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

Guest editors: Dária Jaremtchuk and Camila Maroja

This special issue of OBOE brings together a series of case studies on the Bienal de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil) by an international team of scholars. The articles offer new ways of understanding the complexities of this southern biennial and of questioning its position within the larger history of perennial exhibitions. From in-depth analyses of the Biennial’s award-winning artists and of its acquisition awards that today constitute the archive of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC USP), to examinations of specific national representations and important editions, the research presented here is not only relevant to the field of art history with its current focus on exhibition histories and the expansion of the canon beyond US-Europe, but also to scholarship and research in Latin American art and exhibition histories more generally.

Contributors: Renata Dias Ferraretto Moura Rocco, Emerson Dionisio Gomes de Oliveira, Dária Jaremtchuk, Ana Magalhães, Camila Maroja, Marina Mazze Cerchiaro, Maria de Fátima Morethy Couto, Bruno Pinheiro, Glaucia Villas Bôas.

 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.25432/2724-086X/4.1

Clarissa Ricci, Camilla Salvaneschi, Angela Vettese
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Editorial Vol. 4, No. 1

Camila Maroja, Dária Jaremtchuk
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This special issue of OBOE presents a set of case studies on the Bienal de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil), the second biennial exhibition inaugurated in 1951 following the model of the Venice Biennial. It gathers nine original peer-review articles by a team of international scholars that provide new pathways for understanding the complexities of this Southern biennial and for interrogating its position within the larger history of perennial exhibitions. From in-depth analyses of the Biennial’s award-winning artists and of its acquisition awards that today constitute the archive of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC USP), to examinations of specific national representations and important editions, the research presented here is not only relevant to the field of art history with its current focus on exhibition histories and the expansion of the canon beyond US-Europe, but also to scholarship and research in Latin American art and exhibition histories more generally.

This article aims to contribute to the interpretation of artworks from the collection of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP), which originated in the 1950s iterations of the Bienal de São Paulo. The paper proposes micro-narratives of modern art in the Brazilian context, opening up the artworks to new interpretations. The goal is to recontextualise the biographies of the collected items as museum objects, going beyond the disputes surrounding the narrative of modern art that occurred in the early years of the Biennial. This will be accomplished through two case studies: Renato Birolli's works at the 1st Bienal de São Paulo in 1951 and Barbara Hepworth's works at the 5th edition of the exhibition in 1963.

The aim of this article is to discuss the political and artistic implications around the award granted to the painting Limões (Lemons) by the Italian artist Danilo Di Prete (Zambra, 1911 - São Paulo, 1985) at the 1st São Paulo Biennial in 1951, as part of the Brazilian representation. The prize caused a lot of controversy in the Brazilian art world, mainly due to three issues. The first relates to the fact that the award was assigned to an Italian artist and not a Brazilian one; the second was that the visual language of Di Prete’s award-winning work Limões was questioned for not being considered as modern as Max Bill’s sculpture, which also received an award at the exhibition; and the third has to do with the suspicion that the prize was awarded to Di Prete because of his involvement in the organisation of the 1st Bienal de São Paulo.
By focusing on this specific case and the controversies it caused, the paper proposes on the one side to analyse the political, national, and artistic factors that led to Di Prete’s accolade at the exhibition. On the other, it aims to discuss the theoretical, political, and artistic assumptions that inspired the artist to create Limões.

 

This article examines the awards given to women sculptors at the first São Paulo Biennials (1951-1965), with a focus on the participation of Maria Martins and Mary Vieira, two award-winning Brazilian sculptors who have very different trajectories and productions. Understanding the biennials as a legitimizing sphere and a social network that brings together people, objects, and institutions, I aim to demonstrate how these events were important in building the artistic recognition of Maria Martins and Mary Vieira.

This article analyses the participation of Philomé Obin and Hector Hyppolite, artists associated with the Centre d’Art, in Haiti’s national representation at the 4th Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo in 1957. This study examines the negotiations that took place between 1951 and 1957, which made it possible for the artist to participate. The research is based on the correspondence found at the Wanda Svevo Historical Archive. Furthermore, the text highlights the involvement of the Visual Arts Section of the Pan-American Union in the production of aesthetic and political projects with the intention of achieving hegemony on a continental scale. Finally, the article proposes a reading of the works presented at the exhibition by Obin and Hippolyte. It suggests that those artists contributed to a political culture that aimed to combat the marginalisation of the Haitian social experience through the dynamics of visibility.

Based on the analysis of archival materials, this article addresses the United States representation at the 6th Bienal de São Paulo (1961), the last exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It begins by analysing the motivations that led MoMA to accept representing the United States at the 1st Bienal de São Paulo (1951) and to continue to do so until 1961. It discusses how, in the 1960s, the geopolitical context in Latin America led the New York museum to stop organising the exhibitions at the biennials and how the United States Information Agency (USIA) assumed responsibility for the USA exhibitions at the biennials from 1963 to 1967. It also analyses the reception of the exhibitions of Robert Motherwell, Reuben Nakian, and Leonardo Baskin, artists who represented the USA in the Brazilian artistic milieu. 

The presence of so-called “primitive” or “innocent” artists at the 9th Bienal de São Paulo (1967), within the vocabulary of popular art, was marked by frank and open public debate between the selection jury of the event and the critics of the time. This article seeks to present this debate, which is focused on the distinction between experimental art, new contemporary values, and production with a popular foundation. At stake was the presence and maintenance of certain senses of ancestry and national identity, strongly encouraged during the civil-military dictatorship and perceptible in the following Biennials, especially with the creation of the national Biennials at the end of the decade. The controversy revived the brief polemics, from two years earlier, surrounding the nomination of primitive artists to represent Brazil at the 1966 Venice Biennale and is here aligned with the dispute over contemporaneity in the production of Brazilian visual arts at the end of the 20th century.

This article aims to discuss the impact caused by the São Paulo Biennial on the art circuit of South America and Central America in the 1950s and 1960s. I intend to demonstrate that even though they never adopted a Latin Americanist stance, the first editions of the São Paulo Biennial led to the strengthening of regional exchanges in the 1960s, as well as to the creation of new and recurring contemporary art exhibitions in different neighboring countries, by providing a successful model of a cultural business alliance with great symbolic gain.

A constituição da Bienal de São Paulo encerra uma multiplicidade de realidades históricas, possibilidades de sentido, ações, iniciativas e relações sociais.  A despeito da pluralidade das facetas que a compõem, pergunto se, ao longo dos anos de sua realização, ela não se legitimou mediante uma oscilação entre pontos de vista ambivalentes, ora pendendo para a arte de culturas nacionais, regionais, locais, ora para o universalismo das obras de arte, mas sempre enfeixando ambas as perspectivas em uma unidade complexa. Tal movimento longe de privilegiar uma daquelas orientações, na realidade, vem provocando uma discussão constante, apaixonada e exaustiva, entre críticos, curadores, historiadores e artistas. Não fora esse debate, dificilmente teriam sido realizados projetos expositivos tão distintos quanto os da I Bienal (1951), VI Bienal (1961), I Bienal da América Latina (1978) e XXV Bienal (2002).  Nesse sentido, abordo o movimento singular das bienais de São Paulo, a partir das noções de universalismo e diferença, articulando essas noções aos exemplos apontados, com o intuito de evidenciar a constituição múltipla e complexa das Bienais de São Paulo. 

 

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.