Pedro Barbosa, who made his money in bond trading, has become a familiar face among the studios of students at the various art schools around São Paulo. The Brazillian collector has earned a reputation as a globetrotting tastemaker tirelessly in pursuit of emerging talent. He often buys pieces directly from promising students.
Barbosa began collecting on a whim. In 1999, he made his first purchase: a sculpture by Venezuelan Op and kinetic artist Jesús Rafael Soto. Now, two decades later, a 500-piece collection has made Barbosa one of the most significant collectors of conceptual art in South America and beyond. He told Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal in 2013 that he usually spends between $8,000 and $250,000 apiece on his art purchases. Works from international superstars like Olafur Eliasson, Hans Haacke, Robert Barry, Stanley Brouwn, and Chris Burden stand alongside pieces from renowned local artists like Tunga, Paulo Nazareth, and Cildo Meireles.
His strategy has proved wise. A decade of steady economic growth has ushered new attention—and climbing prices—toward work by Brazilian artists. If a purchase can’t fit in Barbosa’s home in São Paulo’s tony Jardins neighborhood, he has no qualms about giving it to an institution. In 2013 he donated work by two Brazilian artists, Jonathas de Andrade and Andre Komatsu, to Tate Modern in London.
Barbosa often invites artists to exhibit their work in his home, even keeping another apartment closeby for larger showcases. Every available wall in his home is at the mercy of his next purchase: “Sometimes my son complains,” Barbosa told the Journal, “but I run a dictatorship.”