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Sao Paulo Street Art Again

6 Jan

Staying in Sao Paulo while everyone is away on holiday has its advantages – quieter, cleaner air, easier access. Even losing electricity has an up side. Often happens here in Zona Oeste – with January rain, with wind, or for no reason. Takes out light in homes, and whole blocks of street lighting, makes you get out more, unhooked from the virtual. I went out for a stroll.

Real and painted leaves

Real and mosaic leaves

Diesel generators power the public parts of apartment towers, LEDs light stairwells.  You notice how bright the remaining street lights and traffic lights are. Street art takes on a new character. The mirror tiles on a mural glitter.

Christmas tree, Brazilian style

Christmas tree, Brazilian style

In the holiday season, decorations are up and in the dark, a little more dramatic.

Night-time Nativity

Night-time Nativity

Sao Paulo is an illustrated environment. With lighting changes, you see it anew.

Traffic control ...

Traffic control …

The works on these two traffic control boxes are by prolific local artist Treco, along with anti-meat stickers, declarations of love, and a sketch of an urban Transformer-style creature (on the plinth below). Here’s his Flickr photo-stream.

 ... and public art gallery

… and public art gallery

In the background, painted plant-like filigree adorns the walls of a corner sorveteria, and a beauty parlour. I stroll on.

Wall art - Beryl Cook bathers

Wall art – sea bathing

I discover an older mural. With engaging whimsy, a utilitarian wall has become a grey sandy beach – foaming water, sea creatures, bathing belles. They are from an earlier time, in subject and in style, like British seaside postcards.

View from Rua Teodoro Sampaio

View from Rua Teodoro Sampaio

Rua Teodoro, usually burdened with grinding diesel buses, is calm. From the elevated walkway, something I hadn’t noticed before.

Exotic geisha-like figure

Exotic geisha-like figure

An ordinary mixed-use building shows a mythic scene. A comfortably plump figure floats free – is he underwater? In the circus ring? A long shape, a doorway, is suspended on his silver spear before a geisha, painted in flat Japanese woodcut style, while a costumed aerialist descends with a basket – an air vent – on her arm. Is it a box for steamed dumplings? Will she take what they offer?

Neptune's offering

Neptune’s offering

And under the walkway, on Rua Joaquim Antunes, a pair of new works strikingly lit by yellowish flood lamps. They are a horse and an eagle, in cutaway views, by Austrian muralist Nychos. The eagle is centred on a motto in his native German.

Eagle, but not as we know it

American Eagle, but not as we know it

“der Zeit ihre Kunst.der Kunst ihre Freiheit!” (“the time its art. the art its freedom”) A very famous and important term which was written of top of the Secession in Vienna long time ago. A term which has been forgotten in many ways if i watch austrian news lately.” Nychos.

1897 Wiener Secession, Joseph Maria Olbrich – architectural manifesto for the Vienna Secession

“I painted this piece in Sao Paulo to represent my 15 year anniversary of painting graffiti. The eagle is sliced but set free, tied by his veins to the bricks with all his passion for graffiti. after all these years going through all the steps of graffiti and art, i am happy to be here where i am now, doing what i love to do most and will keep doing forever. thanks to instagrafite for getting this up in the heart of brazil.” Nychos.

Time Your Art, Art Your Freedom

“To every time its art, to art its freedom” Google Translate

His style references gang ‘colours’, tattoo and metal music graphics. The cut-away calls to mind Francis Bacon’s paintings of flayed animals, Damien Hirst’s shark,

Anatomy of a horse

Anatomy of a horse

the plastinated bodies of Gunther von Hagens, or the work of Frederick Stubbs with horse carcasses in preparation for his paintings.

“Horsepower (This one is dedicated to my Mom) THX Instagrafite and Montana Cans (official) Sao Paulo 2014” (May / June. He did a dissection graphic of a wild boar for his dad in Berlin in May.)

The artist's avatar, perhaps

Local post-script

A graphic has been added, commenting in a cryptically good-natured way on the gringo‘s work.

