Museums Brazil

Home sweet (temporary) home in Brazil

Designs sought for museum that won’t be built

The Museu de Arte Moderna building

One of the most highly anticipated biennial surveys of emerging art in São Paulo will do away with artists for its 33rd edition (5 October-15 December). Instead, the Panorama da Arte Brasileira will pit itself against the very museum that is hosting it: the exhibition will comprise architectural proposals for a new home for the Museu de Arte Moderna, the building in Ibirapuera park that has been home to Panorama since it began 44 years ago.

The museum was built as a temporary pavilion under a sinuous concrete Oscar Niemeyer-designed structure that crosses the park. It has been offered several buildings in São Paulo in the past, including Niemeyer’s Oca building in the same open space, but its directors have chosen to stay put—despite heavy criticism from Niemeyer and other architects. The museum, which was refurbished by the architect Lina Bo Bardi in the 1980s, is said to be inadequate to house and display the 5,000-strong collection. Now, under laws relating to the protection of local heritage, the “temporary” space is more permanent than ever.

Mixed reaction

Architects’ and critics’ reactions to the concept of the biennial have not been entirely positive. “I’m surprised they went ahead with this exhibition,” says Guilherme Wisnik, one of Brazil’s most prominent architecture critics and the curator of the next Bienal de Arquitetura de São Paulo. “This is definitely a provocation, but a good one. It seems this project is aimed at moving things in the right direction.” But the architect Marcelo Ferraz of the firm Brasil Arquitetura, who previously worked with Bo Bardi to renovate the space, is unconvinced. “I don’t think this exhibition will really move things along. I don’t believe in hypothetical solutions for a space. Architecture is real and concrete,” he says. “Anything else is just nonsense.”

The curator of Panorama, Lisette Lagnado, says that the exhibition is “not a provocation. My method of curating always begins with a problem. I chose the fact that the museum does not have a venue designed specifically for it as a starting point for a call to architects. An exhibition is the means by which we can assess the art as well as the entire political and cultural context.”

In 2006, Lagnado was the chief curator of the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, a critically acclaimed exhibition that included several artists who double as architects and vice versa, such as Atelier Bow-Wow, Dan Graham, Gordon Matta-Clark and Renata Lucas. This time, she has narrowed the selection to mostly architects, the vast majority of whom are emerging talents from São Paulo, including the studios Tacoa, Andrade Morettin and Gruposp. The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron may also get involved in the project, Lagnado says.

The museum’s chief curator, Felipe Chaimovich, says that it is not looking to move to a new space. “The fact that the museum has never had a building designed for it is a part of its identity,” he says. “But having remained in the park for 44 years is a positive condition, something that makes us innovate in the way we use this space.”

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