Denilson Baniwa (Barcelos, Amazonas, Brazil, 1984). Natureza morta 1 [Dead nature 1], 2016. Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand. Anonimous gift, in the context of the exhibition Histories of Dance, 2020. Photo Denilson Baniwa
Denilson Baniwa (Barcelos, Amazonas, Brazil, 1984). Natureza morta 1 [Dead nature 1], 2016. Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand. Anonimous gift, in the context of the exhibition Histories of Dance, 2020. Photo Denilson Baniwa

Brazilian Histories


MASP - AV Paulista, 1578
São Paulo-SP

Comment s'y rendre ?

MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, on the occasion of the bicentennial of the independence of Brazil, exhibits until October 30th, 2022, the group exhibition Brazilian Histories, occupying the 1st floor and 2nd basement floor of the institution. The exhibition has curatorial direction by Adriano Pedrosa, MASP artistic director, and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, guest curator, and curatorship by Tomás Toledo, Clarissa Diniz, and Sandra Benites, in addition to several other curators from the institution: Amanda Carneiro, assistant curator, André Mesquita, curator, Fernando Oliva, curator, Glaucea Britto, assistant curator, Guilherme Giufrida, assistant curator, and Isabella Rjeille, curator. During the exhibit period, all Tuesdays and Thursdays will have free admission. 


Continuing the series of exhibitions dedicated to Histories at MASP, which have been running since 2016 with Histories of Childhood (2016), Histories of Sexuality (2017), Afro-Atlantic Histories (2018), Women's Histories, Feminist Histories (2019), and Histories of Dance (2020), the exhibition Brazilian Histories offers new, more inclusive, diverse, and plural visual narratives about the history of Brazil, reflecting the very approach of the series, bringing a diversity of voices not only in the body of artists and works, but also in its curatorial structure.


The show brings together some 380 works – 24 of them previously unseen – by approximately 250 artists and collectives that cover different media, supports, typologies, origins, regions, and periods, organized into eight thematic sections: Flags and Maps, Landscapes and Tropics, Land and Territory, Resumptions, Portraits, Rebellions and Uprisings, Myths and Rites, and Celebrations. In this context, the privileged perspective is not so much that of art history, but rather social or political histories, whether intimate or private, regarding customs and daily life, starting from visual culture and expressing a more polyphonic and fragmented character, and thus escaping from a definitive, canonical, and totalizing vision.


To understand the exhibition, it is important to emphasize the particular meaning of the term ‘history’ in Portuguese, which encompasses both fiction and non-fiction, historical and personal accounts, of both public and private nature, and which therefore have a more speculative, open-ended, and procedural quality than the traditional notion of history.


Divided between the first floor and second basement floor of the museum, the exhibition begins on the first floor with the section Flags and Maps, curated by Lilia Moritz Schwarcz and Tomás Toledo, which intends to tension, contest, and investigate national emblems, establishing relationships between more traditional and official representations of these symbols along with critical appropriations, evident, above all, in the contemporary artistic production. In the work Bandeira Afro-Brasileira [Afro-Brazilian Flag] (2022), for example, the artist Bruno Baptistelli (São Paulo, Brasil, 1985) changes the colors of the national flag to convert it into an Afro-Brazilian flag, as opposed to the elitist and whitened one, containing the motto ‘Order and Progress’ and colors alluding to the imperial house of Habsburg and Bragança.


The landscape, a prominent genre in the academic hierarchy and elaborated in the 18th century Europe, has often served as a representation of nationality in the Western tradition. In Brazil, landscape painting converted the tropics into an extension of the European idealization of nature, seeking to demonstrate a supposed purity. In order to expand these assumptions, the section Landscapes and Tropics, curated by Guilherme Giufrida and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, addresses certain themes and concepts within this genre. Among the works in the selection are the paintings Paisagem com jiboia [Landscape with Boa Constrictor] (1660), by Frans Post (Haarlem, Netherlands, 1612-1680), which represents a Brazilian landscape based on European references and observation methods, as well as the photograph Natureza morta 1 [Still-life 1] (2016), by Denilson Baniwa (Barcelos, Amazonas, Brasil, 1984), featuring the silhouette of a dead indigenous man outlined over the Amazon forest, explaining the devastation of the forest caused by generations of invaders to the indigenous territories.


Based on the understanding that Brazilian Histories have taken place in indigenous territory and still do so, the section Land and Territory, curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Isabella Rjeille, addresses some of the different forms of relationship with the land and the disputes over territory since the Portuguese invasion in 1500 and its human, climatic, economic, cosmological, and cultural impacts. In a letter written to the king of Portugal, Dom Manuel (1469-1521), dating from the 16th century, Pero Vaz de Caminha (1450-1500) made this statement about the richness of the waters and the climate of this land: ‘if one wants to take advantage of it, everything will sprout in it’. The missive foreshadows the exploitation of agricultural crops such as sugar, tobacco, coffee, cotton, among many others, by the slave system, and is evoked in this section by the work of Jaime Lauriano (São Paulo, Brasil, 1985), Nessa terra, em se plantando, tudo dá [In This Land, Whatever Is Planted Will Grow] (2015). The colonial fiction that imagined this land as a ‘tabula rasa’ and its nature as a ‘virgin’ waiting for commercial exploitation is questioned by the works gathered here.