Horse power

Horsepower on the street

Part of the complex cultural eco-system of Brazil, street art is one of its most vital aspects. That it is international in reach, with a substantial history, and that there is a discernible and thriving local style – free-form, incorporating three-dimensional and building elements, unafraid to mix graphic styles in one work (look at this piece from Rio Centro) –

Rua Riacheulo in Rio

Rua Riacheulo in Rio, July 2012

is reason enough for Brazil to be generous with its street artists, and for them to ask for and to expect support.

More on Nychos at

MASP Updates

28 Dec

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo, or MASP  is “undergoing a process of … renewal” in which the architecture of the museum building will be partially restored, and less well-known work from the considerable collection displayed.

Staircase, first floor

Staircase and lift with red arch, first floor

The building is the work of Italian Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. Iconic red arches support the upper floors on legs or pilotis over an open plaza, with its Saturday antiques fair, its buskers and vendors, and its complement of Sao Paulo street life.


The rationale

The re-exhibition of the collection has already begun, in a public process of hanging by themes and types – head and shoulders portraits, full female portraits, landscapes and city-scapes, still life work, male portraits, and more. During January the on-line public can suggest works for exhibition from the Museum’s catalogue, also a three-volume work for sale in the excellent bookshop at a substantial discount.

" ... the emblem of the process ... of institutional renewal"

” … the emblem of the process … of institutional renewal”

The playful sculpture chosen to usher in this new phase is by the internationally active Brazilian artist Rubens Gerchman. Titled Ar – Cartilha do Superlativo or Air – Primer of the Superlative, it has an additional joke for English speakers: it appears to translate its theme when viewed from the side, as in the photo on the hand-out above. Only from the front does the ‘i’ of ‘air’ vanish.

Goddess restored

Goddess restored – Hellenic Hygiea

MASP’s current exhibitions are a credit to their curators and collections – the restored statue above is of the Greek goddess of health and cleanliness, for the exhibition Deuses e Madonas – A Arte do Sagrado. As in any restoration, they will face difficult questions.

Should the red arches be returned to their original concrete, as in the city-scape of Avenida Paulista to be hung on the first floor?

Are there enough funds for the conservation of the collection? (Ar – Cartilha do Superlativo is showing signs of wear.) Or indeed for better translations into English?

If the original open plan of the gallery is to be restored with all its light and air – and a striking view of the canopy of the remaining rainforest across the road in the Parque Trianon – where will the administrators currently occupying the panoramic windows go?

the museum abandoned this ... at the end of the 1990s, when it starts to be ... implemented by foreign institutions

MASP “abandoned this at the end of the 90s as it starts to be implemented by foreign institutions”

What will be the effect of raising prices and abolishing free entry for those 60 years of age and more, due in January?

One thing I dare suggest to mitigate its effect is an improvement in the catering – the café can become a destination and a paying proposition rather than the half-hearted attempt it is now. Here’s a reminder of why from the 1988 ad campaign of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

The V & A: an ace caff  with quite a nice museum attached

Another goddess, in a good café with quite a nice museum attached

Guignard, Brazilian artist

9 Nov

In an eighteenth century house on the busy thoroughfare of Rua Direita (officially known as Rua Conde de Bobadela), at number 110 in Ouro Preto MG, there’s a little gem of an art museum. An elegant building, like much of the centre of Ouro Preto it’s baroque in style.

It’s the Casa Museu Guignard, dedicated to the work of Alberto da Veiga Guignard, twentieth century Brazilian painter.

18th century domestic architecture

Many of Guignard’s works are in private collections; the museum’s modest collection is mostly portraits. The collection offers an insight into the workings of Brazilian society.

A a series of portrait sketches from the 1950s are decorative and well drafted.

Indian ink on paper – reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley

But there’s more than decoration here. A sketch of a freed slave, Francisca da Silva de Oliveira, who rose to the highest levels of society in the wealthy state of Minas Gerais, rubs shoulders with portraits of writers and patrons of the arts.


Chica da Silva (1732 – 1796), freed slave and Minas Gerais society figure

More of her story at

Equally, Guignard’s unerring eye is turned on himself – thick glasses, hare lip – and stares back at us from the self-portrait.



