This exhibition turns MASP’s attention to its surroundings, taking Avenida Paulista not only as the place where it stands, but also as an object of consideration and reflection. This is significant in the museum’s 70th anniversary (inaugurated in 1947, it was then centrally located at Rua 7 de Abril, only to be transferred to this building in 1968): the display represents a new regard to this iconic place in SÃ£o Paulo, being at once one of the city’s postcards, as well as stage to clashes and disputes of different nature.
What are the themes passing through this avenue that has 2,800 meters and more than 120 years of history? Social and economic contrasts, financial capital and informal trade, symbolic capital and cultural institutions, political demonstrations and matters of sexuality (home to one of the world’s biggest LGBT pride parades). As a symbol of SÃ£o Paulo, Avenida Paulista also bears the contradictions, frictions, and tensions of a rich, complex, unequal city.Â
The exhibition is split in two major segments. The first one, on the left and back walls of the first floor gallery, comprises representations of the avenue, with photographs, documents, paintings, records of performing actions, objects, and historical posters of 38 authors, ranging from 1891 to 2016, organized chronologically. The second segment is composed by14 new projects commissioned for the exhibition, which occupy the entrance hall, the center, and the right part of the first floor gallery (AndrÃ© Komatsu, Cinthia Marcelle, Graziela Kunsch, IbÃ£ Huni Kuin with Bane and Mana Huni Kuin, Lais Myrrha, Marcelo Cidade, Mauro Restiffe, and Rochelle Costi with Renato Firmino), the basement gallery (Daniel de Paula), the sub-basement video room (Luiz Roque), the Free Span (Marcius Galan), and an intervention on the second floor gallery (Dora Longo Bahia), as well as unrealized projects by Ana Dias Batista and Renata Lucas which are reproduced in the exhibition’s catalogue.
As part of Avenida Paulista, there is a weekly program comprising 13 workshops and 8 movie screenings. The workshopsâ€”conducted by theatre groups, collectives, architects, and artistsâ€”take the avenue as stage and creative space, thus activating its history and memory spaces. The movie screenings, organized by the artist Dora Longo Bahia along with the study group Depois do Fim da Arte, take place in the museum’s small auditorium on the basement, and ponder about the artist’s place in the city.
It is important to think of this exhibition as an unfolding of the architectural and urbanistic vocation inherent to this building idealized by Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), always taking into consideration its essential featuresâ€” transparency, permeability, copious use of glass, free plans, and the suspension of a major concrete volumeâ€”, thus allowing the gaze and the city to pass through the museum. In this sense, to think about MASP means to lean over the city’s issues and, most importantly, the place where it is located since 1968.
This exhibition features seventy-four paintings executed in the period spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s, including ve canvases recently donated to MASP, adding the work of Agostinho Batista de Freitas (1927-1997) to the Museumâ€™s holdings, thereby correcting what was previously a historical gap in the collection.
The focus here is on depictions of the city of SÃ£o Paulo, a subject that occupied Batista de Freitas throughout his career. What is evident is not only the extraordinary quantity of paintings about the city, something singular for SÃ£o Paulo, but also the quality and variety of these works, with a surprising diversity of compositions, colorings, points of view, and framings.
The show sheds light on Batista de Freitasâ€™s relation with the city through various groupings of works, organized in rows, which span from depictions of the Museumâ€™s building, on Avenida Paulista, to aerial views of downtown SÃ£o Paulo, while also including scenes of daily life in the cityâ€™s north zone, where the artist lived, along with a range of different collective situations that include the subjects of travel, festivals, amusements, and religious manifestations.
Displayed within the frank and direct architecture designed by Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), with its transparencies and openings to the cityscape, the paintings by Batista de Freitas encourage the viewer to take an active look at SÃ£o Paulo, with its complex urban dynamics, histories, and social differences.
