While Brazil’s art world was feeling the effects of the pandemic, new initiatives gave rise to new audiences: those purchasing artworks via online platforms. “Brazilians who did not find visiting art galleries or collecting art easily accessible [are nevertheless] emerging as new collectors,” Luciana Brito, a representative of Latitude: Platform for Brazilian Art Galleries Abroad, told ARTnews in July. “Market-wise, the beginning of a recovery seems to be on the horizon earlier than we expected.”
Historically, the collecting of contemporary art in Brazil tracks closely with changes wrought by world events, beginning particularly after World War II, when the forces of industry, culture, and politics combined to push the country toward a higher international profile. Support from local collectors came early: media mogul Assis Chateaubriand and industrialist Ciccillo Matarazzo both began collecting in the 1940s, and both went on to establish institutions that forever changed the art scene in Brazil—and Latin America as a whole.
Chateaubriand hired Italian art critic Pietro Maria Bardi to help curate what grew into an esteemed collection of European art, and, in 1947, founded the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. In 1951 Matarazzo established the Bienal de São Paulo, the world’s second-oldest art biennial, which quickly became a proving ground for the day’s leading art experiments, initially for the Concrete and neo-Concrete movements throughout Latin America. In 1948, Matarazzo drew on his collection to establish the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, which was modeled after the Museum of Modern Art in New York—and later merged with the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo when the latter was founded in 1963.
“Brazilian collectors have always valued and been passionate about the history of Brazilian and Latin American art, which has more recently fueled a growing interest for young emerging artists,” said Daniel Roesler, partner and senior director at Galeria Nara Roesler which has locations in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and New York.
The focus on local is due in part to the great geographic distances between Brazil and the main art world capitals in the United States and Europe, but the country also has hefty import taxes on artworks, over 50 percent. Since 2017, however, the São Paulo State Government has allowed for a temporary reduction on taxes for artworks brought in for SP-Arte, the art fair founded in 2005 by collector Fernanda Feitosa. (In 2011, the ArtRio fair in Rio de Janeiro was launched to further foster local collecting there.) “This has contributed to enrich and diversify the art market and the collecting landscape here, turning it into a more international lineup,” Feitosa said.
Roesler attributes the resilience of Brazil’s collecting scene—even during tough times—to the country’s cultural diversity and widespread popular culture. “This cultural unity and its vast diversity, has imbued artistic production as well, allowing for it to establish a unique rapport and sense of affinity with a wide public,” Roesler said. “These factors have encouraged Brazilian collectors to focus on the national market and create a robust, rich, and effervescent landscape within the country.”
Names to Know:
Angela and Ricard Akagawa
Fernanda Feitosa and Heitor Martins
João Carlos de Figueiredo Ferraz
Luís Paulo Montenegro
Rio de Janeiro
Genny and Selmo Nissenbaum
Rio de Janeiro
Andrea and José Olympio Pereira
Alfredo Egydio Setubal
Beatriz Yunes Guarita