by Tobi MaierApril 24, 2013
Brazil Round up
During the month of March, Rio de Janeiro played host to the openings of two much-anticipated new institutions: the MAR (Museu de Arte do Rio) and the Casa Daros. The MAR is housed in two buildings, the heritage-protected Palace Dom João VI and a neighboring modernist building (formerly a central bus station). Both were redesigned by Rio-based Bernardes + Jacobsen Arquitectura who connected both premises by an iconic wave roof and a footbridge. Directed by Paulo Herkenhoff, MAR promotes itself as “a school connected to a museum and a museum connected to a school.” The Escola do Olhar (“the school of seeing”) has its sea-of-eyes insignia borrowed from a 1996 print by Louise Bourgeois that is exhibited near the museum exit. Passing through the street level of the school entrance, visitors are hauled up by an elevator to the fifth floor to enjoy the view over the port area, slated for regeneration in time for the Olympic Games in 2016. Via the footbridge one then crosses over to the exhibition galleries, which host four opening exhibitions. Sourced from a variety of private and public collections, “Rio de Imagens: uma paisagem em construção” (Rio in Images: a Landscape under Construction) includes seventeenth-century Portuguese maps of Rio and panorama oil paintings from the early nineteenth century, alongside the applied arts and kitsch of Barbie dolls parading trademark Rio beach wear. The next two floors have been given over to “Vontade Constructiva” (Constructive Desire), hundreds of works drawn from the private collections of Hecilda and Sérgio Fadel, a native Rio lawyer couple that started collecting Brazilian art in the 1960s, and “O CO-LE-CI-O-NA-DOR” (The Collector) from Jean Boghici, a European-born collector who arrived in Brazil in the late 1940s. The latter comprises of an eclectic mix of Russian and Chinese painting, Abstract Expressionism, and New Figuration, all spectacularly displayed in a spiral with display supports that nod towards Lina Bo Bardi’s famous concrete bases. Yet, strangely, the concrete bases are smaller in scale and the works on canvas here are merely held up by metal strings and not (like they were in the iconic Museu de Arte de São Paulo) floating on leaning crystal panels. On the ground floor is the exhibition “O Abrigo e o Terreno: arte e sociedade no Brasil I” (Shelter and Terrain: Art and Society in Brazil I), the first chapter in an ongoing series of exhibitions and programs concerning public space and the palpable transformation of the museum’s roughhouse immediate vicinity. The show spans the gamut with works by writer Clarice Lispector, textile artist Bispo de Rosario (who spent fifty years in a nearby mental hospital working on his mammoth production), and Renaissance man (artist, architect, writer, engineer) Flávio de Carvalho. Also on view is Lygia Pape’s rarely shown slide piece Favela da Maré (1972), which portrays the architecture and everyday life of one of Rio’s oldest and largest shantytowns, as well as documentation of collaborations between artistic collectives and the Homeless Workers’ Movement during the Prestes Maia Occupation (a high rise in São Paulo squatted by over 2000 people from 2002–2007), and a reading area with myriad texts on urbanism.
Closer to the upmarket Copacabana and Ipanema districts, the Daros Latinamerica Collection opened its doors after seven years of renovating a massive 12,000 square-meter space (formerly an orphanage and then private school) in a neoclassical building. Complete with a café, shop, auditorium, library, and documentation center, its opening exhibition—previously on view in Zurich in 2004—features a selection of Colombian contemporary art drawn from the collection of Ruth Schmidheiny. In contrast to the rich and brimming display at MAR, the lofty galleries here are the protagonists, with individual spaces dedicated to the sculptural work of multimedia artist Fernando Arias, the photo documentation of acclaimed performance artist Rosemberg Sandoval, and a small number of concrete, metal, and wood furniture sculptures by Doris Salcedo, among others. Given the long preparation time—and the over 1000 pieces strong collection—one might wonder why they chose to exhibit so few works?
While Europe remains in “crisis,” the upsurge here seems unceasing. This boom, of course—due not only to found oil, but also to large-scale agriculture and food production, finance, mining and metallurgic industries—spurs speculation not just with commodities (say, artworks), but also in real estate. And not only in Rio, the host city of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later, but also in neighboring São Paulo.
In early April, the ninth edition of the sp-arte art fair took place, and with it numerous exhibitions of the burgeoning gallery scene. Yet with the influx of cash comes the checkpoint of inflation. While many young artists are making record sales, the hype has yet to transfer to the city’s public institutions, nevermind those in the more remote regions in this country of continental dimensions, which often lack funds for curatorial projects or the development of collections.
