Vol 4 No 1 (2023)
Histories and Politics of the Bienal de São Paulo

The Local Context and the Institutional and International Contributions of the 24th Bienal de São Paulo (1998)

Camila Maroja



− Abstract

Arguably the XXIV Bienal de São Paulo, also known as the bienal da antropofagia, is the most internationally celebrated iteration of the Brazilian biennial. Curated by Paulo Herkenhoff in 1998, the exhibition was acknowledged in the international press as shifting the focus of the Bienal de São Paulo away from its earlier international model based on the Biennale di Venezia toward a more geopolitical, Southern one closer to the Havana Biennial. Famously, Herkenhoff mobilised the modernist concept of cultural cannibalism (anthropophagy) coined by Brazilian intellectual Oswald de Andrade in 1928 to make a commentary of contemporary art, placing Brazil at the centre of the exhibition.

This article revisits this celebrated exhibition to consider it not as an isolated curatorial tour-de-force, but as deeply inserted in its historical moment (i.e., post-multiculturalism in a decade marked by neoliberalism and biennalisation) and stemming from transformations in the very São Paulo Biennial, which had been uplifted monetarily and curatorially by the two previous exhibitions (the 22nd and 23rd curated by Nelson Aguilar). Ultimately, it also surveys how this show contributed to the internationalisation of the national concept of anthropophagy and of Brazilian artists associated with it.

− Keywords
24th São Paulo Biennial, bienal da antropofagia, anthropophagy, Brazilian contemporary art, Latin American contemporary art, Exhibition histories