to work in a museum than I do in a large white gallery. Museo de Bellas Artes is my favorite place to go because you can just get lost there. I could spend a day there just walking around. 

Meta Galeria via Facebook

What is an ideal Saturday afternoon for you? 

Waking up without that sense of urgency of having to turn on the computer right away — or a day where I don’t turn the computer on at all. And then just walking around the city, having a nice lunch, and finding a small, quiet space to work and be at peace. 

Honeycomb Gallery
Where: Thames 2176, Palermo, Buenos Aires
When: Tues.-Fri., 3-8 p.m.; Sat., 3-5 p.m.
More info: Website

By Kevin Vaughn

When Kevin isn't writing about Buenos Aires food and culture, he's guiding travelers to Buenos Aires with his intimate arts and lifestyle tours via Buenos Aires Art Tours. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.