Thursday, March 20, 2008

Perhaps not so ugly: Sao Paulo Part II.

Sao Paulo probably doesn't have a very large amount of art when considered on a per capita basis. But that's considering the population is somewhere around 20 million. For a modern art afficionado, this is probably one of the most impressive cities to visit in the world. First, there are the galleries, of which there are dozens. I only visited three:

1. The MAM, or Museo de Arte Moderna, in the Ibirapuera park. A small and very eclectic collection of Brazilian art, seemingly brought together with no link other than their country of origin. The most beautiful piece was a drawing of an anteater, hidden in the outline of buildings; the most powerful piece, entitled 'Amazonia' or somesuch, showed jungle creatures and indigenous people painted in green, but under the blood red sky of a commerical airplane ; and the most bizarre piece was scattered throughout the gallery: a series of paintings covered up in MAM cardboard boxes with signs indicating that the pictures had been temporarily removed. An explanation at the door of the museum described how this random covering up of actual pieces should force one to think about expectations and what we learn from pieces of art that we expect to see but are unable to. While truly odd, it did have me thinking of what my emotions might be if I went to the Louvre only to find the Mona Lisa replaced by a card saying 'temporarily removed'.

2. The MASP (Sao Paulo Museum of Art) has a collection of Brazilian Impressionist paintings that completely changed my view of Brazilian art. More than that, the building is considered a piece of art in and of itself. It is a cement and glass rectangular box that sits raised on four red legs. Not, in my opinion, a work of beauty, but definitely a piece of art.

3. The Pinacoteca del Estado - the most impressive of the three. The building is a play of brick and glass - filled with open multi-story atriums, and skylights that interact with internal columns to create unique shadow effects. And, of course, some absolutely spectacular art. Probably the best collection (don't listen to what the guide books tell you!) - everything ranging from Brazilian Impressionist painting and art deco sculpture to modern portrait photography and a large, colourful sewn installation made from a variety of materials including socks, bras, and tablecloths.
Not sure what they were getting at with it, but quite strikingly draped across the Rodin sculptures...

And finally, there are the buildings of Sao Paulo themselves. While the vast majority are rather ordinary cement and glass skyscrapers and apartment buildings, there are still numerous more interesting buildings - pyramids, blocks inspired by Escher, art deco monoliths and Victorian masterpieces. Walking around the downtown core is exciting - standing at the top of one of the skyscrapers and looking out the expanse of city in every direction is plainly awe-inspiring.

No comments: