Biennial Contemporary art Brazil

São Paulo biennial artists announced

The biennial’s chief curator, Luis Pérez-Oramas, says the exhibition will question the meaning of globalisation

Perhaps the most intriguing artist in the biennial is the late Arthur Bispo do Rosário, an “outsider” artist who spent much of his life confined to Rio’s psychiatric institutions. Above, his undated "Manto de Apresentacao" (Mantle of Presentation)

With the enigmatic title “The Imminence of Poetics”, the 30th Bienal de São Paulo is due to open on 7 September and run until 9 December at Oscar Niemeyer’s Ciccillo Matarazzo Hall, a 30,000 sq. m space in the city’s Parque do Ibirapuera. At a press conference held on 12 April, the chief curator Luis Pérez-Oramas introduced his list of artists and there were presentations from the design co-ordinator André Stolarski and the co-ordinator of educational projects Stela Barbieri. Also present was Heitor Martins, the president of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo since 2009, who has advocated transparency and accountability while raising large sums of money for the event.

Of the 110 artists from 21 countries participating in this year’s biennial, 23 are from Brazil, 13 from the US, where Pérez-Oramas works as the curator of Latin American art at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and 13 from his native Venezuela. The large presence of South Americans was expected, although the list’s inclusion of only two artists from the African continent and as few as three Asians from China, Japan and Taiwan—drew comment.

“It really depended on the content and whether or not the artist was aligned with my vision for this biennal”, insisted Pérez-Oramas, whose team included co-curators Tobi Maier, André Severo and Isabela Villanueva.

Pérez-Oramas has been following a number of emerging South American artists over many years, and this is reflected in his choices for São Paolo. Among the handful of established names are the Brazilian Waldemar Cordeiro, the German Hans-Peter Feldmann, the Venezuelan Gego and the American Robert Smithson. Britain is represented by Saul Fletcher and the Glasgow-based Hayley Tompkins.

The 32-year-old Thiago Rocha Pitta is one of the emerging Brazilian artists. But the most intriguing is the late Arthur Bispo do Rosário, an “outsider” artist who spent much of his life confined to Rio’s psychiatric institutions. Dubbed the Brazilian Marcel Duchamp, “Bishop” created art from whatever material he was given or could find. He sold nothing during his long life, giving away only a few pieces to his favourite nurse.

In his presentation, Pérez-Oramas alluded to what he called “the illusion of connectivity” brought about by globalisation. He says his interest is in the notion of “constellation”, which “instead of focusing on single artists or works, presents audiences with groups of works that share common themes, process or ideology”. Imminence, he says, is “what is on the verge of happening, the word on the tip of one’s tongue, the expected silence that precedes the decision whether or not to speak, art as a discursive strategy and poetics in its plurality and multiplicity”.

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18 May 12
15:56 CET


Why is the connectivity "illusory"? Seems pretty real to me. As real as media in & through which connectivity is denied. In some ways, more real. When I was 15, I saw Picasso's "Guernica", which was then (1956) the climax of the Museum of Modern Art, & I felt it changed my life. There, it became a favorite of people--& NY was (& is) full of them-- who had been victims of oppression & violence everywhere. I haven't seen it in Spain, but I hope it does this there--pt is, if it is framed right, it CAN. This is true of a great deal of art, esp Modern Art, & it's one of art's great strengths for human species--it helps us identify w each other & brings us together. In a time when it's so easy for people to kill each other, art can be one of what Plato called "the arts of peace". Why deny this?

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