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Art in Brazil:

A History at Pinacoteca de São Paulo

15 Oct 2016
20 Feb 2020

Pinacoteca de São Paulo presents its new long-term exhibit: Art in Brazil: A history at Pinacoteca São Paulo, which occupies the entire second floor of the building on Avenida Tiradentes, featuring works from its collection. This marks a new and distinguished stage in the century-long trajectory of the Pinacoteca, which is part of the network of museums of the State Secretariat of Culture. The exhibit succeeds the show that opened in 1998, in the same space, at the end of building renovation, and remained on view until December 2010, fulfilling a key role in strengthening the institution.

The main objective of this show is to offer the public a reading of the formation of the visual arts and the establishment of an art system from Brazil’s colonial period to the mid-1930s, focusing on works that make up the museum’s permanent collection. “Following a chronological order, the exhibit is structured based on two themes, which are essential in the constitution and comprehension of the development of artistic practices in the nation. On the one hand, the formation of a visual imagery about Brazil – the set of images about it, the relationships and feelings they produce. On the other hand, the formation of an art system in Brazil – education, production, market, critique and museums – beginning with the arrival of the French Artistic Mission, the creation of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, and the artistic pension program. The course of the rooms presents the unfolding of this history, its characters and achievements…” explains Ivo Mesquita, chief curator of the Pinacoteca. From the perspective of institutional mission, it also aims to provide visitors with a qualified experience of relationship with the works on display, through a series of educational proposals that seeks to explore multiple contents of reading, as well as suggest relations with the building and its memories.

The exhibit consists of around 500 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs, authored by key artists in the history of Brazilian art from that period, such as Debret, Taunay, Facchinetti, Almeida Junior, Eliseu Visconti, Pedro Alexandrino, Candido Portinari, Lasar Segall, among others. Of this total, 300 works have undergone a process of Conservation and Restoration over the last year, performed entirely by the museum’s technical staff. The exhibition space has been completely reconfigured, including changing the floors and door-opening systems, and improvement of climate-control, lighting, and security systems.

The exhibition route will cover 11 rooms. Four other rooms, located at the ends of the building, will house temporary exhibits that offer perspectives about artists, movements, historical periods, or contemporary counterpoints, relating to the long-term exhibit. The show also has some educational proposals, indicating other possibilities of reading and interpretation of the works. In gray-colored walls, Art in Dialogue features works by modern and contemporary artists, also part of the museum’s permanent collection, selected by the Center for Educational Action to establish relations with the issues dealt with by the works on display in each room. A Reading Room provides bibliographic and documentary material on the history of Pinacoteca de São Paulo and of art in Brazil. The Interpretation Room, at another moment along the exhibit route, offers the opportunity to explore aspects of the memory of the place and of the individual, of visits to the museum and to the exhibit, from interactive elements that record attendance and impressions in the context of the show. In the corridors, the set of window displays with unique pieces of the collection, punctuates and comments on the narrative inside the exhibition rooms. In this same space is the Tactile Gallery of Brazilian Sculptures, consisting of 12 works that were chosen so that visually impaired visitors can enjoy them independently, touching them and receiving information through labels and texts in ink and in Braille, plus an audio guide. The selection of works was made considering the indication of visually impaired visitors who took part in guided tours of the museum’s collection in the last five years. Additionally, the size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity, which facilitate artistic understanding and appreciation of these works when being touched, were other criteria adopted for selecting the sculptures.

The materialization of this initiative was made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Artistic Collections of the Palaces of the State of São Paulo, the Crespi Prado Foundation, and the City Art Collection of the São Paulo Cultural Center – Municipal Secretariat of Culture, which granted works from their collections, indispensable for the construction of the proposed curatorial routes. Two sources of funds from the São Paulo State Government made it possible to carry out this project: the FID – State Fund for the Defense of Diffuse Interests, of the Secretariat of Justice and Defense of Citizenship, and funds earmarked by the State Secretariat of Culture

Not only a contribution to the history of art in Brazil, but also an exercise in social museology
and an educational practice of responsible action, Art in Brazil: A History at Pinacoteca de São Paulo is a decisive step in the museum’s commitment to materialize the individual right of every Brazilian citizen to have effective access to its preserved cultural heritage.

Exhibition route:

Room 1 – The colonial tradition
The works present a contrast between the artistic tradition of colonial Brazil, so closely linked to religious themes, and the European imagination with regard to the Nation. The brief Dutch occupation in the Brazilian Northeast gave rise to the first paintings that seek to reproduce Brazil’s natural environment according to the traditions of European landscape painting.

Room 2 – The traveling artists
The room gathers a selection of landscape paintings by foreign artists made between 1820 and 1890, approximately. These are the artists, generically called “travelers,” responsible for introducing well-established genres of European art into the Brazilian art scene, such as landscape and still life.

Room 3 – Creation of the Academy
The works of Jean-Baptiste Debret, Nicolas Taunay and Zéphéryn Ferrez, artists of the French Mission in 1816, signal the creation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro and therefore the establishment of a new artistic system based on the French model. This academy trains generations of artists, represented by Agostinho José da Motta and Pedro Américo, among others, responsible for the dissemination of academic rule, which sets new standards of taste for the art scene in Brazil.

Room 4 – The Academy at the end of the century
The room features works by Rodolfo and Henrique Bernardelli, as well as other professors and students of the Academy in the period between 1890 and 1915, such as Zeferino da Costa, Belmiro de Almeida, and Pedro Weingärtner.

Room 5 – Academic teaching
The room offers a reflection on the teaching system at the academies of fine arts, addressing some of its key aspects: the exercise of drawing; studies of the human body; copies of paintings of the great masters, and trips to Europe as the prize in the main competition proposed by the institution.

Room 6 – The genres of painting
This room gathers the four Brazilian genres proposed by academic teaching – still life, landscape, portrait, and historical painting – indicating the scope and longevity of the French model spread throughout the world’s art academies.
João Baptista da Costa | Quaresmas, c.1910

Room 7 – Bourgeois Realism
The Academy is the basis of an artistic system that assumes patronage. It is therefore inevitable that academic production reflects important values for certain social classes. In the late nineteenth century, the works of Almeida Junior, Eliseu Visconti and Oscar Pereira da Silva, among others (gathered in this room) reveal the consolidation of a typically bourgeois taste in Brazil.
Almeida Júnior | Leitura, 1892

Rooms 8 & 9 – From the collections to the museum
These rooms gather works coming from some of the large donation lots that came to compose the Pinacoteca’s collection, such as the collection of the Azevedo Marques Family (1949), Silveira Cintra Family (1956), and Alfredo Mesquita (1976/1994), among others.

Room 10 – A São Paulo imaginarium
This room offers an analysis of the image that São Paulo seeks to project about itself from the late nineteenth century. The canvases on which Almeida Junior proposes the typification of São Paulo yokels are contrasted with images of the transformation of the São Paulo urban landscape.

Room 11 – Brazilian themes in art
Gathering works from different periods, this room highlights an issue that permeates the entire nineteenth century in Brazil, still remaining as an inquiry for artists and intellectuals of São Paulo modernism: the creation of a national ideology in the arts.