Art portrays Brazilian history
in the four floors of the Oca

By walking around the exhibition’s 10,000 plus square meters of the exhibition venue designed by Oscar Niemeyer, visitors can the trace the country’s history by creating their own routes with the possibility of varied readings encouraged by the curators of Ways of Seeing Brazil: 30 Years of Itaú Cultural. Nevertheless, each one of the four floors contextualizes specific periods and exchanges of ideas.


Hence the journey through the exhibition space recalling the flourishing economy of the coffee boom period, the delightful turn-of-the-century city center, the 1922 Week of Modern Art, the breakthrough of Brazilian Concrete art and the vigor of modern architecture. In the more contemporary works, stark economic inequality and social invisibility mark everyday life. Such are the contradictions of a city that has always combined dynamism and destruction.


Thais Rivitti



This set of works, especially photographs and paintings, points out this toppling temporality and shows places and scenes that are familiar but quite unlike the way we see them today: they reveal increasingly rare instants of being enamored of a city in which conflict gives way to a generous and affective view.

Memory and matter


Museums were methodologically, epistemologically, and ontologically reformulated in the 20th century. The so-called 'new museology' revolutionized opportunities for interaction between museum devices and society. Rather than keeping them sealed-off as inventories of history's materialistic discourses, society started activating them as platforms for processes that comprise societal memory.


In light of this revised approach, structuring a curatorial design that lays bare the complexity of building a collection of similar magnitude to that of the exhibit in the Oca means dialoguing with historiography, agreeing or disagreeing by turn. It is also an experience of constructing an open space and an opportunity for everyone to develop counter-narratives while posing new meanings for given signifiers.


Through this space-time, therefore, an experimental presentation is undertaken to focus on the educational role of memory institutions, with curators acting as articulators for an interrelation that takes art as basis for a dialogue between the different gazes that yield different ways of seeing Brazil.


Leno Veras



São Paulo

On this floor visitors are prompted to take a closer look at São Paulo’s history, its architecture and population, and the artists doing creative work locally. These simultaneous approaches pose the plural dimensions of a city that eschews apprehension.


In his Tristes Tropiques, the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) noted: "What astonished me in Sao Paulo in 1935 ... was not ... newness, but the rapidity with which time's ravages had set in … Certain European cities are dying off slowly and peacefully; the cities of the New World have a perpetual high temperature, a chronic illness which prevents them, for all their everlasting youthfulness, from ever being entirely well.”



From numismatics to cybernetics



Assuming origin and destiny to be polarities pertinent to human beings and taking their creations as part of this living whole, we approach the notion of art as an ethical regime that identifies images and relations between ways of being and ways of existing of the individuals and communities that produce them.


Given this proposition, one may wonder what determines the character of these productions – nature, origin, purpose?


In terms of a distinction between eye and gaze posed by the phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty (1918-1961), the ability to innovate while apprehending the world arises from proposing new logics of observation.


In view of the possibilities of discursive articulation, the concept of konstellation engendered by the critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) becomes a guiding principle to establish mediation between artwork and spectator. In this way, the constitution of "significant clusters" meant to pose heterodox interpretations for works imbued with historicizing discourses enables us to find and enunciate new meanings.


Expression and rationality


Maria Martins (1894-1973) was a member of a group of surrealist artists who moved to New York as World War II refugees. They all shared a same interest in psychoanalysis and viewed the unconscious as a driving force of art creation. Her The Impossible (1945) shows two anthropomorphic figures, male and female, facing each other. Their mutual attraction-repulsion generates intractable tension. The sculpture has been interpreted as depicting the impossible wholly loving relationship.


The other side of the first level features works by successive generations of Brazilian constructive artists. Concrete art was new in Brazil in the early 1950s, along with bossa nova music, modern architecture and the first Bienal de Arte de São Paulo in 1951. The movement’s members believed art would have to reject representation – figurativism, naturalism – and turn to language itself. For starters, painters had to leave aside the illusion of perspective and take up the flatness of the picture plan. The utopian horizon for Concrete art proposals in Brazil had it that rationally-organized forms would correspond to society becoming more modern, functional, transparent and egalitarian.


Notwithstanding their being heirs to this discussion, subsequent generations introduced other issues in the aesthetics field. Echoes of Maria Martins' subjectivity may be found in the work of Leonilson (1957-1993), whereas chromatic and formal investigation typical of Brazilian Concrete artists may be seen in Sergio Sister (1948- ). However, artists who began their work in the 1980s reveal other emerging features of contemporaneity the emancipation og the spectator; the use of materials from various sources, and the emergence of pop culture.


Thais Rivitti

When asking ourselves about the dialogues that may be generated from art holdings and their canons, we delve into the powers of a collection, the reasons for its being assembled and the ramifications of its continuity. We do this in view of the particularities of our time and space – early 21st-century Brazil – and the changes through which contemporaneity unceasingly confronts us with memory, a process of ongoing metamorphosis as the structuring axis of culture.


Leno Veras





Symbolic invention of Brazil: Africa and Baroque

Colonial Brazil was a society marked by trauma and miscegenation as Africans were enslaved and indigenous land was violently conquered. Such were the extremes of Brazilian violence, deemed as "the history of the defeated" (Walter Benjamin). From 1701 to 1810, enslaved Africans brought to Brazil numbered 1,891,400 – more than the current population of the city of Campinas (SP) (Schmidl).  Slavers tore people away from their society, deprived them of their freedom and shipped them to Brazil as commodities. In Africa, they were traded for goods from Brazil such as tobacco, flour and white rum, or cachaça. Here in Brazil, slaves were sold on directly or auctioned. Like horses, their price was set upon inspection of their teeth, health, strength, willingness to work, and tame submission.

South Atlantic economies complemented each other: sugar grown in Brazil for slaves traded in Angola. In this symbolic war, blacks were stripped of their names, family nuclei, and rights to their own faith and culture. They had to be de-socialized so they could be dominated. "The Brazilian market has a long history based on looting and trading, while the Brazilian nation has a short history founded on violence and consent." (L. F. Alencastro).

Legally treated as res (Roman law’s "thing") and source of unpaid labor, slaves were counted among owners’ chattels and properties, together with their animals, sugar mills and land. Some writers wondered whether an African slave had a "good soul" (Montesquieu). For some children of slaves and freedmen, art was a process of sublimation, social integration, symbolic compensation, negotiated survival, resistance, and emancipation.


Paulo Herkenhoff


Press Consultants:

Conteúdo Comunicação

Phone: +55 11 5056-9800


At Itaú Cultural:

Larissa Correa:

Phone: +55 11 2168-1950

Carina Bordalo (Rumos program):

Phone: +55 11 2168-1906


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

Air conditioned

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.

Itaú Cultural

Avenida Paulista, 149, Estação Brigadeiro do Metrô

Phones: +55 11 2168-1776/1777