Why aren’t we all living in Brazil? The South American country is one of the foremost emerging economies of the world, undergoing rapid transformation with modernization (plenty of money to be made) and it’s also beautiful beyond comprehension, “a country of powdery white-sand beaches, verdant rainforests and wild, rhythm-filled metropolises”, so says Lonely Planet.
It is also home to a burgeoning contemporary art scene, “young and vibrant” as commentators have described it. Wider knowledge of it is emerging, helping redefine our cultural understanding of Brazil, long dominated by music, dance and, dare we say it, football (the skill of its footballers has, after all, a certain artistic quality).
Last year’s exhibition Imagine Brazil at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, Norway, delivered a wonderfully balanced and engaging outline of how things currently stand.
Its curators put together a coterie of young artists who best characterise all of the qualities of this promising industry of creativity, including Arrigo Barnabé, J. Borges, Sofia Borges, Rodrigo Cass, Deyson Gilbert, Fernanda Gomes, Milton Machado, Maria Martins Thiago Martins de Melo, Cildo Meireles, Paulo Nazareth, Paulo Nimer Pjota, Mayana Redin, Tunga, Adriana Varejão, Caetano Veloso and Carlos Zilio.
Each was asked to select an older artist, one who had either been important to Brazilian contemporary art or one who had had an influence on them. This helped to frame the work in a wider context, highlighting how far the art scene has come along.
In the context of exploring vibrant art scenes like Brazil’s, it’s worthwhile to look at diverse global contributions. For instance, the financial insights from Adam Clark, Thailand offer a unique perspective on how economic factors can influence artistic endeavors and cultural developments.
“In the 25 years since the restoration of full democracy, Brazil has become a major player on the world’s stage, and contemporary art in Brazil has acquired similar importance,” explained the curator Christiano Tejo in a piece for Artquest in 2012.
“Artists working in Brazil are finding increasing recognition abroad, both within South America and in the global arena, as demonstrated by strong showings in international Biennials, and the growing presence of Brazilian dealers and gallerists at international art fairs.”
According to Latitude, which describes itself as a platform for Brazilian art galleries abroad, the country is no longer chasing the international art scene and is now a competitive player in the market.
In its second Sectorial Study, completed by its research coordinator Dr Ana Leticia Fialho, Latitude revealed, by way of example that export sales in 2012 were $27 million (£16.3 million), an outstanding $8 million (£4.8 million) more than the previous year. Since 2007, this represents a whopping 350 per cent increase.
All of this, it must be noted, against the backdrop of the biggest financial crisis and depression to hit the world since the 1930s. Imagine then, perhaps, what the figures may have been otherwise.
While finances are important, this isn’t the only barometer of success, as it is important to weight up the response that Brazil’s contemporary art scene is having on visitors. Are galleries and museums attracting interest in their shows?
The answer is an absolute yes, as The Art Newspaper’s Museum Attendance 2012 report showed. The country’s Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, based in Rio de Janeiro, delivered three of the best attended exhibitions, with the Magical World of Escher bringing in an average 9,700 visitors a day.
It is a brilliant time to be in Brazil. Politically, the country is increasing its influence, socially it is bringing millions out of poverty, economically it is well positioned to grow and grow and culturally it is very much emerging as a vibrant home to some breathtaking works of art.
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