Sculpture removed from Sé Square
28 years ago is rebuilt and will once again
be displayed in a public space in the city
The work Untitled by Portuguese-Brazilian artist Ascânio MMM, used to be on display in the Sé district next to 13 other still existing outdoor sculptures. It was removed for restoration in 1989, but was deemed as being beyond repair by the city government and never displayed again. The sculpture had been commissioned by then mayor of São Paulo, Olavo Egydio Setúbal in the 1970s. Now rebuilt, it is on display in the exhibition Ways of Seeing Brazil: 30 Years of Itaú Cultural at the Oca, and will later be once again displayed in a public space.
In their daily rush, or due to lack of knowledge, few people walking by Sé Square realize that something is missing: a 5.35 meter-tall sculpture is no longer at the center of a group originally composed of 14 sculptures. The work by Ascânio Maria Martins Monteiro, better known as Ascânio MMM, was removed from the site in 1989 for restoration. It was then deemed as being beyond repair and was not returned to its location. Twenty-eight years later, the artist has rebuilt his sculpture to display it in the Ways of Seeing Brazil: 30 Years of Itaú Cultural exhibition that opens to the public on May 25th and closing on August 13th. Following the exhibition, Itaú will gift it to the city.
Olavo Egydio Setubal (1923-2008) was the mayor of São Paulo from 1975 to 1979. Passionate for the arts, he founded Itaú Cultural 30 years ago and, in 1969, began the Itaú Unibanco Art Collection, which is today comprised of close to 15,000 items. As mayor, he decided to re-urbanize Sé Square following the opening of its subway station. He created a sculpture garden composed of works commissioned from 14 important Brazilian artists: Amilcar de Castro, Ascânio MMM, Bruno Giorgi, Domenico Calabrone, Caciporé Torres, Felícia Leirner, Francisco Stockinger, Franz Weissmann, José Resende, Marcelo Nithsche, Nicolas Vlavianos, Rubem Valentim, Sérgio Camargo and Yutaka Toyota.
At the time, Ascânio, a Portuguese artist who has been residing in Rio de Janeiro since 1959, was researching the possibilities that the figure of the square can bring to the art of sculpture. He then created this work that traces a movement of the geometric figure – at first closed to the inside and gradually opening up only to close up again. Designed and built in his studio, the over 5-meter work seemed gigantic to Ascânio. However, he was disappointed once he saw it installed at Sé Square, where it was dwarfed by the city’s skyscrapers. Still, he was proud to see his work in the sculpture garden.
The work remained on site for 10 years until the artist was surprised by the decision of the Historic Heritage Department (DPH), an agency of the city government, under a different administration, to remove it for restoration and then later deem it beyond repair due to its high degree of deterioration. In possession of the work’s blueprints, calculations, drafts and drawings, Ascânio sought out the DPH various times – including in 2006, when the sculpture garden was repaired – in order to make its restoration possible. He was unsuccessful and no one ever saw the work again in Sé Square.
The case was rekindled by curator Paulo Herkenhoff in his book Ascânio MMM: Poética da Razão (BEI publisher; 422 pages), the fruit of four years’ worth of research, published in 2013. “In 2006, the square was restored, as were some of the sculptures, but they ignored the existence of my sculpture despite my attempts to visit and e-mail the DPH”, the artist told the curator. “During this time period, the department changed address various times, and I visited them at all of their locations.”
In possession of this information, Herkenhoff, who believes that until the 1990s Ascânio and Weissmann were perhaps the artists with the greatest number of sculptures displayed in public spaces in Brazil, decided to act. Recalling that the work was commissioned by the former and beloved patriarch of the Setubal family, he suggested that the family commission the artist to rebuild the work and add it to its art collection. Therefore, Ascânio is working on an identical sculpture to the previous one in time for it to be included in Ways of Seeing Brazil: 30 Years of Itaú Cultural, where it will be on display next to a small model of the older version. Only the raw material has changed from iron to painted aluminum, a material that was difficult to work with back in the 1970s due to the lack of experienced welders. Once the exhibition closes, the sculpture will be gifted to the city and returned to the public space.
Modos de Ver o Brasil: Itaú Cultural 30 Anos
[Ways of Seeing Brazil: Itaú Cultural celebrates 30]
Exhibition dates: May 25 to August 13, 2017
Tuesdays to Sundays: from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Appropriate for all audiences - Free Admission
At the Oca
Avenida Pedro Álvares Cabral, Portão 3, Parque Ibirapuera
Phones: +55 11 2168-1776/1777
Avenida Paulista, 149, Estação Brigadeiro do Metrô
Phones: +55 11 2168-1776/1777
Parking: Entrance on Rua Leôncio de Carvalho, 108
If visitors have their parking ticket stamped at the Itaú Cultural reception desk:
3 hours: R$ 7; 4 hours: R$ 9; 5 to 12 hours: R$ 10.
Valet parking with insurance, free for bicycles.
Phone: +55 11 5056-9800
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