At the galleries some artists were already responding critically to this paradigm shift. “alisabel viril apagão fenomenal,” assume vivid astro focus’s third exhibition at Casa Triângulo, is radically different from the now-legendary 2006 carnivalesque debut in the same space. Albeit equally exaggerated, the show takes the changing urban landscape of downtown São Paulo as its starting point. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted with a number of stacked red tables, conceived in collaboration with Berlin-based artist Yusi Etiman. During previous visits to São Paulo, Etiman observed the mismatch provoked by local residents during their DIY repair of the famed black-and-white wave sidewalk patterns. The citizens’ interventions generated new geometric abstractions of the pavement pattern, which are here reproduced as tabletops. A miniature mock-up of the entrance to the São Paulo striptease club Big Ben takes center stage at the rear gallery. Located on Rua Augusta, the club is the only evidence of the street’s sordid past now chock-a-block with luxury condominiums in progress. Around the model are images culled from US porn magazines in which nude models have been “clothed” with painted abstract shapes, censored indeed by São Paulo’s trademark red, white, and black, as if to say that with the changing climate and speculation soon the services of the Abusadas (the “naughty” ones) will also have to relocate. The same colors are employed for the graffiti that, carried out in the typical local pixação font, promote the daft salesmantras of real estate developers on Rua Augusta, all in the English language: Feel, Think, Passion, New Age, Gourmet, Deluxe, and Concept.
For the last iteration of an exhibition series organized by Mendes Wood DM @ Pivô in the city center’s iconic Oscar Niemeyer-designed Copan building, Mexican artist Stefan Brüggemann has created an installation of clustered typography applied on the gallery walls clad in mirrors. Spray-painted in blue, red, and silver the questions and exclamations take their cues from newspaper headlines and popular films. Thus through the voice of mainstream media, the artist asks Is email evil? or proclaims Failure is success or You will feel better or See you in the next world. In the daze of an art fair week, one might agree. However amplified in intense accumulation and color, these voices remain unheard, and fizzle out in the gallery space. Perhaps Brüggemann’s work would have had more agency in public space, employing Portuguese language or even the artist’s native Spanish.
Finally, the second chapter of an exhibition of works dedicated to seminal architect Lina Bo Bardi opened under the title “The Insides Are on the Outside,” curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. In the former home of the architect, the Casa de Vidro, and at the leisure and culture center SESC Pompeia (both masterminded by Bo Bardi and constructed in 1951 and 1977 respectively), a number of international artists were invited to react to her spectacular domestic setting and to the work of Bo Bardi in general. Few works could rise to such expectations. At the SESC Pompeia opening, Arto Lindsay performed adjacent to a Dan Graham glass pavilion. Inside Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj presented a new slide piece, which documented a “live-in” by a group of artists in the glass house and the hypothetical future issue No. 15 1/2 of Habitat, the art and architecture magazine edited by Bo Bardi together with her husband between 1950 and 1954. Underneath Bo Bardi’s elevated Glass House, Pablo León de la Barra presented his Novo Museo Tropical (2013), “a museum without walls, an invitation to rethink the museum outside the center,” that departs from the idea that tropicality is a question of attitude rather than a matter of location. The display features drawings by de la Barra inspired by Bo Bardi’s ideas for museums as well as a takeaway poster promoting the “New Tropical Museum” proposing a network of dispersed collections and individual works that would fill a curatorial void in the landscape of museum collections in the city and region. For the garden, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster designed a small blue-tiled porch where visitors can sit on a miniature Museu de Arte de São Paulo bench, and marvel into the distance at the changing landscape of this megalopolis.
- 1View of Stefan Brüggemann, On Sociology (The Civilization of Speculation), 2013. Mirrors, wood, red, white, and blue spray paint, chrome, variable dimensions, unique. Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood, São Paulo.
- 2View of “Rio in Images: a Landscape Under Construction,” Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), Rio de Janeiro, 2013. Courtesy of MAR, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Humberto Teski.
- 3Leslie Regan, American Republics Line/Moore-McCormack Lines, circa 1940. Lithograph, 96.5 x 62.5 cm. Collection of Marcio Roiter, Rio de Janeiro. Courtesy of MAR, Rio de Janiero. Photo by Jaime Acioli.
- 4View of “The Collector,” Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), Rio de Janeiro, 2013. Courtesy of MAR, Rio de Janiero. Photo by Humberto Teski.
- 5Walter Carvalho, Universidade Federal, 2007. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist.
- 6Fernando Arias, Crisi’s, 2004. Bronze, 60 x 83.5 x 1.5 cm. Courtesy of Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich. Copyright of the artist.
- 7View of assume vivid astro focus’s “alisabel viril apagão fenomenal,” Casa Triângulo, São Paulo, 2013. Courtesy of Casa Triângulo, São Paulo. Photo by Edouard Fraipont.
- 8assume vivid astro focus, Transgeométrica #1, 2013. Ink and automotive paint on MDF, 170 X 122 X 12 cm. Courtesy of Casa Triângulo, São Paulo. Photo by Edouard Fraipont.
- 9View of Stefan Brüggemann, On Sociology (The Civilization of Speculation) (detail), 2013. Mirrors, wood, red, white, and blue spray paint, chrome, variable dimensions, unique. Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood, São Paulo.
- 10View of Pablo León de la Barra, Novo Museo Tropical, 2013. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Casa di Vidro, São Paulo. Photo by Luis Asin.
- 11View of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, An outdoor room, 2013. Wood deck, wooden bench and acrylic, vidrotil, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist, Casa de Vidro, São Paulo, and Esther Schipper, Berlin. Photo by Luis Asin.