The Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) has been accused of censoring several photographs due to be included in a forthcoming exhibition, according to curators and artists involved in the project. The photographs depict a Marxist social movement known as the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement; MST)—a land reform group advocating for marginalised rural communities that emerged in the 1980s.
Six photographs by the artists João Zinclar, André Vilaron and Edgar Kanaykõ were removed from the exhibition Histórias Brasileiras (Brazilian Histories)—the main exhibition in the museum’s annual curatorial focus, which aims to commemorate the Brazilian bicentennial. The artists were informed via an email signed by the MASP curators Sandra Benites and Clarissa Diniz, who wrote that the museum’s decision to omit the works was “disrespectful and unjust”.
Benites and Diniz, who were among 12 curators who worked on the exhibition, withdrew their participation from the show earlier this month. The show was organised into seven thematic sections, including the since-canceled section “retomadas” (resumption) that was overseen by Benites and Diniz. The show was the first project at the institution for Benites, who became the first Indigenous curator in a major Brazilian museum when she joined in 2020.
MASP claims the photographs could not be included in the show because they were submitted after the deadline stipulated by the museum for the loan of works, outlined as a minimum of six months for Brazilian museums and four months for galleries, private collections and artists. “The museum has never censored or inhibited any form of artistic expression; on the contrary [...] the institution has been the stage for important discussions,” MASP writes in a statement. “MASP’s refusal to include the six photographs is in no way linked to the content of the works, nor does it represent any censorship of the MST.”
The statement adds that a text authored by the MST is included in a catalogue for the show and that several images related to social movements and protests are included in the exhibition. The show will open on 1 July with the other sections, which have been organised by the curators Adriano Pedrosa, Amanda Carneiro, André Mesquita, Fernando Oliva, Glaucea Britto, Guilherme Giufrida, Isabella Rjeille, Lilia Schwarcz and Tomás Toledo.
Toledo, who joined MASP in 2014 and was appointed chief curator in 2018, announced he was resigning from his role last week, stating that he was leaving the position to begin a new professional project.
Last month, the museum also canceled the book launch of the publication Sem Medo do Futuro (No Fear of the Future) by the socialist Brazilian politician Guilherme Boulos, a leading figure of the MST. The museum claims that the event was canceled because it violated a protocol that prohibits the “manifestations of a political or religious nature”.