An accomplished draftsman, Guignard also handled paint with skill.

Brazilian Italian Anita Uxa, founder of an arts appreciation society in Belo Horizonte

Brazilian Italian Anita Uxa, founder of an arts appreciation society in Belo Horizonte MG

Video portrait of Anita Uxa in Italian at 

His style calls to mind Warhol portraits, his backgrounds can remind you of the topography of European portraiture.

Lúcia Machado de Almeida, Ouro Preto writer

Lúcia Machado de Almeida, Ouro Preto children’s author

In the portrait of Lúcia Machado de Almeida, her subject – the city and its surroundings – seem to revolve around her. More at

A landscape of Minas Gerais is apocalyptic – the baroque landmarks look like ships on a storm-tossed sea, roped together by the roads.

Minas landscape

Minas landscape

At his best, Guignard transcends the naif style of the souvenir painting to offer penetrating vision and insight. The museum rightly offers this portrait as his best work in their holdings.

Portrait of a man, oil on wood, 1949

Portrait of a man, oil on wood, 1949

There are more sketches and portraits in the collection, as well as hand-drawn cards, decorated objects and photographs. A short documentary video is also helpful.

Known as a landscape painter, Guignard’s portraits are the stronger work. With a European-trained eye and a deep connection to society life, he offers a new perspective on the rich diversity of Brazilian culture.

Sylvio Perlstein Collection at MASP

29 Jun

The Sao Paulo gallery MASP (“maspee”) or Museu de Arte de São Paulo is hosting an extraordinary collection of twentieth-century art, assembled over many years by Sylvio Perlstein, a Brazilian-Belgian jeweler and diamond merchant. It is on show until August 10th.

An expertly hung show

An expertly hung show

First exhibited publicly seven years ago in Paris, this treasure trove of twentieth century art is an outstanding collection, including iconic works by leading artists – Duchamp, Man Ray, Dali, Magritte, Breton, Kandinsky, Klein, Twombly, Johns, Lichtenstein, Nauman, André, Kosuth, Long, Warhol, Kruger, Haring … and you recognise them from reproductions. They are not minor works.

(Part of) Obstruction by Man Ray

(Part of) Obstruction by Man Ray

From the first work, by Man Ray, which greets you at the entrance, the art canon jumps off the walls at you, propelled by its fame.

MASP takes its remit to educate seriously, and this exhibition serves that purpose admirably. It’s a lightning tour of most of the important art movements of the twentieth century, and an exciting collection. (And the antique and crafts market under the red MASP arches on Saturdays and Sundays is good too.) Go!

The MASP mission to educate is well served

The MASP mission to educate is well served

Murano glass?

26 Jun

Here is a piece from the famous firm of Seguso, based on the island of Murano in the lagoon of Venice since 1397.

More at

from the Ca d'Or line of Seguso glass

from the Ca d’Or line of Seguso glass

I bought it at the shop within the Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Brazilians have admired good glass for many years. The antique markets have plenty of examples, from Lalique and from Murano makers.

This piece is from the product line named Cá d’Oro, after a palazzo in Venice which was once covered in gold leaf. There were a number of examples of the line in various colours in the shop – black, white, red, a bright blue. I found this the most successful.

The piece works by reflecting the colour in the base internally within its thickness, so that it shines through the rounded lip as well as the coin spot of vivid colour in the base. A little treasure in a well-stocked shop.

Colour reflected and transmitted

Colour reflected and transmitted

P.S.  As to the mystery of why a piece of Murano glass can be so cheap – R$80, about US$35, or GB£20 at today’s rates – it is because it’s Brazilian Seguso.

“Mario Seguso (and sons) was of the well known Seguso family of Murano but was working in Brazil … he took up residence in Brazil from 1954 … items made by Mario Seguso in Brazil are signed Seguso Brazil”, though this particular example is not signed like that.

More at,33418.5/wap2.html

and at


Brazilian Art at sp-arte / 2013

26 May

I took a quick look at the Sao Paulo art fair sp-arte / 2013 in a previous post.  It’s held in alternate years to the Sao Paulo Bienal, in the Bienal building.