Agostinho Batista de Freitas, SÃ£o Paulo is part of a major wide-scope program developed by MASPâ€™s artistic direction, aimed at questioning the concepts of high and low art and culture, dedicating shows to self-taught artists, often reclusive or from a humble background, operating outside the traditional circuits of the art system. These strategies are now also giving rise to the restaging of the exhibition A mÃ£o do povo brasileiro[The Hand of the Brazilian People], one of the most celebrated and controversial exhibitions ever held by the Museum, as well as organizing shows such as Portinari popular, which foster the reading of popular themes in Brazilian modernism. The idea is to construct an open, multiple, and plural Museum which is permeable to different cultures.
The biography of Batista de Freitas is intertwined with the history of MASP. It was the Museumâ€™s founding director, Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999), who introduced the artistâ€™s work into the art circuit by organizing his rst solo show, in 1952. Batista de Freitas was then just twenty- ve years old and living in Imirim District, in SÃ£o Pauloâ€™s north zone, painting and showing his works in the streets of downtown SÃ£o Paulo, where Bardi met him.
An essential part of this project is the publication of an extensive catalog, with reproductions of all the artworks in the exhibition, rare documents, and period photographs, as well as six previously unpublished essays by curators and critics especially commissioned to produce new re ections about an artist marginalized by the of cial art history up until now. FERNANDO OLIVA, CURATOR, MASPRODRIGO MOURA,ADJUNCT CURATOR OF BRAZILIAN ART, MASP
The return of Lina Bo Bardi’s radical crystal easels to the display of the collection presents a selection of 119 artworks drawn from the museum’s diverse holdings, spanning from the 4th century BC to 2008. The easels were first presented at the opening of the museum’s current venue in 1968, and withdrawn in 1996.
The return of the easels is not a fetishistic or nostalgic gesture in regard to what has become an iconic exhibition display device, but should rather be understood as part of a programmatic revision of Bo Bardi’s spatial and conceptual contributions to museum practice. The political dimension of her proposals is suggested byÂ the open, transparent, fluid, and permeable picture gallery, which offers multiple possibilities for access and reading, eliminates hierarchies and predetermined paths, and challenges canonical art-historical narratives. The gesture of taking the paintings off the wall and placing them on the easels implies their desacralization, renderingÂ them more familiar to the public. Moreover, the placement of the labels on their backs allows for an initial direct encounter with the work, free from an interpretive framework. InÂ this context, the museum experience becomes more human, plural, and democratic
In the original configuration of the easels, Lina Bo Bardi and Pietro Maria Bardi organized the works by artistic schools or regions. Now they will be placed in strict chronological order, laid out in a meandering path. This organization does not coincide with the chronology of art history, with its schools and movements, nor does it oblige the public to follow its course. The spatial transparency of the open floor plan and the easels invites visitors to construct their own path, enabling unexpected juxtapositions and dialogues between Asian, African, Brazilian, and European art.Â Furthermore,Â Picture Gallery in TransformationÂ is aÂ semi-permanentÂ collection display, as it will remain open to frequent changes, adjustments and modifications, already planned for early 2016. In this sense, the exhibition avoids the typical ossification and sedimentation of permanent collection displays.
The exhibition’s focus on figurative art reflects the history of the collection and the interests of Bo Bardi and Bardi, who resisted the hegemony of the abstract tradition in Brazil in the 1940s and 1950s. They were both wary of abstraction’s potentially depoliticizing effects, in the context of the promotion of geometric abstraction by the US through its Good Neighbor policy during the Cold War. The current display also includes works by artists traditionally considered outside of the Brazilian art-historical canon â€“ such as Agostinho Batista de Freitas, Djanira, JosÃ© AntÃ´nio da Silva, and Maria Auxiliadora â€“ highlighting MASP’s commitment to diversity and multiplicity. The only contemporary work in the display, Marcelo Cidade’s Tempo suspenso de um estado provisÃ³rio[Suspended Time of a Provisory State], 2008, turns the glass easel into an object of institutional reflection. Its presence also signals the museum’s desire to resume its dialogue with contemporary art in the picture gallery.