The section Resumptions, curated by Clarissa Diniz and Sandra Benites, sheds light on the historical process of physical resumptions, such as the reintegration of territories by indigenous peoples and social movements, but also political, symbolic, ontological, and spiritual resumptions, highlighting the present time as the moment of restitution, reparation, and especially the recreation of rights, values, and meanings. ‘The prefix “re-,” which ethically and politically demarcates the resumptions, does not indicate a rescue or a return to a point supposedly prior to the colonial invasion. Far from the nostalgic and fetishistic dimension of coloniality itself, to take back also means to create, to fictionalize, to transform,’ say the curators. An example of this re-signification is the work Monumento à voz de Anastácia [Monument to Anastácia's Voice] (2019), by Yhuri Cruz (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1991), which takes appropriation of the colonial representation of Anastácia – an enslaved and tortured woman, forced to wear a fetters and a tin mask until her death – by restoring a mouth to her.


The section also includes the following actions: the expansion of free access days to the museum, including the Thursday, in addition to the weekly free day (Tuesday) during the duration of the exhibition; the printing and free distribution to the public of six photographs by João Zinclar, André Vilaron and Edgar Kanaykõ; holding an online seminar that will be broadcast on MASP's YouTube channel and on the MST platform – if agreed by the Movement – with translation into sign language; guarantee to the curators the sole ownership of the copyright curatorial work of the section, allowing its free use by anyone in parallel and after the exhibition. Such a situation, however, does not involve the copyright incident on the artworks that make up the section or any other rights, as well as the exhibition as a whole.


The show continues on the 2nd basement floor of MASP with Portraits, a section curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz. In it are juxtaposed representations of unnoticed voices, such as those of indigenous, Black, and activist voices, as well as iconic portraits of Brazilian history, through self-portraits or representations of power figures from different periods. Based on contemporary dimensions of identity, the section intends to explore the possibility of reading tradition anew, in a more vivid and diverse way.


Visual representations of insurrections, uprisings, and protest movements, produced throughout the country's history, are highlighted in the Rebellions and Uprisings section. The group of works, curated by André Mesquita and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, intends to review and question the official narratives of art and politics, opposing the myth of a peaceful, war-free country. Its aim is to present a counter-history. The word ‘Lute’ [Fight] appears repeatedly in this section. It appears, for example, in the silkscreen print A Luta [The Struggle] (2018-19), by Santarosa Barreto (São Paulo, Brasil, 1986), which tirelessly reiterates the urgent need to create militant strategies from feminisms and the engagement of artists against the silencing in the face of these activisms.


Also part of Brazilian histories are those based on religious practices that have developed in the country since the 16th century, from the contact and intersection between the cosmological systems of traditional indigenous people, traditional African people, and popular Catholicism. Such multiplicity is embodied in the section Myths and Rites, with works selected by curators Fernando Oliva, Glaucea Britto, and Tomás Toledo. ‘This section is not intended to present the totality of manifestations related to Brazilian religiousness through art, given its diversity and complexity, but rather to shed light on certain aspects of a formal, philosophical, and social order, which connect such practices in time and space, whether by history, form, or foundation,’ explain the curators.

Tradition and innovation, affectivities and gender performativity, disputes and contradictions, mass and crowd constitute the theme of the representations and meanings of Brazilian Celebrations, present in the section bearing this name, which closes the exhibition. Curated by Amanda Carneiro and Adriano Pedrosa, the works presented offer possibilities of entering the broad, diverse, and contradictory ways of celebrating distinct groups, territories, and generations. Highlights include the razor of Madame Satã (Pernambuco, Brasil, 1900 – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1976), a symbol of bohemian life imprisoned by the civil police collection, and the work Untitled (1968), by Maria Auxiliadora (Campo Belo, Minas Gerais, Brasil, 1935 – São Paulo, Brasil, 1974), which represents a private Black dance party, with amorous and affectionate encounters, as well as partner dancing.

Throughout the exhibition period, the program also includes meetings for the formation of educators and interested parties, around the themes Education for diversity and The future is indigenous, as well as lectures with Kássia Borges, Paulo César Garcez Marins, and Arissana Pataxó. Dialogues will also be proposed in the museum’s collection between artists and works, with at least one Brazilian artist, such as Victor Meirelles (Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brasil 1832 – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1903) and his work Moema (1866) + Denilson Baniwa and his work Natureza Morta 1 [Still-life 1] (2016), and between the works of Ismael Nery (Belém, Pará, Brasil, 1900 – Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1934), Desejo de amor [Desire for Love] (1932) + Autorretrato Rio / Paris [Self-portrait Rio / Paris] (1927). Also as part of the program there will be commented videos of works by Flávio Cerqueira (São Paulo, Brasil, 1983) and Judith Lauand (Pontal, São Paulo, Brasil, 1922).