Reproduction Sesc Avenida Paulista.
Reproduction Sesc Avenida Paulista.

The exposure The Magic of the Manuscript – Pedro Corrêa do Lago Collection, on display at Sesc Avenida Paulista, brings to the Brazilian public approximately 180 handwritten documents by prominent figures in art, politics, science and history. There are letters, signed photographs, scores and notes from personalities such as Juscelino Kubistcheck, Carmen Miranda, Freud and Ronaldo Fenômeno, among other great names.

The curatorship is by the collector himself, the economist and former director of the National Library, Pedro Corrêa do Lago. His habit of collecting started when he was still small, “as a simple hobby, and what I collected were simple signatures, which are called autographs, but autograph is a much broader word that means anything written in your own handwriting, but it became practically synonymous with signature and there is no longer any way to change that, so I use the word manuscript… in fact, many of the things that are [in the exhibition, are not autographs], like a page from [Oscar] Niemeyer that is not signed, but it is much more interesting than a simple his signature on paper.”

Even after 50 years collecting, Pedro says that his curiosity is still very much alive: “The great pleasure of my life was the acquisition of knowledge, in all its forms. I was lucky to have a job that made me travel a lot, the fact that my father took me on his posts as a diplomat to live in other countries when I was a kid taught me different languages, cultures and that opened my horizons a lot”. The collection of manuscripts can be divided into six areas, history, literature, music, science, entertainment and art – “I am fascinated by the painters’ letters, especially when it is an exchange between one and the other, Monet writing for Manet, for example”. And, with the ambition to cover them all, the collection becomes comprehensive and practically panoramic of all these sectors, especially in the western world and since 1500, as the collector points out, although he makes the caveat that “these documents are the heritage of humanity, they are in my temporary possession, I appreciate having them, but I have an obligation to them. The first obligation is to preserve them, the second obligation is to disseminate them” – the documents in the Corrêa do Lago collection are not infrequently lent to institutions and researchers, following the motto of sharing the historical knowledge they keep.

Regarding conservation, Pedro observes something that may surprise: “Most of these documents are stronger than we imagine; many of them are written on rag paper, which is a paper that was used until the XNUMXth century, which is much more resistant and will remain white a thousand years from now, when the paper we use today has already turned to dust”. He also points out that the greatest enemies in the conservation of such documents are fire and humidity: “These pieces are preserved in fireproof archives, their surroundings can burn at a thousand degrees during an hour that the interior [of the structure] is not damaged and also protects from the water that the firefighters are going to throw to put out this fire”, and he jokes, “[but] I never tested it, thank God”. When exposed, however, another challenge to the conservation of these pieces is, in fact, related to what is written on them, more specifically their ink, at this point Pedro comments that “some [documents] will remain the same, but most are sensitive and can fade, so I am very opposed, for example, to you framing documents unless you keep them in places very protected from light”.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) | Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988); Josephine Baker (1906-1975; and Sitting Bull (1831-1890). Reproduction Sesc Avenida Paulista.
Andy Warhol (1928-1987) | Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988); Josephine Baker (1906-1975; and Sitting Bull (1831-1890). Reproduction Sesc Avenida Paulista.

Between discoveries and historical curiosities, the exhibition provides a look at the change in customs and also society on a larger scale. Amidst so many letters from notorious figures, it is impossible not to reflect on the transformation of communication in recent decades. “Letters are physically disappearing, but written communication is perhaps even more intense. Of course, through e-mails, through messages, but I have the impression that my generation wrote less than the current one”, observes Pedro, “but the letter was the only possible option [of communication] with a distant person. , which was actually why the post office developed so much, because they were fundamental, even for commerce. I confess that I am from a generation that still wrote letters, every now and then someone presents me with a letter I wrote 40 years ago, it's even funny... It really changed the letter, the mail, the thing you write hand and go to the mail to put it, this is getting lost, but, deep down, what is not lost is the message”.

The message, in some cases of these manuscripts, may never have seen the light of day before. In this way, they end up constantly revealing, according to the curator, admirable and deplorable things about their authors. “All great figures have moments that we would rather not have happened, and they themselves often regret those phases… The biggest mistake is to judge what is said in a given context with today's vision”.

unfortunately for The Magic of the Manuscript it was not possible to carry out a complete transcription of these relics, but part of the collection was transcribed when it was exhibited at the New York's Morgan Library & Museum, in 2018; although the selection of pieces is slightly different – ​​considering its adaptation and sewing for the Brazilian public – the catalog resulting from the 2018 show was published by the German publisher Taschen, translated into Portuguese and can be seen at Sesc Avenida Paulista. Comparing the two occasions, Pedro expresses that the opportunity to present the collection at Sesc was “extremely stimulating”, especially with regard to this new selection, made together with the institution’s team, so that there would be no lack of names that could touch the public more “All this shows that this collection is always in motion, the very appreciation of what is important in culture and history is constantly changing”.


The Magic of the Manuscript
Collection of Pedro Corrêa do Lago
Sesc Avenida Paulista – Avenida Paulista, 119 – Art I (5th floor)
FREE – Free


28/9/2022 a 15/1/2023
Tuesday to Friday, from 10:21 to 30:XNUMX
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 10:18 to 30:XNUMX

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