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  Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (Masp) [Assis Chateaubriand Museum of Art of São Paulo]        

Others names
Museu de Arte de São Paulo [São Paulo Museum of Art]

A non-profit making private institution, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (Masp) was founded in the city of São Paulo in 1947 by the journalist, Assis Chateaubriand (1892-1968), owner of the Diários Associados newspaper group. With the help of the Italian art critic, dealer and antiquary, Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999), director of the museum from the date of its foundation until 1990, Chateaubriand assembled the most important collection of European art in Latin America, with most of the works acquired between 1947 and 1960. Bardi, the former owner of galleries in Milan and Rome was given the task of finding and selecting works that were due to be bought from the most respected galleries in Europe and North America, while Chateaubriand took responsibility for finding donors and potential sponsors committed to his project of endowing Brazil with an international museum. His methods of persuasion combined exchanges of favours with often questionable transactions. The collection, notable for its set of Italian paintings ranging from the 13th-19th centuries and for its collection of French art, the most extensive of the museum, highlighted by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, reveals much about the taste of its curator. After its first years of acquisition, Masp only expanded its collection through spontaneous donations by artists and private individuals.

During its first three years of life, the museum operated in a 1,000 m2 room at the headquarters of Diários Associados, in the Rua 7 de Abril. With a museographic design by the Italian architect, Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), when the museum opened its doors, it was divided into four areas: an art gallery in which the works of the collection were exhibited; a room with a didactic exhibition on the history of world art, with boards full of reproductions, documents, texts and photographs placed between two sheets of glass and supported by aluminium tubes where visitors could follow a synthesis of the development of art; temporary exhibitions room and an auditorium. This division reflected its vocation as a museum for transmitting knowledge and culture as opposed to the idea of a museum as a simple depot for works of art. In 1950, the Masp occupied four floors of the same building, thereby expanding its teaching activity ranging from the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea (IAC) [Institute of Contemporary Art], with courses on engraving, drawing, painting, sculpture and industrial design, the Escola de Propaganda [School of Advertising] (the future Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing - ESPM [Higher School of Advertising and Marketing]), the organisation of seminars on cinema and literature, to the creation of a ballet and a youth orchestra. It should be noted that the museum pioneered the introduction of monitors trained by Professor Bardi to provide service to visitors. The form of presentation of the works was also entirely different from other exhibition venues in the city at the time. In the absence of walls, the paintings of the permanent collection were suspended by steel trussed beams, with lighting planned for the setting.

Between 1953 and 1957, the principal collection of the Masp went on tour and was widely visited and praised in countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, England, Italy and the United States. In 1958, Lina Bo Bardi designed the current museum building on Avenida Paulista, which was inaugurated in 1968 in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II of England after the death of its founder. A concrete and glass structure whose main body is supported by two lateral structures over a free 74m space, the new headquarters of the Masp became a milestone in modern architecture and one of the main architectural symbols of the city of São Paulo. With regard to its museography, Lina Bo Bardi  innovated by using sheets of tempered crystal supported by a visible block of concrete as a base for the paintings, with the intention of imitating the position of the painting on the artist's easel in his workshop. These bases, which are no longer in use, carried boards on the back of the paintings with information on the painter and the work. Paradoxically, this form of showing a painting was abandoned by the Masp at the end of the 1990s, precisely when it began to be considered internationally.

In addition to its international collection of paintings, the Masp has a section of Brazilian art whose core consists of works by Candido Portinari (1903-1962) from the personal collection of Assis Chateaubriand. There are fewer sculptures, most notably the set of 73 bronzes by the Impressionist Edgar Degas (1834-1917). There are also collections of African and Asian art, engravings by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) and Max Beckmann (1884-1950), drawings by Debret (1768-1848), Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973), Flávio de Carvalho (1899-1973), ceramics and archaeological pieces. The highlight, however, is the collection of paintings with works by: Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506), Raphael (1483-1520), Titian (c.1488-1576), Jacopo Tintoretto (1519-1594), Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), El Greco (1541-1614), Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), Hans Holbein (c.1497-1543), Goya, Claude Monet (1840-1926), Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Gustave Courbert (1819-1877), Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Joseph Mallord William Tuner (1775-1851), John Constable (1776-1837), and others.

Updated on 07/10/2010
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