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Museu de Arte Moderna


The Museu de Arte Moderna of Rio de Janeiro is located in Parque do Flamengo along the bay of the city. The Museum was inaugurated in 1948. From this moment the museum started to acquire art works in order to build its collection. Some of the works of the permanent collection are pieces of Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee and Salvador Dalì. In 1954 the architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy was commissioned for the building of the MAM while Burle Marx designed the garden.

The institution has also always been an experimental laboratory where many Brazilian artistic movements found their origin, such as the neoconcretismo (1959) and Nova Objetividade Brasileira (1967). The museum, since its beginning also focused on performing arts, hosting an important cinéteca and a theatre.

In 1993, Gilberto Chateaubriand, one of the main Brazilian collectors of modern art, left his collection to the museum that increased the permanent collection of the MAM to more than 4000 works.

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On April 3rd 2009 we visited the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro. We were welcomed by BobN, a contemporary Brazilian artist, and Isabella, a woman from the design department of the museum. BobN and Isabella guided us through the museum, explaining the works of BobN and finally ending the meeting with a group discussion at the ground floor.

On the ground floor there were photographs by BobN in which he used himself as the subject in strange situations.  On the first floor there was another display of BobN’s work. This time the work was a colourful installation of patterns made of plastic material typically used in advertising. He explained that he was trying to create a tribute to Brazilian art. BobN likes to play with identities and stereotypes and his work is an open proposal either to take it seriously or not, it is all up to the audience. According to BobN, Brazil is full of stereotypes, preconceived ideas about the Amazon, Amazonians, myths, and the idea that everything that comes from the Amazon is an aphrodisiac, something which is not completely true. BobN also wants to play with the idea of truth. The idea that the installation is all “fake”, plastic, gives the message that stereotypes can be something misleading.

On the last floor of the museum was an exhibition of the work of Carla Guagliardi, a Brazilian artist living and working in Berlin and Rio de Janeiro. Her works shown at the MAM were predominantly sculptures that experimented with time as a decisive agent. Iron, plastic, wood, water, and air were combined in her works, producing a sense of balance. The last floor of the museum also holds the permanent collection of the MAM which includes many important works of modern art. BobN worked around some of these works, surrounding them with plastic, colorful, psychedelic prints similar to his installation on the first floor of the museum.

Finally, back on the ground floor of the MAM we engaged in a discussion with BobN about various topics such as the main differences between the artistic panoramas of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in general, stereotypes and art.

Rio De Janeiro

According to BobN, in Rio art is more “happy”, more Brazilian and refers more to the Brazilian stereotypes. He also said that in Rio artists do not tend to make political art, the role of art in Rio is more to entertain, to make people feel happy and have a social impact with the final aim of gathering people (for example a work of art made of chairs located in the middle of a street intersection in Rio). For BobN art does not have a specific meaning, it is open and up to the audience to understand and see what they want. Bob N explained that the art system in Rio is not very well structured, there is a gap between the city and the museums due to a lack in transportation and communication.

Sao Paulo

On the other hand, in Sao Paulo the art system is better organized and structured thanks to the economic advantages of the city. Artists in Sao Paulo are working more on political issues such as pollution and are more conservative, closed and auto referential. As far as identities are concerned, in Sao Paulo people do not forget about where they originally come from so integration in hindered in Sao Paulo.

Brazil and art in general

BobN also explained that Brazil is geographically isolated and this can on the one hand help in the ‘freedom’ of thinking of the artist, but at the same time makes it more difficult to see what other artists around the world are working on. BobN was part the a generation of artists who started working in the 90’s, a time when there was no market for art in Brazil so artists did not know exactly what to work on so they were free to do what they wanted. Finally, BobN concluded that people who work in the arts tend to overate it and detach it from everyday life; maybe art should be fun and closer to people.

by Kiki Sideris

MAM Rio website

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