Archive | April, 2013

sp-arte / 2013

7 Apr

“The art market in Brazil today experiences a peculiar and intense conjunction of forces: if, on the one hand, we witness an increasing interest in contemporary art, the escalation of value and dealing of artworks from both younger and older generations, all fueled by BRIC inflated euphoria, on the other hand Brazil’s most canonical art historical figures remain profoundly experimental and marginal.” Adriano Pedrosa, Curator of the Educational Program, sp-arte / 2013

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Figure by Kang Hyung Koo, Brazilian background

Went to the Sao Paulo art fair sp arte / 2013 yesterday. It’s held in the Bienal building, in alternate years, and as the official text above suggests, the event has gone from strength to strength, attracting prestigious European and North American galleries – White Cube, Gagosian, etc – and giving South American artists the opportunity to reach new publics as well as their (growing) home markets. It is an international event.

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Internal public entrance with security guard

It’s a popular event too, with visitors thronging the walkways on the public days, browsing the art work displayed for sale, patronising the sponsored bars, and networking furiously. Here’s some of what I saw.

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Busy art market, though not too many red stickers

The dichotomy between the commercial art market and art and art-historical education is reflected in the support for the event – retail shopping centre, Brazilian and Canadian banks, and telecoms company alongside state-owned water company, state and federal governments.

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Bar sponsored by up-scale shopping centre

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Purpose-built for art display, but not as big as the Bienal itself yet

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Lounge sponsored by private banking business

This dichotomy is also a preoccupation of the artists being shown.

Video work by Marina Abramovic on Samsung screen

Video work by Marina Abramovic on Samsung screen …

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… alongside photographic print by Abramovic

High-resolution display screens were an identifiable trend, though most were carefully clear of branding. Other trends? Video, but very little other time-based work, for example performance art.

Location-specific Rapunzel

Location-specific Rapunzel

In view of the concern with Brazil’s heritage, that’s surprising, since performance art has been very strong here, during the dictatorship years, and in actions associated with squatters. Hmmm …

The display of time …

by Guto Lacaz

by Guto Lacaz

A more traditional time display

… and generally poor display of the details about artists and works.

Photographic and hyper-real figurative work, and few abstract works.

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Temple of David, Beirut,1996, Robert Polidori

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Another human animal, the work of Adriana Duque

A preoccupation with brands and labels …

Patrocínios (Sponsorships) II 2013

Leda Catunda’s Patrocínios (Sponsorships) II 2013, from football strips

… with a provocative undercurrent.

American 'patches' sewn on a parachute

American ‘patches’ sewn on a parachute

The international language of conspiracy theory

The international language of conspiracy theory …

The comfort of traditional knowledge

… and the comfort of traditional knowledge

A continuing fascination with pop art.

King Kong goes bananas

King Kong goes bananas

International character

International character

The Marcel Duchamp heritage

The Marcel Duchamp heritage

Traditionally strong craft, plus modern adhesive

Traditional craft, modern adhesive

I was easily able to take low-resolution photographs, and to chat freely with knowledgeable dealers and gallery staff. In itself, this show provides an excellent educational opportunity, which many clearly relished.

The comparisons one can make between some greats of western art – Calder, Chagall, Dali, Hirst, Picasso, Schnabel, Warhol – and the Brazilian and Latin American canon on show – Jose Bechara, Leda Catunda, Emiliano di Cavalcanti, Milton Dacosta, Adriana Duque, Guto Lacaz, Daniel Murgel, Raimundo Rodriguez, Lasar Segall, Jesus Soto, Rafael Vicente, Alfredo Volpi – is unparalleled, and the subject of another post.

Tomie Ohtake at Estação Consolação

3 Apr

Architect Ruy Ohtake’s work is well known – his Torrre Faria Lima and Torrre Pedroso de Moraes, housing the Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake, is a familiar Sao Paulo landmark. The locals know the lower tower in the foreground by another more affectionate name.


Foreground, inverted ziggurat and sculptural support in the shape of star fruit – known as Palácio da Carambola

More on Ruy Ohtake at  and  .

His mother Tomie Ohtake is an established Brazilian painter, represented in the collections of the Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP) and the Ibiripuera Auditorium, among others. Like her son, she uses bright areas and blocks of colour.

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

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

Entrance to theatre, Instituto Ohtake, architect Ruy Ohtake

Tomie Ohtake’s work is also on more public display. On a recent trip to Santos I used the Green Line, the Linha Verde or Line 2 of the Sao Paulo Metro. I was struck once more by the unabashed way in which Brazilian architects use exposed raw concrete in their work, alongside colourful tiling deployed with equal abandon. I have seen it in other settings.

Concrete and tile, Clube Paineiras do Morumby

Concrete and tile, Clube Paineiras do Morumby

The Metro stations use the same vernacular. See  .

Tomie Ohtake takes the language a step further. She has hung long shallow strips of primary-coloured tiling along the platform at Estação Consolação. The grey concrete is an effective foil for the colour, but more than that, the swooping shapes of the darker hues inserted from the top edge appear to dip as the slowing trains pull in, the uptick at the end of the shape reflecting the speed with which the train comes to a stop. She uses the kinetic aspect of her setting with refreshing playfulness.

Art advert ...

Overview for stationary passengers

The way the piece interacts with its setting even for stationary passengers is also an unexpected pleasure. You may not see the  colours swoop while standing on the platform, but the reflection in the steel pedestrian strip shows the work in a different light. The subtle and playful use of colour, shape and light enlivens the drabbest grey. You begin to understand why Tomie Ohtake has achieved her respected status, and how art can animate the urban built environment.

P.S Here’s the yellow panel in more detail, a beautifully realised colour balance.

Detail, tiled panel

Detail, tiled panel


 ... and the art itself

Platform Estação Consolação

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