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While tango may be Buenos Aires’ most famous export, there is another local art form that visitors should know about.

Fileteado is a type of artistic drawing that originated in the Buenos Aires’ wagon factories in the early 20th Century. While working on the carriages, Italian immigrants began to paint them with simple lines and decorative elements. Their experimentation soon developed into a full-fledged art form, which today can be seen all around the city on buses, taxis and store signs.

Characterised by lively colours and flowing lines of flowers, plants and ribbons coming together with Gothic style typography, fileteado has become part of the city’s modern culture, and can be seen on everything from Coca Cola bottles to Nike shoes. Often, images of Buenos Aires icons such as tango singer Carlos Gardel grace the oval centre of fileteado compositions, and they are almost always accompanied by a phrase or popular saying, whether humorous, emotional or philosophical.

One of the best known fileteado artists is Alfredo Genovese, whose Italian great grandfather was a decorative painter of public buildings and burial vaults in Buenos Aires. Recently named an Outstanding Presence in Culture by the city of Buenos Aires, Genovese has been teaching fileteado since 1998, has published several books on the subject and his work can be found across Buenos Aires and the world on signs and in exhibitions and galleries. Paseo de Filete, on Jean Jaures street in Abasto, a neighbourhood known for its rich tango history, consists of six houses completely covered in Fileteado, including works by Genovese.

Visitors to the city can learn more about this delicate art form on Genovese’s two-day intensive workshops, with the next one taking place on 2 and 3 February 2013. Students will learn theory, technique and composition, ending with them creating their very own fileteado plaque. The workshop costs 590 Argentinean dollars, with all materials included. See the entire 2013 schedule on Genovese’s website.

Tim Fitzgerald is the Buenos Aires Localite for BBC Travel. He also writes gringoinbuenosaires.com.

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