Art in Brazil: a story in the São Paulo Pinacoteca

The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo presents its new long-term exhibition Arte no Brasil: a story at the Pinacoteca São Paulo, which occupies the entire second floor of the building on Avenida Tiradentes with works from its collection, and marks a new and outstanding stage in the centenary tour of the Pinacoteca do Estado, which is part of the museum network of the Secretary of State for Culture. It succeeds the exhibition that was opened in 1998, in the same space, at the end of the restoration of the building, and that remained on display until December 2010, fulfilling a fundamental role in strengthening the institution.

The main objective of this exhibition is to offer the public a reading of the formation of artistic visuality and the constitution of an art system in Brazil from the colonial period to the mid-1930s, centered on the works that make up the museum’s collection. “Obeying a chronological order, the exhibition is based on two thematic axes, essential in the constitution and understanding of the development of artistic practices in the country.

On one hand, the formation of a visual imaginary about Brazil – the set of images about it, its relations and meanings that they produce. On the other hand, the formation of an art system in the country – teaching, production, market, criticism and museums – started with the arrival of the French Artistic Mission, the creation of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts and the artistic boarding program. The course of the rooms presents the unfolding of this story, its characters and achievements… ”, says Ivo Mesquita, chief curator of the State Pinacoteca. From the perspective of the institutional mission, it also aims to provide visitors with a qualified experience in relation to the exhibited works, through a series of educational proposals that seek to explore multiple reading contents, as well as to suggest relationships with the building and its memories.

The exhibition consists of about 500 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and photographs, by artists fundamental to the history of Brazilian art of that period, such as Debret, Taunay, Facchinetti, Almeida Junior, Eliseu Visconti, Pedro Alexandrino, Candido Portinari, Lasar Segall, among others. Of this total, about 300 works have gone through the Conservation and Restoration process, over the past year, done entirely by the museum’s technical team. The exhibition space has been completely readjusted, including changing the floor and opening the door systems, and improving the air conditioning, lighting and security systems.

The exhibition will cover 11 rooms. Another four, located at the ends of the building, house temporary exhibitions that offer perspectives on artists, movements, historical periods, or contemporary counterpoints, related to long-term exposure. The exhibition also houses some educational proposals, which indicate other possibilities for reading and interpreting the exhibited works. On gray walls, Art in dialogue brings works by modern and contemporary artists, also from the museum’s collection, selected by the Center for Educational Action to establish relationships with issues addressed by the works displayed in each room. A Reading Roomprovides bibliographic and documentary material on the history of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo and art in Brazil.

The Interpretation Room, at another point in the journey, offers the possibility to explore aspects of the memory of the place and the individual, visits to the museum and the exhibition from interactive elements, which record presences and impressions in the context of the show. In the corridors, the set of showcases, punctuates and comments, with unique pieces from the collection, the narrative inside the exhibition rooms. In this same space is the Tactile Gallery of Brazilian Sculptures, composed of 12 works that were chosen so that visually impaired visitors can enjoy them autonomously, touching them and receiving information through labels and texts in double reading (ink and Braille), in addition to an audio guide. The selection of works was carried out considering the indication of the visually impaired public who participated in guided visits to the museum’s collection in the last five years. In addition, dimension, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity, which facilitate the understanding and artistic appreciation of these works when touched, were other criteria adopted for the choice of sculptures.

The realization of this initiative was only possible thanks to the collaboration of the Artistic Collections of the Palaces of the Government of the State of São Paulo, the Crespi Prado Foundation and the Art Collection of the City, of the Centro Cultural São Paulo – Municipal Secretary of Culture, which ceded works of its collections, essential for the construction of the proposed curatorial itineraries. Two sources of funds from the Government of the State of São Paulo made the implementation of this project fully feasible: the FID – State Fund for the Defense of Diffuse Interests, from the Department of Justice and the Defense of Citizenship, and funds from the State Department of Culture.

More than a contribution to the history of art in Brazil, an exercise in
social museology and a practice of responsible educational action, the exhibition Arte no Brasil: a history at Pinacoteca São Paulo is a decisive step in the museum’s commitment to making reality the individual right of each Brazilian citizen to have effective access to their preserved cultural heritage.

Exhibition path:

Room 1 – The colonial tradition
The works contrast the artistic tradition of colonial Brazil, so closely linked to the religious theme, to the European imagination in relation to the country. The brief Dutch occupation in the northeast would give rise to the first paintings that seek to reproduce the country’s natural environment according to European landscape painting traditions.

Room 2 – Traveling artists
The room brings together a selection of landscape paintings executed by foreign artists between 1820 and 1890, approximately. It is these artists, generically called “travelers”, who are responsible for introducing already established genres of European art into the Brazilian artistic environment, such as landscape and still life.

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Room 3 – The creation of the Academy
The works of Jean-Baptiste Debret, Nicolas Taunay and Zéphéryn Ferrez, artists from the French Mission of 1816, signal the creation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro and the establishment, therefore, of a new 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 the academic rule, which establishes new standards of taste in the artistic environment 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 at the Academy between 1890 and 1915, such as Zeferino da Costa, Belmiro de Almeida and Pedro Weingärtner.

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

Room 6 – The genres of painting
The room brings together Brazilians of the four genres proposed by academic education – still life, landscape, portrait and historical painting – indicating the scope and longevity of the French model disseminated by the academies of the world.

Room 7 – Bourgeois Realism
The Academy is the basis of an artistic system that presupposes patronage. It is inevitable that academic production therefore reflects important values for certain social classes. At the end of the 19th 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.

Room 8 and 9 – From the collections to the museum
These rooms bring together works from some of the large donation lots that came to constitute the collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado, such as the Azevedo Marques Family (1949), Silveira Cintra Family (1956), Alfredo Mesquita (1976/1994), among others.

Room 10 – A São Paulo imaginary
The room proposes a reflection on the image that São Paulo seeks to project on itself from the end of the 19th century. The canvases in which Almeida Junior proposes the typification of the
caipira paulista are opposed to images of the transformation of the urban landscape of São Paulo.

Room 11 – The national in art
Bringing together works from different periods, the room highlights an issue that runs through the entire 19th century in Brazil, remaining as a question for artists and intellectuals of São Paulo modernism: the creation of a national ideal in the arts.

Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo
The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo is one of the most important museums of art of Brazil. It occupies a building constructed in 1900 in the Jardim da Luz, center of São Paulo, designed by Ramos de Azevedo and Domiziano Rossi to be the seat of the Arts and Crafts Lyceum. It is the oldest art museum in São Paulo, founded in 1905 and regulated as a state public museum since 1911.

After the reform conducted by Paulo Mendes da Rocha in the 1990s, it became one of the most dynamic cultural institutions in the country, integrating itself into the international exhibition circuit, promoting diverse cultural events and maintaining an active bibliographic production. Pina, as it is also known, also manages the space called Estação Pinacoteca, or Pina Estação, installed in the old DOPS building in Bom Retiro, where it holds temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, the Walter Wey Library and the Centro de Documentation and Memory of the institution.

The Pinacoteca houses one of the largest and most representative collections of Brazilian art, with over ten thousand pieces covering mostly the history of Brazilian painting in the 19th and 20th centuries. Also noteworthy is the Brasiliana Collection, integrated by works by foreign artists working in Brazil or inspired by the country’s iconography, the Nemirovsky Collection, with an expressive set of masterpieces of Brazilian modernism and, more recently, the Roger Wright Collection, received in lending in January 2015.

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