Surprising Brazilian art in Rotterdam

June 2009 -

Brazil Contemporary is an overview exposition compiled by the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and the Netherlands Photo Museum. These three institutions have joined forces to introduce to the general public Brazilian artists, architects, photographers and designers.

A peek behind the scenes of the exuberant pioneer of the hedonistic South American continent? According to Bregje van Woensel, curator of the exposition at Boijmans, contemporary Brazilian art is characterised by a highly-structured and controlled approach to material and design. The works on display by the Nestor of contemporary Brazilian art, Hélio Oiticica, and by four young artists are indeed strikingly conceptual and interactive.


'Bólide ninhos Eden' by Helio Oiticica

Thanks to the work of Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa and Roberto Burle Marx, twentieth-century Brazil developed a surprisingly unique urban modernism. It "was sentenced to the future", as phrased by Paul Meurs, who compiled the exposition on São Paulo in the NAI.

São Paulo, where rich and poor, domestic and foreign migration, and elitarian and popular culture blend, reflects the ultimate embodiment of the intercultural Brazilian society that absorbs and digests external influences in a manner that is unique. The interactive configuration of film screens, photos and street objects highlight a variety of aspects of this metropolis.

The mixture of international - meaning Western - civilisation with indigenous cultural elements was formulated in 1928 in the Manifesto Antropófago or Cannibalistic Manifest by Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade. This theory of Brazilian modernism is straightforwardly used as the basic theme by the various compilers of Brazil Contemporary.

The programme primarily focuses on the evolution and dynamics of contemporary urban culture and refrains from explicating both where the more indigenous elements came from and their current state. Those who want to know more can read Rooksignalen by Ineke Holtwijk and Os Sertões by Euclides da Cunha, beautifully translated as Rebellion in the Backlands by Samuel Putnam and as De Binnenlanden by the 'ambassador of Brazilian literature in the Netherlands', August Willemsen, who died in 2007.