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Galeria A Gentil Carioca


Marcio Botner was born in 1970 in Rio de Janeiro. He is an artist, but he also teaches at the Parque Lage Visual Arts School and is also its Vice-President. Mr. Botner is one of the three founders of Gentil Carioca Gallery.


The gallery was founded in 2002 by three young artists: Ernesto Neto, Laura Lima and Marcio Botner. Their mission is to create long term collaborations with young Brazilian artists and to grow together.

The gallery is situated in downtown Rio de Janeiro, in a little neighbourhood called Sahara full of colonial buildings and really multiethnic.

The three artists decided to open a space in this specific area of the city because they needed a location in order to reflect, share and exchange their experiences and thoughts about art. The positioning in downtown Rio helps the cultural exchange and the educational activities that the gallery  develops in order to involve and make people more aware of Brazilian contemporary art.

The gallery develops various strategies. On the commercial side, Gentil Carioca participates in several important international art fairs such as Frieze, Art Basel and Miami, in order to economically sustain their projects and enhance young Brazilian artists abroad. The gallery is also building up and maintaining collaborations with some international galleries, such as the Studio Guenzani in Milano. On the social side, Gentil Carioca develops different pedagogic projects through public art, workshops, free exhibitions (both within the gallery space and outside) and merchandizing products promoting educational art (for example the Educação Liga t-shirt).

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The exhibition space of the gallery is situated at the second floor of an old colonial building and where the meeting with Marcio Botner took place.

After a short introduction of the gallery’s history, the director described some specific projects and activities that the gallery develops.

The strategy of the gallery is to bring different projects together such as educational programs, public art, commercial activities etc.

Gentil Carioca scouts all around Brazil for young artists who are without institutional support. With the scouting issue, Marcio Botner pointed out the first main difference between Rio de Janeiro’s art system and Sao Paulo’s art system: in Rio the environment is really informal, while in Sao Paulo the selection of the artists involves a formal and institutionalized process (such as the Itaù Cultural’s Humus). Artists tend to produce in Rio and sell in Sao Paulo.

Once a year Gentil Carioca also organizes a collective exhibition, called Abriales, in which a selection of young artists, taken mostly form art books that the gallery received, show their works. Abrialas is the first float of the carnival and Gentil Carioca, playing with the metaphor, brings young artists to open the first exhibition of the year. Often this exhibition is the starting point for their careers. Some of the artists, indeed, if successful and talented, could become part of the artist portfolio of the gallery. Usually the artists are from Brazil, but the gallery is also open to the possibility of collaborating with artists from abroad, above all South America.

The founders of the gallery strongly believe that art is a tool in order to develop and sustain educational activities and that art can make changes. But how? Gentil Carioca’s main goal is to reflect on art, by using the gallery as a platform for cultural exchange. For this reason, Marcio Botner stressed the concept of “Art as a Cultural Bomb”, able to enhance the collective social capital of the community and to make people ask themselves questions. In order to carry on this vision, the gallery build up two main projects:

The Gentle Wall Project consists of inviting one artist to do something special over the external wall of the gallery building. In this way the artwork that remains on the wall for four months is visible to everyone who walks on the street. Each time, the gallery invites a collector to finance the project. In this way, Gentil Carioca tries to mix collecting with public art, exploiting a chance for education.

Educational Shirt project entails commissioning a different artist every month to design a t-shirt. The t-shirts are then sold at a relatively low price, so that everybody could buy one and “bring art around” or “Think about art through the city”. Every t-shirt has the sentence “art wakes you up”. This is the message that the gallery want to give to the entire community. The t-shirts are also a form of merchandising that brings more revenues to the gallery.

Marcio Botner described other public projects the gallery has developed. One it is called “Sleepy City” and consists of building a public sculpture in the centre of a Rio de Janeiro square. He stated that after a few days people started enjoying the sculpture by using it and, consequently, asking themselves questions about the role of art from a social perspective. Moreover, Gentil Carioca is considering starting a magazine, in order to stimulate reflection around contemporary art, but for the moment they are still looking for financial resources for the project.

Most of the projects are supported by private collectors. Often, they do not even care to know what kind of projects they are financing because they trust and recognize the importance of these art programs from a cultural and social perspective. It is a sort of sponsorship. From some point of view Gentil Carioca acts as a Non Profit Institution. They make revenues from the international Art Fairs and from private collectors, that they then reinvest in offering services to the community.

Regarding the type of art Gentil Carioca tends expose, Marcio Botner talked about the artist Guga Ferraz. He said that this artist is a kind of street artist and he explained one of his works that he found interesting. Everyday some guys from the favelas burn buses as a form of protest. One day one of these guys got killed by the police. So, Guga Ferraz went in all the bus stops of Rio to put a stickers with a bus burning. Marcio Botner took the example in order to explain that he likes artists that imply social or environmental issues in their works and who make art in a particular, innovative and careful way.

After the meeting, some interesting questions were raised:

  • Opening a gallery like Gentil Carioca in Milan would be really difficult. When you start to sell you risk losing cultural elaboration.

“In Brazil it is different. The selling process to us is a secondary issue. We don’t think about money. Maybe it is a cultural difference. Here the catholic religion has and had a really strong impact, but not like in Italy, so also the culture and the approach to money is different. What really move us, I repeat, is the concept of art as a cultural bomb. We have also another project called “Project Abrialas”. Abrialas is the first float of the carnival. So we bring young artists to the gallery to open a new exhibition.

There are two ways of education: one is intellectual and the other is emotional. We try to do both.”

  • How can you follow the international market in the art fairs and also develop so many local educational programs?

“It is really hard and tiring. It is difficult to travel so much and also to monitor the goals and aims of our educational programs. It is a question of sustainability. I don’t know it will be sustainable in the long term.”

by Neri Bastiancich and Giovanni Saladino

Galeria A Gentil Carioca website

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