Archive | July, 2012

Sao Paulo Angel

29 Jul

This image is on a traffic control box at the corner of Rua Joaquim Antunes and Avenida Reboucas in the Pinheiros bairro in Sao Paulo. The combination of monochrome photo-stencilled image, language (“No-one is safe”), the patina of street life – scratching, spray paint, ‘tags’, weathering – and the strength of the three-colour composition itself make a compelling street art work. Traffic control boxes are regularly used for photo-stencilled and for painted works – see for more examples of street art – which make good use of the size and location of this street furniture. Although graffiti and street art can attract censure and indeed removal here in Sao Paulo – just as the work of Banksy can attract such attention in the UK – one senses that Brasil has a sneaking respect for this strongly developed art form. And am I the only one to detect a sardonic comment on the vogue for ‘angel’ images currently playing in alternative Western culture?

Trophy Towers

19 Jul

Torrre Faria Lima, on the Sao Paulo street of same name, and the low-rise Torrre Pedroso de Moraes (on that street), are the work of Brasilian architect Ruy Ohtake.

The two towers

The taller tower includes a heli-pad, as do quite a few office blocks in Sao Paulo. The low-rise went up first, and is known locally as the ‘Palácio da Carambola’ for its star-fruit-shaped supports.

Torre Pedroso de Moraes in the foreground

The low-rise tower houses “the Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake , a tribute to one of the most important contemporary visual artists and the mother of Ruy.” Commercial space is currently leased to a Brasilian international law firm.

Offices of Demarest & Almeida Avogados

The sleek tower sits somewhat incongrously in its surroundings, in the vanguard of the blocks marching down Avenida Faria Lima. More on Sao Paulo skyscrapers at

The towers in context

The towers are undeniably striking in their use of colour, all too rare in the usual modern tower block.

Vivid Brasilian colour

The link with his mother’s work in colour can easily be made.

Tomie Ohtake, Composição em Amarelo, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo MASP

Public Sculpture Brasil

18 Jul

Public art is taken with energy, enthusiasm and seriousness in Brasil. The statue above Rio of Cristo Redentor – the largest Art Deco sculpture in the world, complete with logo – is a case in point.

Also available on T shirts

It’s an internationally recognised symbol for its city and country, and a huge tourist attraction. When you climb the steps or take the escalator to the top, after queuing, queuing and queuing again, the site is heaving with people, having their picture taken – especially with their arms spread wide in imitation – and taking in the view of Rio’s beautiful setting. It’s so big you may have to step right back to get it all in.

“So high, I can’t get over it … “

“So wide I can’t get round it … “

Built on an armature of reinforced concrete, with a soapstone surface, it was designed in 1921 by a French sculptor and a French engineer, and took 10 years to complete.

Icon under construction

In 2006 a chapel was opened in the base, dedicated to Brasil’s patronne,  also a statue, of the Virgin Mary. (When we visited, the circular chapel was filled with the sound of  a congregation reciting a Hail Mary.)

Escalator infrastructure

The Cristo underwent restoration in 2010 – the construction of escalators was controversial – as well as being sprayed with graffiti (called “a crime against the nation”) and being illuminated with the green and yellow of Brasil’s World Cup football team.Truly a national monument.

Pinacoteca Sao Paulo

16 Jul

The view from outside the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Standing outside the Sao Paulo state art gallery, it’s as though the city is trying to make a point of its own about art: this enormous mural on the side of a nearby building seems to say “Art is everywhere, not just in there!” as the groups of guided children are escorted in.

The building itself, once a vocational school for the applied arts, has been ‘made over’ sensitively, and houses a fine collection of painting and sculpture, as well as putting on a programme of events, and an education programme. The cafe is decent too.

The restored Pinacoteca building

On the day we visited, an American flautist was setting up the sound equipment for a piece in which she used a delay to repeat her phrases so that she could accompany herself, on a quartet of flutes of different sizes. It made for a mesmerising sound, echoing across the glass-roofed interior and around the raw brick galleries.

Flautist and delay, Pinacoteca Sao Paulo

The gallery is set in the park of the Jardim da Luz, better known as the haunt of drug users and prostitutes than for its 19th century function as a botanical garden. Nonetheless it is a pleasant public space, complete with gravelled walks, statuary, pools and fountains, and an elegant art nouveau bandstand. On the day we were there, the group of men at its base were absorbed in their dice game. You had the impression that all the aspects of its heritage were still in full swing, except perhaps the music.

Playing in the Jardim da Luz

People sat on benches in the dappled sunlight, enjoying the relative quiet and fresh air, walking with their young families, or taking a break from work. The mature planting cast cooling shade over it all.

Mature bamboo in the Jardim da Luz

Across the road, the iconic English-designed Scottish-built Estação da Luz rail and metro station geared up for the home time rush. Ironically, the Museu da Língua Portuguesa language museum now housed on its first floor was not signed at all. Another time perhaps …

Human Canvas photo post

15 Jul

MASP Modelo Papel

Deb Berman is a New York artist. On a recent visit to Sao Paulo, she mounted her Human Canvas piece, a painter’s version of Gilbert and George’s ‘living statues’ previously seen in Brooklyn and in Philadelphia, outside the Museu de Arte Sao Paulo (‘MASP-y’). It’s an open invitation for passers-by to paint on the human canvas of her white clothes and skin. She was concerned that they might not participate. Just try to stop them! When you compare them with US passers-by (, you may agree with me that Brasilians are indeed visually inventive.

More on this, and other Brasilian posts, at

Final preparations: the blindfold goes on

First Brasilian passer-by

The first brush strokes

A crowd gathers

An ‘illustrated man’ adds his touch

Delighting young and old

Alongside the red uprights of MASP

360° art

Art and attendants …

… with well-known graphic

Work in progress …

… from all angles

White on white

Blonde side

“Here I am alongside that woman being painted. Take my photo!”

Left hand blue

Eye on the city

A poppy blooms

Right arm …

… and left

Left thigh …

… and calf …

… and right …

… and right

Both feet

Flora and fauna

Sketch of MASP

Human canvas observer

Avenida Paulista, Sao Paulo

“Look, a painted lady!”

Delighting old and young

Paint and canvas

Eyes on the canvas

Painting and photography

Lizard basking in the sun

Last of the red


Evening breeze

The blindfold comes off


And here!

Human canvas



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