View of the first room of the Pinacoteca: Collection, wall with portraits and self-portraits of artists. Photo: Levi Fanan / Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Inclusive and bold. The new arrangement of the collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, opened at the end of last October, is a leap in the quality of the institution. In the previous version, the collection was available in 400 works occupying 11 rooms and another 150 works accessible in archives, totaling 550 in total.

Now, the collection occupies 19 rooms, both on the first and second floors of the main building, with around a thousand works by more than 400 artists. Women artists went from 17 to 95, and Afro-descendant artists from 7 to 26. These are still not enough numbers to account for a truly pluralistic history of Brazilian art, but there is no doubt that this is an advance to be noted, something difficult to be perceived in other institutions.

The previous provision had a principle that less is more, seeking to give more visibility to what was exposed. It worked, and that is why a much more radical organization is now possible, which abandons the chronological order, which other important museums such as the Pompidou Center (Paris) and the Tate Modern (London) have been doing for some time.

This break in the temporal order is replaced by three axes: Territories of Art; Body and Territory; Individual body/Collective body. They are like great themes that allow freer curatorial exercises and, at the same time, in tune with contemporary reflections. Here is one of the strengths of this new order, which in fact starts from a very necessary realization: it is only possible to review the past with the eyes of the now. A collection is, after all, the archive of a museum, and as Jacques Derrida teaches, “the archive will always be lacking, every reading will be different”. The Pinacoteca team that made the change took this principle seriously and left schools, movements and rigid terms aside to allow a new reflective look – which already has a defined deadline to end: 2025.

Another important differential is that the curatorship takes a really proactive attitude, where the arrangement of works reaches an installation mode, since in each room environments are created that are not only surprising, but also quite forceful.

This is the case of the wall on self-portraits, which is part of the Territories of Art axis, where academic, modern and contemporary artists are mixed, but the highlight ends up being the painting by Sidney Amaral (1973-2017), a black artist who has always addressed issues relating to race and is seen in the cutting work Immolation (2009). The image of him with a gun to his neck ends up having repercussions on all the others, as if pointing to the drama of being a black artist in Brazil. It is one of the exciting moments of the show and it points to a strong dialogue with 2020, the year in which the black movement gained great visibility.

"Immolation", by Sidney Amaral. Photo: Romulo Fialdini / Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. APAC Donation, 2016
“Immolation”, by Sidney Amaral. Photo: Romulo Fialdini / Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. APAC Donation, 2016

Sidney Amaral, by the way, is present in several other moments of the exhibition, a characteristic reserved for some key figures in this reorganization of the collection, which also happens with Claudia Andujar, who appears with several images of the Yanomamis, for example. There are a couple of works that create a brilliant dialogue, when you see the painting Proclamation of the Republic (1893), by Benedito Calixto, alongside the set of drawings and watercolors uncomfortable (2014), by Amaral: the first the official version, the second the view of structural racism that stems from the Republic.

Another iconic room in the new layout is the one that houses the installation by Jonathas de Andrade Posters for the Museum of Man of the Northeast close to masterpieces by artists who portrayed the Brazilian people, such as the paintings Redneck smoking tobacco, by Almeida Júnior (1850-1899), bananal, by Lasar Segall (1889-1957) and Mixed race, by Candido Portinari (1903-1962). This transversality in the selection not only reviews the narrative that usually builds the history of art in the country, but also helps to question the somewhat São Paulo discourse of the centrality of the Modern Art Week of 1922.

These really provocative mixtures bring a great freshness to the museum, as if updating a good part of the Pinacoteca collection that focuses on the 19th century. A showcase that mixes works by Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768-1848) – one of the founders of the Imperial Academy of Belas Artes, in Rio de Janeiro, having previously worked in the court of Napoleon – with works by the indigenous artist Denilson Baniwa is an example of a gesture of effectively decolonizing the museum in its heart, that is, its collection.


The remodeling of the collection on the second floor of the museum also transformed the arrangement of rooms for temporary exhibitions. Previously located in the four corners of the building, they are now concentrated in three central rooms on the same floor. Along with the new collection, the exhibition that opens the space is Vexoa: we know, curated by Naine Terena, the first exhibition dedicated to indigenous art at the Pinacoteca.

It is significant that an exhibition on indigenous production is organized by an indigenous woman, who selected 23 artists and collectives from different regions of the country. It is also worth mentioning that in its 115 years, only last year the Pinacoteca acquired works by indigenous people.

The exhibition starts from a questioning principle of the limits between art and craft, thus reviewing the traditional canons, as well as addressing different themes: either the defense of the human rights of indigenous peoples, or the healing processes used in these communities.

"Tatu", Ailton Krenak. Photo: Isabella Matheus/Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
“Tatu”, Ailton Krenak. Photo: Isabella Matheus/Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Traditional ceramics are displayed alongside new works, such as recent paintings by Ailton Krenak – yes, himself, the leader in the 1988 Constituent Assembly and one of the most powerful voices during the pandemic – which portrays monkeys and armadillos.

Patterns, which are marks of indigenous peoples, are seen in works by Daiara Tukano, whether on small canvases or in a mural painting that depicts a snake.

With the new arrangement of the collection and a powerful indigenous exhibition, the Pinacoteca shows that the renovation is taking place in harmony with new times and opening space not only for those who were not representative, but working together with these groups.



Pinacoteca: Collection 

Pinacoteca de São Paulo | Praça da Luz, 2, Luz.

From Wednesday to Monday, from 10 am to 18 pm.
Free admission

Vexoa: we know

From October 31, 2020 to April 11, 2021

São Paulo Art Gallery | Praça da Luz, 2, Luz.

From Wednesday to Monday, from 10 am to 18 pm.
Free admission


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