Famous neighbours

Female figures, famous artists

I was struck by how good an opportunity sp-arte / 2013 provided to see some of the best ‘Western’ art alongside the output of Latin American practitioners. The galleries and dealers – this is very much a selling show – showed museum-quality pieces by well-known European and North American artists. Picasso and Dali are hung casually side by side.

A famous pair

Two figures, famous artist

Picasso even looked a little over-exposed. It’s a measure of how much interest there may be in Brazil in the Western high art tradition.

Brazilian female figure

Female figure, Brazilian artist

The work of Lasar Segall, a leading Brazilian artist, was much in evidence. He makes an interesting counterpoint to the Western canon, having worked in Europe alongside leading lights of Expressionism such as Otto Dix, and in Brazil as a champion of Modernism, with Mario Andrade on  the 1923 Semana de Arte Moderna …

Classical subject

Máscaras oil on canvas 1938

… and on the 1932 Sociedade Pro-Arte Moderna (SPAM) initiative with artists like sculptor Victor Brecheret. 

Segall still life

Segall still life

His work fits comfortably into the European canon – its subject matter, its modes and its Expressionist style are all familiar in the West.


Picasso portrait

A sure sense of colour and a fluent line underpin his work …

Portrait sketch

Profile of Striemer Lasar Segall watercolour and gouache on paper 1915

… standing comparison with the best on show at sp-arte / 2013.

Warhol pencil sketch

Warhol pencil sketch

Although there were some hints of Brazilian influence in the work on show – the small bronze is perhaps a version of the Afro-Brazilian ibeji or twin figures

Small  bronze

Duas Amigas Lasar Segall patinated bronze 1936

– the work here was more comfortable viewing than the Brazilian subject matter he usually favoured – favelas, Rio prostitutes, and plantations, as well as Brazilian landscapes and the Brazilian people.

The Museu Lasar Segall in Sao Paulo holds a large collection of Segall’s paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, in the house in which he lived.

Alexander Calder 'mobile'

Alexander Calder ‘mobile’

Bronze seems remarkably quaint alongside the materials used in today’s sculpture. The Alexander Calder ‘mobile’, once so radical, has aged gracefully into an elegant classic, with a price tag to match.

Floating world

Floating world

I did see a pale imitation of his form – a series of suspended wire horizontals, but no ‘vanes’ and no colour – but the work above brought a new meaning to suspended form, and was a real crowd-pleaser. People clustered around it, taking photographs, as everyone does these days.

Material: decommissioned fire hose

From Time to Time These Hot Days get Lonely Theaster Gates

The material of this US work – decommissioned fire hose – yielded something between painting and sculpture, evoking fire hydrants amid hot New York summers.

Chagall circus scene

Chagall circus scene

Another iconic European artist, Marc Chagall, took me back to more innocent and traditional subjects. His work raises strong echoes in Brazil, where the naive approach is alive and well  Naive art and indeed street art – graffiti, murals, posters – flourish here, so it was intriguing to see that there is also a fine art naif strand.

Milton Dacosta

Figura Milton Dacosta 1949

Brazilian Milton Dacosta was well-represented at sp arte / 2013. Like Segall, he had one foot in European fine art practice – he worked with Braque and Rouault in Paris in 1946 – and was influenced by Cubism in his progress from figurative to geometric and concrete styles. He was an exhibiting artist in Brazil’s first stand at the Venice Biennale in 1950, alongside Brecheret and Brazilian great Roberto Burle Marx. The typically simplfied geometric female figure above references Cubism.

Milton Dacosta leitmotif shape emerging

Alfredo Volpi leitmotif shape emerging

Alfredo Volpi is another modernist well-known in Brazil for his simple style. His subject matter during the 1950s was domestic architecture, especially the facades of houses, developing and refining a signature shape from the rooflines into a ‘pennant’ which has resonance in Brazil as the shape of the festive flags of the June holiday season, the Festa Junina. The cityscape view above over the rooftops of houses echoes that shape in their gable ends, further stylised in the accompanying drawing.

