Skip to content

Marco Augusto Goncalves


In the interview to Marco Augusto Goncalves (a journalist for the Folha de Sao Paulo)  we dealt with several issues. Among them, we talked about the city of San Paolo and the relationship between it and its artists, the concepts of modernism and anthropophagy, contemporary Brazilian art and its relationship with social issues as well as the link between Brazilian art and international art.

The city of Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is generally perceived as a city less Brazilian than others, as a city of immigrants, especially when compared to Rio de Janeiro that is considered the ‘real’ Brazil. This is sometimes true, sometimes not. Rio de Janeiro was the cultural capital of Brazil until thirty years ago, but now Sao Paulo took its place, not just because of its richness but also because of its melting pot properties.

From an architectonical point of view, Sao Paulo is ugly because it grew immensely within a very short period of time. It is an “unfinished” city, simultaneously under construction and in ruins. This is the result of the exceptional speed of the modernization process in which there was no logic of construction if not the one of capitalism. Sao Paulo is an aggressive city not just from the architectural point of view, but also because of the perception of jeopardy. San Paolo always confronts itself with its ugliness and its problematic social issues and also thanks to these problems seems to present the characteristics of a “creative city”.

The Brazilian Historical Modernism

Historical modernism is linked to San Paolo while Rio is definable as the container of all Brazilian clichés. The key concept of modernism is anthropophagia, that refers to the Brazilian update with international culture and especially with the cultural movements taking place in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century. This “update” happens with Brazilian colors:  the idea is to align Brazilian culture with the international one, without copying it. Anthropophagia is to eat the other culture in order to create a new one and this is a basic concept of Brazilian historical modernism.

Modernism was promoted in Brazil from both the left and the right wing political parties. The first generation of modernists was more influenced by the idea of futurism and it was in some ways connected with a fundamentalist, almost fascist view which promoted all the myths of the new world and stressed the importance of change. The second generation of modernists is summed up in Lina Bo Bardi’s work, who promoted a more socialist view of modernism and started the architectonic movement of Brutalism.

On one hand the modernist revolution seem completed with the works of artists such as Caetano Veloso in the music field and Helio Oiticica in the visual arts fields, who well expressed the concept of anthropophagia by mixing a strong locality with a broad international vision, during the sixties; on the other hand Brazil seems to be condemned to modernism. In fact, Brazil had a sort of consciousness rising contextually to modernism: Brazil became Brazil in the exact moment in which modernism began.

The process of modernization in Brazil has been problematic because it never was completed. A big part of the population wasn’t involved in it and today there is a deep social inequality.

Journalism in Brazil

Journalism in Brazil is not as developed as in other countries. The main difference is that few people read newspapers. For example, Folha de Sao Paulo, that is the main daily newspapers in Brazil, sells 300.000 – 400.000 copies everyday, while Il Corriere in Italy sells about 800.000 copies per day.

Folha has an elite public and this is a further limit. Journalists have to make a mix of content that is good both for conservative people and for young and liberal ones.

The fact that few people read newspapers reflects that Brazil never had a cultural literature based experience as Europe did. Brazil is the flagship of the electronic barbarity, of the television culture. Mass culture is an extremely visual culture, and unfortunately a video culture, a television culture.

Brazilian Art

Since Brazil came to relate its identity with modernism, we cannot talk about a traditional, pre-colonial art. Obviously there are some forms of art that belong to that period of time, but they cannot be considered a strong cultural part of Brazil. When talking about art in Brazil you always end up talking about the points of continuity and rupture between modern and contemporary.

In Brazil, people are continuously facing social issues and if these issues are not mirrored in the arts it is not because curatorial practises tend to hide this side of the art production.  Sometimes art is careful about social issues, sometimes not. There has been a lot of social art in the history of Brazil and as could be the case with art connected to other themes, not all works were significant. The artistic scene is really wide and it is difficult to monitor everything. What is important is that art is art for its own sake and aesthetic value, and only after being art can it really deal with social issues.

Concerning the impression of a general attitude towards mainstream art that seems to be present among young Brazilian artists, it’s important to underline that they are not trying to be global, they are global. Furthermore this doesn’t threaten the link with their Brazilian history and identity. Brazilian art isn’t separate from its context, internationality, some mainstream components and a conservative art system are part of its context since the appearance of modernism.

The new generation of collectors is made up of young rich people connected to the world of financial economy and Sao Paulo is characterized by an active market for small, private collectors. In fact the art market is based on galleries. The most important actors remain the public and private banks.

by Livia Andrea Piazza

%d bloggers like this: