Celebrating 70 years, São Paulo Bienal reflects on historical and present political tensions in Brazil.

Largest visual art event in Latin America, after a one-year postponement due to the pandemic, the 34th Sao Paulo Bienal finally goes ahead September through December, with free entry and more than one thousand works by 91 artists from 132 countries.

The main exhibition draws its title, Faz escuro, mais eu canto (Though it’s dark, still I sing) from a verse in the poem Madrugada Camponesa (1962) by Thiago de Mello, in which the Amazonian poet sought to inspire optimism amid the tyrannical years of the military dictatorship in Brazil. 

Entrance of 34th Sao Paulo Bienal. © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

Themes around historical and present political and social tension resound throughout the show, curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, alongside Paulo Miyada, Ruth Estévez, Francesco Stocchi, and Carla Zaccagnini, with several works made under a dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985. These include A carga [Cargo], an enigmatic installation by Carmela Gross first shown in 1969. That year marked the “coup within the coup,” during which persecution of the regime’s opponents intensified (the same expression has been applied to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the current government under Jair Bolsonaro). There’s also A ronda da morte [The Death Watch] by Hélio Oiticica which has never been performed before, since 1979.

Another highlight of the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion’s central atrium is the installation deposição/deposition (2020) by Daniel de Paula, in collaboration with Marissa Lee Benedict and David Rueter. This anti-monumental work takes the form of a platform composed from fractured and worn-out wooden bleachers, which serve as a public stage for scheduled meetings or even rest. These forms once comprised the Chicago Board of Trade trading pit for the grain business, discarded after all transactions began to take place digitally and acquired by the artist for a dollar. 

The second longest-running international exhibition, Brazil’s Bienal celebrates 70 years since its founding in 1951. Entrepreneur Ciccillo Matarazzo, with support of his wife Yolanda Penteado, was a passionate avant-garde art collector, much like the current president of the Sao Paulo Bienal Foundation, investment banker José Olympo Veiga Pereira, who with his wife Andrea have appeared on the “The ARTnews Top 200 Collectors” list.

“The holding of the first Bienal forever changed Brazil’s relationship with contemporary art and with the international circuit. Now, seven decades later, we want to honor this legacy, consolidating and disseminating this memory to the public, both to the art lovers already familiar with this history as well as to those who want to know more about the Bienal in Brazil,” says Veiga Pereira.

Visit bienal.org.br for more information.

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Half-Paulistana, half-Americana. Cultural bridger and @a_cesso founder.

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