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Guide to top Brazilian artists angers dealers

Three galleries represent more than half of the artists in the book

Four who made the list (clockwise from top left): Mauricio Ianês (Vermelho), Marcius Galan (Luisa Strina/Silvia Cintra+Box 4), Ernesto Neto (Fortes Vilaça), Nuno Ramos (Fortes Vilaça/Anita Schwartz/Celma Albuquerque)

The launch of a new book has caused a major ruckus within the Brazilian art trade. The publication was intended as a guide to the country’s leading artists, but the list is heavily weighted towards just three galleries—which has caused a number of other dealers to cry foul.

The book was organised by the Associação Brasileira de Arte Contemporânea (Abact), which represents 44 Brazilian contemporary art galleries. It raised $304,000 in public money to fund the project through the Brazilian Rouanet law, which allows tax breaks for donations to cultural projects. Since this money cannot be returned to sponsors because of complex tax regulation involving public funds, the association decided to go ahead and publish the book, due to come out this month or next, but without the official seal of the association—a measure aimed at appeasing the discontent. The association will refrain from undertaking projects of this kind in future, its president, Eliana Finkelstein, told the Brazilian newspaper, the Folha de S.Paulo.

The selection of artists was put together by the São Paulo-based curators Adriano Pedrosa and Luisa Duarte, with the input of ten other critics and art analysts, including the independent curators Ana Paula Cohen, Cristiana Tejo, Gerardo Mosquera, Lisette Lagnado and Julieta González. Also included were Ivo Mesquita of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Jochen Volz from London’s Serpentine Gallery, Luiz Camillo Osorio of the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio and Moacir dos Anjos of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco in Recife, as well as Rodrigo Moura, a curator at the Instituto Inhotim.

The galleries Fortes Vilaça, Luisa Strina and Vermelho represent 47 of the 86 artists included in the publication. Vermelho is owned by Finkelstein, the president of Abact. Following the fallout, it was proposed that the selection of artists be expanded to include more opinions, but Pedrosa and Duarte did not agree to the changes.

A definitive list?

The volume’s title, “ABC, Arte Brasileira Contemporânea” (ABC, Contemporary Brazilian Art), was another point of contention. It implies a definitive glossary of Brazilian artists, but the final selection includes foreign artists represented by the three galleries, such as Carlos Garaicoa, who lives and works in Havana, and Jorge Macchi, who lives in Buenos Aires.

“I knew that this would happen. I’m against the idea of the association releasing a book that could never contemplate all its members”, says Paola Colacurcio, the owner of Progetti, a Rio de Janeiro-based gallery which dropped out of the group shortly before the final list of artists in the book was released.

“This was a book meant to be shown at art fairs around the world, and if a collector picks it up and sees you have no artists in it, he may become insecure,” says María Baró, the owner of Baró gallery in São Paulo. “That might be a problem for business. We risk losing sales because of this book.”

Luisa Strina disagrees with the complaints. “I have 16 names on the list, but I wouldn’t complain if I only had one,” she says. “We had two or three meetings to discuss this and the rules had been approved by the majority of the members. Now that the book is done they disagree and want to change what was agreed upon?”

Daniel Roesler, a partner at Nara Roesler gallery and editorial co-ordinator for the project, says he understands the frustration of dealers that were not included in the final selection, but says that nothing could be done because the project gave the authors complete editorial freedom from the start.

The curators Adriano Pedrosa and Luisa Duarte declined to comment.

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