In São Paulo, art is everywhere. There are amazing museums and galleries, art fairs, events and a vibrant street art scene. Here are some highlights from a few of the city’s best art museums and sites.
MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art)
Av. Paulista, 1578 – Bela Vista, São Paulo – SP, 01310-200, Brazil
These two massive paintings by Candido Portinari (above) stopped me dead in my tracks while visiting the São Paulo Museum of Art. The bleakness and suffering in these pictures is overpowering. ‘Retirantes (Northeastern migrants)’, 1944 by Candido Portinari depicts migrants from the Northeast of Brazil fleeing drought and famine. I was struck by the artist’s technique, use of contrasts and dark earthy colours to heighten the emotion of the scene.
There is a recurring theme of European influence on Brazilian art in most of the large fine art museums. There are a lot of derivative landscape paintings by Italian and Portuguese painters. Most of them are pretty dull and boring but they do expose the colonial attitude of visiting European artists.
Pinacotecta, São Paulo
Praça da Luz, 2 – Luz, São Paulo – SP, 01120-010, Brazil
‘Bananal (Banana Grove)’ by artist Lasar Segall was the first modern painting to enter a national collection of Brazilian art. It is a very striking painting. It is easy to get lost in the beautiful green tones of the lush landscape until the elongated head of an unhappy figure protrudes into the foreground. The confrontational gaze of the sitter shatters the illusion of a tropical paradise with the realities of conditions for colonial subjects.
MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art, University of São Paulo)
Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, 1301 – Vila Mariana, São Paulo – SP, 04094-050, Brazil
José Roberto Aguilar experimented with spray paint to produce his ‘Série do Futebol‘. They look messy and naive. This style and technique was used deliberately to undermine the stability of the Brazilian football team as renowned visual symbols of national identity. Aguilar directly protested against the governing military regime’s use of the Brazilian football team for propaganda.
Regina Silveira’s work is concerned with looking at themes of reproducibility, power, bureaucracy, art and its systems. In ‘Álbum Middle Class & Co‘ Silveira imprisons the image of the middle classes into small geometric forms, shapes and letters. The work is simultaneously critical of our social, linguistic and visual systems and modes of understanding.
Street art has taken over many of the countries city centre shop fronts, buildings and public spaces. The variety and quality of these spray-painted murals is incredible. They are often large-scale, illustrational and socially critical. I discovered that rather than prohibiting street art the government has encouraged it as long as a certain ‘standard’ is met. The authorities are against tagging and graffiti but favour a certain style of street art realism and narrative. I thought this was an interesting system by which content is controlled by the approval of the state. In this way, the state acts as an arbiter of taste or the ultimate street art curator.