Brazilian art collector and museum benefactor, Gilberto Chateaubriand, died last week at the age of 97 in São Paulo. During his lifetime, Chateaubriand amassed a sprawling collection of modern and contemporary art that is estimated to have spanned more than 8,000 works.
Born in 1925 in Paris as Gilberto Francisco Renato Allard Chateaubriand Bandeira de Melo, he was the son of Brazilian media tycoon and lawyer Assis Chateaubriand, whose company Diários Associados oversaw a large swathe of media outlets in the country. In 1947, he founded the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP), the first museum in Brazil to collect and exhibit modern art. He died in 1968.
The younger Chateaubriand first began collecting after meeting Brazilian painter José Pancetti at his studio in Salvador, Brazil. There, he acquired the painting Paisagem de Itapuã (Landscape of Itapuã), 1953, a seaside landscape of the area in which Pancetti was then based.
The Chateaubriand collection spans art produced over eight decades beginning in the 1950s. It includes examples by Maria Martins, Tarsila do Amaral, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, Alfredo Volpi, Abraham Palatnik, Hélio Oiticica, Tomie Ohtake, Cildo Meireles, Adriana Varejão, and Claudia Andujar, among others.
Since 1993, Chateaubriand has loaned around 6,600 works from his holdings to the Museum of Modern Art Rio. The loan, which began first with 4,000 items of 20th century art, helped to revive the museum’s image after a fire caused major damage to portions of the collection in 1978, temporarily squandering the institution’s reputation. Today, more than 100 works from Chateaubriand’s collection are featured in the current exhibition Nakoada: Strategies for Modern Art, which explores topics related to Brazilian modern history and colonialism and is open until January.
Chateaubriand served on the administrative committee of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo and was on the board at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo. He was also on the international board of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris.
In a tribute to the benefactor, MAM Rio curator Fernando Cocchiarale, described Chateaubriand as “a kind of hero of Brazilian collecting,” calling his penchant for acquiring new works “irrepressible.”
Luiz Camillo Osorio, a curator at Brazil’s PIPA Institute, emphasized the patron’s support of artists in their early careers. PIPA, where Chateaubriand once served as an honorary president, distributes Brazil’s premier contemporary art prize. “Entering his collection meant, for the young artist, that their trajectory had become institutionalized, ” said Osorio.