Above, Maurício Pietrocola, and Martin Grossmann; below, Ana Magalhães and Marta Bogéa. Photo: Disclosure
MAC's headquarters, in Ibirapuera. Photo: Disclosure

No next June 9, the University of São Paulo (USP) chooses the new direction of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which will replace the current management, composed by Carlos Roberto Ferreira Brandão and Ana Gonçalves Magalhães. The term ends in the next semester. It will be a new chance for renovation in an institution that is unable to stand out in the city's art scene, facing from funding problems to the lack of a clear museum project and even space occupation, the immense old Detran.

Two slates are vying for the museum’s direction: one headed by Magalhães (MAC), with the architect Marta Vieira Bogéa (FAU) as deputy, and the other led by Professor Martin Grossmann (ECA), with Maurício Pietrocola Pinto de Oliveira (Faculty of Education) .

at the invitation of arte!brasileiros, the two slates made a synthesis of their proposals – available in full here.

Created in 1963, from the donation of the collections of the patrons Yolanda Penteado and Ciccillo Matarazzo, and by the collections of works acquired or received in donations during the MAM period - which generated a crisis in the museum -, and by the prizes of the Bienals of São Paulo, until 1961, MAC lived a particularly effervescent period during the management of Walter Zanini, between 1963 and 1978. Zanini (1925-2013) marked the space as a place of experimentation for artists in the difficult times of the military dictatorship, and his work has been gaining increasing recognition, including internationally.

Since then, the museum has gone through ups and downs. Eight years ago, in 2012, with the inauguration of its new headquarters, in Ibirapuera, in a building designed by Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950s, MAC achieved an area of ​​23 m2, rare among Brazilian art institutions. There is a collection of 10 thousand works, which includes modernist works by renowned artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Max Bill or Käthe Kollwitz, among foreigners, and Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral and Flávio de Carvalho, among Brazilians, until recent production, especially national, much of it incorporated during the management of Tadeu Chiarelli (2010-2014).

The electoral college that decides the direction is composed of a select group from USP itself: the members of the deliberative council of the museum and representatives of five similar units of the university, such as the School of Communications and Arts or the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism. Read below what each plate proposes.

From left to right, Maurício Pietrocola and Martin Grossmann, on one plate, and Ana Magalhães and Marta Bogéa, on the other. Photo: Disclosure

(Ana Magalhães and Marta Bogéa)

With almost six decades of existence, and permanently installed in its new headquarters in Parque do Ibirapuera, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo (MAC USP) is the most important institution of its kind in the country. Guardian of an invaluable collection of modern and contemporary art, it is not just another art museum in the city of São Paulo. As a university museum, in which teaching, research and curatorship activities are closely intertwined, throughout its history, it has consolidated itself as a space for critical reflection and (specialized and extension) training. This is reflected in the profile of his collecting. Since its establishment at the University and under the direction of Walter Zanini (1925-2013), the museum has sought to investigate new artistic practices and new media, becoming a pioneering institution in the country, a fact recognized by recent international historiography.

MAC USP should be understood as a museum-laboratory, because in addition to opening itself to the promotion of artistic production, it should continue to encourage the involvement of students, inside and outside USP, as well as interdisciplinary partnerships between researchers and professors. This is not exactly new for the Museum: since the establishment of the teaching career (2004), its curators-professors have been working on research in collaboration with colleagues from other areas of knowledge, including internationally, while at the same time fulfilling a unique role of provide training for young researchers in a transdisciplinary context. Recently, it started the discussion of an artistic residency program and, in 2019, implemented an exhibition call for emerging artists. This is, in fact, another singularity of MAC USP: the curatorial activity is guided by academic research and unfolds in undergraduate and graduate courses, in exhibitions and in the Museum's outreach program. These are existing practices that we recognize and wish to continue and expand on.

We started from these assumptions to prepare our Management Program. In this sense, MAC USP is an open door to the largest and most relevant Brazilian university for society. Therefore, we intend to maintain a dialogue with agents inside and outside USP to debate pressing contemporary issues and ensure this as a space for critical reflection and autonomy of thought. For this same reason, MAC USP is not just a set of exhibition galleries: its forms of extroversion must involve several areas of knowledge and broad cultural extension activities. To this end, we hope to have partnerships with other institutions, both inside and outside the country – some of which are already developing joint projects with the Museum – to build a program that unfolds over time, and promotes the production of knowledge and education in several areas. levels. It is also imperative that this program reflects diversity and otherness, not only in its exhibition calendar, but in its training and research activities.

MAC USP must still face major challenges in the next ten years, the most immediate being that of its financial autonomy to continue its excellence in research and training, and to have breath in its extroversion program. Faced with the vicissitudes that we are experiencing due to the most serious pandemic of the last 100 years, these challenges have become even greater, as this requires the Museum to investigate new forms of relationship with its audience. In this sense, MAC USP teams are already discussing proposals for this new mode of communication and extension of their activities, through digital media and social networks. These proposals should, in our view, also involve projects and partnerships with artists and researchers in the area, so that we can think together about the virtual dimension of the Museum. It is worth remembering that it was through the Thematic Project financed by Fapesp that the institution built a virtual platform for the dissemination of its collection – extracting data from its cataloging database – and set up a digital preservation laboratory (see article in Revista Pesquisa FAPESP, of May 25, 2020). The fact that it is a university museum, which has highly trained staff in its various modes of action, not only supported these initiatives, but also provided the necessary infrastructure for such an undertaking. With the support of digital repositories that the University created in recent years, MAC USP was able to start collecting media art before any other museum in the country.