Like much else in Brazil, the cityscape has changed radically in the intervening years. The dominant shape is the tower rather than the pent roof, materials and colours more urban than suburban. Irish Brazilian James Concagh, for example, uses a predominantly monochrome palette, and includes the coarse woven raffia of sugar bags to meditative effect

Rafael Vicente

Rafael Vicente

Rafael Vicente paints semi-abstract canvases which evoke the Brazilian cityscape and waterfront, crammed with horizontals and verticals, always under (re)construction. He works on an appropriately large scale, and includes materials like asphalt and iron as well as paint. A daring use of colour and perspective enhances its impact.

The Garden of Delights of Raimundo Rodrigues

The Garden of Delights Raimundo Rodrigues

Raimundo Rodrigues is daring in quite another way. He collects and repurposes what others abandon or throw out. Mounted on large panels, he makes a mythic panorama from pieces of packaging, machine parts, hand tools, children’s toys, mirrors, and miscellaneous detritus, joined and unified with scrap wood. Children take particular pleasure in looking closely at this playful ongoing work, though the reference to art works such as the Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters and the complex accretion of images in the work of Hieronymus Bosch is also clear.

Africa by Jose Bechara

Africa (from the series Open House), Jose Bechara

José Bechara exhibits in the US, Spain and Portugal as well as very widely in Brazil. He produces paintings, drawings, photographs, and especially sculptures. The 3D work features furniture – tables, chairs, shelving – which by the simple expedient of upending or inclining he transforms into a disturbing commentary on contemporary life. A maquette he showed was full of power and promise despite its size.

E o muro que transborda, Daniel Murgel

Study for E o muro que transborda, Daniel Murgel

Daniel Murgel has been working with bricks over the last two years – the hollow clay brickwork from which favela houses are built – assembling them in 3D in the same casual manner. The solid wood furniture might well outlast it. Also furniture spilling out of buildings, here the walls divide, preventing dialogue between the two sides of the chess game. A commentary on Brazilian society is discernible.

The work installed

The work installed

Disturbingly, the complete chess game really is installed.

Foto Edouard Fraipon

Foto Edouard Fraipon

(from )

Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel

The certainties of geography stand in sharp contrast. Julian Schnabel’s navigation chart with its bright blue trig point and elegant spatterings of black is beautifully calm by comparison – the gallery owner said he couldn’t resist buying it. Only when you discover that it shows the strait between Sakhalin Island and the Russian mainland, where Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down, do you see a similar tension.

Homage to Sao Paulo

Homage to Sao Paulo

A homage to Sao Paulo, on the other hand, with its helicopter view of the Copan building  a colour-by-numbers style, pop art lettering, and a pink gunship, seems to posit an exaggerated view. Life imitating art … click on the link below to read about the Brazilian police chasing a drug dealer through a favela by helicopter, gunning him down just as the painting suggests.

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

Disturbance comes in many forms. Damien Hirst needs no introduction, and continues to walk the line between decoration and disturbance with aplomb. His collection of painted insects pinned in a mirrored cabinet toys with his usual preoccupations. The familiar spot paintings make their presence felt too. Is it Hirst or sp arte / 2013 which has ‘arrived’?

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

What a delight to encounter the work of Jesús Rafael Soto! An op artist and sculptor born in Venezuela who lived in Paris from 1950, he worked with Victor Vasarely and Jean Tinguely. This small work was intriguing to the eye, as decorative as any Hirst or Vasarely, as playful and as seriously engaged with the materials and mainstream art of his time.

Mini cube, Jesus Soto, 1966

Mini cube Jesús Rafael Soto 1966

More evidence, if it were needed, that Latin American art stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the West. More of his work at  Perhaps there will be more work by women artists as sp arte / 2013 continues to evolve …

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

2013-04-06 17.54.24

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.

2013-04-06 18.10.54

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.

2013-04-06 18.00.42

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.

2013-04-06 18.16.41

Bar sponsored by up-scale shopping centre

2013-04-06 18.11.27

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

2013-04-06 18.58.11

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 …

2013-04-06 18.28.17

… 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.

2013-04-06 18.40.01

Temple of David, Beirut,1996, Robert Polidori

2013-04-06 18.54.54

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.

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