"Two weights, two measures" (2016), Lais Myrrha

The two recent editions of the Bienal de São Paulo, both Like (…) Things that Nwill There are, of 2014, how much living uncertainty, which continues in the Ibirapuera pavilion, have several conceptual coincidences, among them the incentive to create new works, carried out specifically in the context of the exhibitions.

The promotion of production, therefore, seems to be a fundamental characteristic that the Bienal de São Paulo began to incorporate in the face of a situation of certain instability in the arts circuit. Clearly, the most organized and most visible sector is the market, with galleries and fairs, which have become meeting places by mimicking, in recent times, some activities that the biennial system itself created as a way of rethinking this system.

Seminars, performances, film cycles and curated exhibitions have become commonplace at fairs, as a strategy to give consistency and glamor to a basically mercantile event, which would only interest those who sell and buy. It was with Art Basel Miami Beach, in 2002, led by Samuel Keller, that fairs were renewed and sought to create a new profile, not only with content, but also at parties with celebrities, which became a trend at fairs around the world.

In São Paulo, museums have not been able to promote artistic production. The Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, for example, has basically exhibited its collection as a strategy to save money on its exhibitions, and something similar has been happening at MAC-USP and the Pinacoteca do Estado, which rarely, by the way, exhibit new works by artists . Often, when they do, it's thanks to artists who get support in public notices regardless of the institutions.

This scenario becomes more dismal when one remembers the role that MAC assumed in the 1970s and 1980s, as a place frequented by young artists, under the encouragement of Walter Zanini, with the JACs (Young Contemporary Art), exhibitions organized annually at the museum. between 1967 and 1974. The institutional precariousness of the second half of the XNUMXth century, which guaranteed many artists to occupy museums since they did so on their own initiative – Zanini called MAC a house-museum –, was replaced by a significant contribution of incentive laws which, however, do not revert to artists, but to cultural producers, especially those sponsored by financial corporations.

“White Museum”, Rosa Barba. The installation is a projection of white light over the entrance ramp of the Bienal Pavilion
“White Museum”, Rosa Barba. The installation is a projection of white light onto the entrance ramp of the Bienal Pavilion, whose framing, common to photography and cinema, becomes a physical presence.

As a result, the Bienal ended up becoming one of the few spaces for the production of new works that can actually be considered experimental. After all, rare are the galleries that do not present decorative objects that can go straight to the walls of collectors.

In this sense, it is significant to note that this strategy of opening up to the experimental came from curatorial teams with professionals linked to solid museological institutions: Jochen Volz, the curator of the current edition, in recent years worked at the Serpentine Galleries, in London, in addition to maintaining linked to Inhotim, while Charles Esche, one of the curators of the last edition, was director of the Van Abbe Museum, in Holland, to which he remains affiliated.

With this, it can be seen how those responsible for the institutional system realized that the place of risk is in fact the Bienal, and part of the criticism attributed to this edition is due to the realization of this type of strategy. In case of living uncertainty, in which most of the works were commissioned by the curators, there is no way to guarantee a completely successful result. But should this be demanded in contemporary art? Erika Verzutti had never done large-scale mural work, just as Lais Myrrha had never built monumental structures, nor had Cristiano Lenhardt performed a large-scale performance. The possibility of experimentation by these artists alone is worth their participation, since it is not based on the satisfaction of one or another personality or the public's attention that a contemporary work should be evaluated.

The difficulty, however, would be in how to reconcile the will of a broad public, therefore not used to contemporary art, which the Fundação Bienal seeks, with an emphasis on a production that could be less accessible. Those who visit the show now realize that there is no apparent ill will on the part of the public. Those who have actually complained are figures with access to the media, who seem to want the same kind of well-behaved art at the fairs at the Bienal.

If that were the case, the city would only have one type of production and monotony would be the dominant tonic. In its 1910 edition, the organizer of the Venice Biennale withdrew the only work by Picasso from the Spanish pavilion for fear that his boldness would shock the public, and it was not until 1948 that Picasso was actually seen at the Biennale's mother. Three years later, in 1951, Picasso would be seen in the first edition of the Bienal de São Paulo, which in its second edition presented not only his masterpiece, Guernica, as a set of 74 works by the Spanish artist.

Boldness is a hallmark of the Bienal de São Paulo, and what the current editions are presenting just follows the show's tradition of dealing with the present above all else. If certain works question the figure of the artist and the curator himself to the detriment of more complex cultural productions, it is necessary to seek to understand what this means instead of looking for simple formulas that determine what art is and that are based on merely personal tastes.

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