MAC USP grew in space (27.000 m2 of exhibition area in 2012), in number of visitors (396.000 visitors in 2019), and in projection in the area of ​​research and training. Growth in numbers, resulting mainly from academic excellence, the competence of its functional and technical staff, and the critical reflection that allowed the Museum to reinvent itself in its new headquarters. Our commitment is to provide the conditions for the Museum to continue to fully realize its mission: to produce and promote art as a form of knowledge and experimentation.


At the forefront of space-time: public, ubiquitous, universal, planetary, experimental, transdisciplinary, formative, collaborative, dynamic, open. Anchored in referenced museological and cultural management guidelines.
(Martin Grossmann and Maurício Pietrocola)

Contemporary art is configured in the second half of the 20th century mainly through the actions of artistic avant-gardes critical of the institutionality of art consolidated by the museum of modern art. The post-war period, and in particular the unrest of the 1960s and 70s, put this modernist museum paradigm in check. A museum emerges that is more permeable and responsive to the intense mutations of the contemporary, which prioritizes the relationship between art and life.

The Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo is, therefore, one of the pioneers in the world in this new typology, by inaugurating and leading a new form of museological, laboratory, daring, critical, contextual, performative action.

The creation process of MAC is the result of an institutional crisis of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, founded in 1949. In 1963,  collection, as well as those of its creators and patrons (Ciccillo Matarazzo and Yolanda Penteado), are donated to USP.

Installed in a permanent seat in Ibirapuera Park, made possible by the State Government in 2007, MAC, however, has not yet landed in the metropolis. He suffers from an orphanage complex, either from his blood mother, the city, or from his stepmother, the university. It lacks an identity that corresponds to contemporary ubiquity: to be and to exist concomitantly everywhere, thus including the university, the city, the world and even virtuality.

Why would a “culturator”*, a professor at the School of Communications and Arts, with significant experience in cultural and academic management, join another professor at the Faculty of Education, with a solid scientific background (Physics), specialized in Epistemology and History of Science, as well as in the development of innovative strategies in science teaching, with the aim of taking over the management of MAC in the next four years? 

We understand that the museum needs to become an interface, an attractor, fed by the knowledge and practices that only a university like USP is able to provide. The MAC needs not only to create meaning for its specific and related areas, but also for other areas of knowledge at the university and especially for the public. It needs to be contaminated by the different forms of knowledge and experiences that coexist and stress the university and the planet, being an open space for creation in the broad sense of the term.

Our management project is based on an audacious proposal of inter and multidisciplinary “culturador”, having as its backbone the fantastic collection of the museum and a collaborative educational and cultural program, in a movement for educational training for/through art, thus necessarily involving the entire museum team, as well as several and diverse external agents and different audiences.

As it is a complex task, we propose that this project be planned and developed by the museum in partnership with a group of researchers, artists and professionals, from different areas of knowledge and activity, most of them from USP, who want to work in the triangulation between art, science and culture, aiming at the development of an investigative, expository, communicative and participatory transdisciplinary device, indisputably based on the vocation, genealogy and trajectory of this museum.

We propose a collective, collaborative project that actually considers the MAC as a museum of contemporary art at USP, that is, that represents the power of interdisciplinarity of a plural university that brings together practically all fields of knowledge. Its centrality will be a large thematic exhibition that will have the museum's collection as a central reference expanded through digital and analog technology based on a program of educational, scientific and cultural action. A unique experience of knowledge and fruition, a combination of interdisciplinary and multimedia narratives —art, culture and science— that will seek to stimulate transdisciplinary experiences.

Inspired by its first director, Walter Zanini, the proposal outlined here for the management of MAC (2020-2024) aims to “reshape the model”*. The museum needs to rescue its original, laboratory matrix, which, with its inventiveness and daring, has placed MAC in pari passu with other contemporary art museums in the world, by proposing a museological action distinct from the majority of modern art museums existing in different parts of the world. the globe, including Brazil.

In this sense, we believe that this is the moment of metamorphosis, of the necessary leap for MAC —the power that it is— to resume its leading role in the city and in the system of culture and knowledge. We live in times of pandemic / pandemonium that worries us, anguish, worries, disconcerting. How will the world and Brazil come out of this crisis? We still don't know and our spirits, saddened by the deaths, as well as by the evident human stupidity, tend to take a more skeptical posture, in the face of such barbarity and complexity. In this dystopian context in which we are all inserted, a contemporary art museum like MAC needs to maintain its prospective and utopian spirit, light up what's to come.

A Contemporary Contemporary Art Museum that opens the third millennium 27 it must point to what does not yet exist, to the world in metamorphosis. More than ever, we need to exercise our imagination in the perspective of foreseeing the new, seeking and developing new ways of acting, new narratives, new museographies, new methodologies to be developed jointly and collectively, either with its technical staff, or with other instances of the university and outside of it, but above all with the public.


*1 - There is the culturologist, a term that comes from Russia where there is an important aspect of the “science of culture”: culturology.  In the West, cultural studies are the most consolidated strand of investigations related to culture. However, the neologism "cultivator” is launched here since there are important particularities in the performance and in the  investigations carried out so far, which bring together culture, the arts and science, thus demanding a new area of ​​interdisciplinary action, the culture (cultivating), a scientific-poetic curatorial investigation of culture. That is, the cultivator (culturist) is a specialist in cultural studies and poetics.
*2 - Baldini, Isis, Grossmann, Martin, Prado, Pamela, & Spricigo, Vinicius. (2018). Walter Zanini and the formation of a contemporary art system in Brazil. Advanced Studies, 32 https://doi.org/10.5935/0103-4014.20180047

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