SWhenever Vilma's Eid birthday approached, her mother used to present her daughter with a work of art, whether it was a painting or a sculpture. At the age of 21, already married, her mother took her to Cosme Velho Galeria de Arte, owned by art dealer Cesar Luiz Pires de Mello. Vilma remembers that there were entire walls full of paintings, with dark lighting. This did not stop her from fixing her gaze on one of the paintings that, she recognizes, marked a breaking point in her relationship with the arts.
“I saw a grass with two little oxen. My eye was glued to it. I didn’t know it was by José Antônio da Silva [1909-1996]”, says Vilma. “But I wanted that work, and both my mother and the gallery owner advised me against it, saying that the artist was a primitivist, that we don't know if it will lead to anything. 'Choose something more modern,' they said. And I ended up choosing another work.”
The painting with grass and oxen, however, never left Vilma's memory. In the 1980s, she learned that José Antônio da Silva lived in São Paulo, in Vila Mariana, and wanted to meet him. “He was very prestigious during his lifetime, he participated in 17 biennials around the world, six of them the São Paulo Biennial”, says the gallerist. “I always say that he was the one who put me in this life. When people tell me that I chose this niche, I say that I didn't choose any niche. It was an awakening.”
At the time, Vilma Eid was a partner in a gallery opened in 1986, but she was already active in the art market as an independent dealer, a trajectory that in 2023 celebrates 40 years. While your Station Gallery – which until 28/10 shows the press conference Reverse and Transverse – was opened in 2004, after she gathered a consistent collection, purchasing many works on trips throughout Brazil. In 2024, the gallery completes two decades of activity.
“At that moment, however, I wasn't thinking about opening another gallery, because the confiscation of the Collor Government's savings, which had affected the business of the previous gallery, of which I was a partner, left me traumatized,” he says. “My initial idea was to just leave my collection exposed to the public. As time went by, I saw that it wouldn't work, because people wanted to buy it, but I said I wouldn't sell it. And there were many artists still alive who depended on me. So I decided to open the gallery.”
At the time of the opening, Vilma says that the reception of her gallery in the Brazilian art market was not good. People who came here asked me if it was a state or city hall exhibition space, they thought it was something institutional, a museum”, says the gallerist. “It took a lot of pressure, including from friends like Marcelo Araújo and Ivo Mesquita, for market acceptance.”
Over these decades, Vilma recognizes that she did a “great job” for the recognition of so-called popular art. “It was water on hard stone that hits it until it pierces. There was a lot of rejection, because there was confusion about what was art and what was craftsmanship,” she says. Her work, however, has had an impact over the years, not only among collectors, but also institutions, such as Masp.
“It was an epiphany, which can also be seen today in the Pinacoteca’s programming. And outside Brazil there was a turning point, in 2012, when the Cartier Foundation, in Paris, held an exhibition with so-called popular artists. Hervé Chander, director of the institution, not only takes ten artists from the Station to the exhibition, but also acquires works for the Foundation’s collection”.
There is, as you can see, no shortage of reasons to celebrate Vilma Eid's trajectory and the events of this year and next year. Brazilian popular art and its artisans thank you.