Contemporary art Brazil

Rio art festival cancelled

Semana de Arte’s backers fall out, artist-curator Vik Muniz quits, and plans alternative event

The Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro, which should have been the site for a Starn twins installation, and left, Vik Muniz and Malu Barreto

RIO DE JANEIRO. A major public art festival due to open in Rio, announced late last year as the “Semana de Arte” (The Art Newspaper, December 2010, p1), has been cancelled. Organised by Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz, the art week (a precursor to a series of events lasting some months) was expected to begin this month with large-scale works by 16 artists, including Olafur Eliasson and William Kent­ridge, scattered across city landmarks like the Sugarloaf. It was scrapped after the two private companies responsible for production decided to dissolve their partnership.

“We had guaranteed sponsors, everything was up and running until there began to be disagreements and the companies involved decided to cancel the show,” said Muniz. “I had to apologise to all the artists, first saying it would be postponed and later giving up on the idea. This put me in a very difficult position, many people worked hard on this and wanted it to happen as planned.”

One of the companies, image consultants Prole, where Malu Barreto, Muniz’s girlfriend, work­ed as the main producer for the Semana de Arte, pulled out altogether. Nau, an art advisory bureau, which owns the brand and title of the event, is now trying to schedule another festival under the same name later this year or in early 2012. The initiative depends on how long it will take to secure funds from sponsors (the original project was backed by Coca Cola) and obtain support from Rio state government, which confirmed negotiations are at an “embryonic stage”.

Guilherme Magalhães, a director at Nau, denied there was a crisis, saying the Semana de Arte was undergoing a “restructuring”.

“We’re trying to set things straight since the project grew too much and we realised we’d end up losing money,” he said. “I love art, but I can’t pay to work for something, so we decided to turn it over to the state.” That would mean putting up nearly $12.6m in public money to support a project as ambitious as the Bienal de São Paulo, the country’s leading visual arts event.

“The project as it was initially planned can no longer happen. Vik Muniz was the curator and he quit, taking all the artists with him,” said Barreto. Other names due to participate included the Starn twins and Brazilian artists including Beatriz Mil­hazes and Adri­ana Vare­jão. “That [or­iginal] pro­ject is over with, they’ll need to find themselves another curator now,” added Muniz.

In the meantime, Muniz and Barreto have founded a non-profit organisation called Arte em Trânsito (Art in Transit), which is planning a parallel art event in Rio. The Mostra de Arte Pública do Rio (Map-Rio) resembles the initial project and, if all goes according to plan, will bring major installations to Rio’s harbour. In the shorter term, Muniz has announced an interview marathon to be held in Rio in August, chaired by curator Hans Ulrich-Obrist, with guests including architect Norman Foster and artists Gilbert & George.

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