New headquarters of the Casa do Pontal Museum
New museum headquarters, designed by the Arquitetos Associados office, in Barra da Tijuca, Rio. Photo: Disclosure

“Rain in the River floods the Casa do Pontal Museum and damages works”, printed the Folha de S.Paulo website in April 2010; “Flooded by the rains, Casa do Pontal Museum will be closed for a week”, reported Estadão in 2016; “Storm results in the worst flooding in the history of a museum in Recreio”, stated Rio Notícias in 2019; “Museu Casa do Pontal is flooded for the eighth time”, said the newspaper O Globo, already in 2020. It was not in this type of news, of tragedies or accidents, that the institution with the largest collection of popular art in Brazil, I would have liked to be there, but I did for about a decade. But the headlines of news and articles that are read now, in 2021, demonstrate that the Casa do Pontal Museum returns to the place it should not have left: the culture and art pages of newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs.

The observation made above does not mean that the Rio de Janeiro museum has not also managed to receive a large audience, assemble exhibitions and take care of its collection - more than 9 thousand pieces - from 2010 to the present day, but rather that the risk of flooding permeated without breaks the recent history of the institution. This telenovela finally ends, definitively, with the opening on October 9 of the new headquarters of the Casa do Pontal Museum, in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. Historically located in a large house in the remote Recreio dos Bandeirantes, with an area of ​​5 thousand square meters, the museum walks 20 kilometers towards the center – approaching a larger audience – on a land of 14 thousand square meters, which includes a vast area green and an open square.

Walk through Agrarian Reform, part of the Casa do Pontal Museum collection
Walk for Agrarian Reform, by Celestino. Photo: Disclosure

Designed by Arquitetos Associados from Minas Gerais – authors of a series of pavilions in Inhotim such as Cosmococa, Galeria Claudia Andujar, Galeria Miguel Rio Branco and the Burle Marx Educational Center – the new Pontal Museum features a building with straight lines, ample lighting and ventilation that eliminates the need for air conditioning. With several exhibition rooms, the space also gains the technical reserve and maintenance and restoration area it needs – after years of flooding, the focus on this sector had to be increasingly greater. Perhaps also as a result of recent tragedies, the museum will be able to reuse rainwater for the maintenance of the garden. This, in turn, has landscaping signed by the Burle Marx Office, with thousands of trees of 73 native Brazilian species.

The story 

Even if expanded in the current context, the concern with environmental issues is nothing new for the Casa do Pontal Museum, as explained by directors Angela Mascelani and Lucas Van de Beuque. Created in 1976 by the artist and designer Jacques Van de Beuque (1922-2000), the institution brought together the vast collection brought by the Frenchman from his travels in Brazil, where he had established himself decades earlier. The collection was improved over time, both under Guy Van de Beuque (1951-2004) and under Angela – who now shares the position with Lucas, Jacques' grandson. “Since my grandfather, who had his first work in Brazil alongside Burle Marx, the museum has had a very strong relationship with nature. No wonder the house was located next to an environmental reserve”, says Lucas. “And now we wanted to maintain this relationship between art and nature, also including this large, democratic square, in a place that does not have this tradition of squares, which is Barra.”

"Circus" by Adalton. Exhibited at the Casa do Pontal Museum
“Circus” by Adalton. Photo: Disclosure

But what is most impressive about the Casa do Pontal Museum, in fact, is its collection of popular art, which presents a production made from the 1930s to the present day. The more than 9 thousand works by 300 artists from the most varied regions of the country include names such as Adalton, Mestre Vitalino, Noemisa Batista, Nhô Caboclo, GTO, Mestre Didi, Ciça, Dona Isabel, Louco, J. Freitas, Manuel Eudócio, Nino, Solon, Saúba, Zé Caboclo and Maria Amélia. With more exhibition space, the new headquarters will present a greater number of works by these and other artists, sometimes in monographic sectors, sometimes in thematic areas.

At first, rooms with the titles: “Mundo Brincante”, with interactive and kinetic works, puppet theater and digital games stand out; “Vale do Jequitinhonha, Minas – the strength of the land”, with debates on the material dimension of the works and on the term “tradition”; “Mar, Rio, Fogo e Ar”, where anthological sculptures in clay, boats from the São Francisco River, mythological beings and aeolian works appear; and, finally, “Poetics of creation and the networks of people in love with popular art”, which puts in dialogue works from Jacques' original collection with collections donated or loaned to the museum, enabling the expansion of public appreciation. During the visit there are also videos and testimonies of personalities such as Gilberto Gil, Ailton Krenak and José Saramago. 

But, more importantly, the testimonies of the artists themselves are present, in line with the Casa do Pontal Museum's search for the appreciation of these creators who, many times, were framed only as representatives of the production of regions and social contexts, having their names relegated to the second plan. “Because Brazilian popular art, due to the limitations of understanding about it, is rarely understood as art. And for 20 years we've been discussing this issue of a denial of the category 'art' to these people, as if they didn't deserve it”, says Angela. “Precisely because the field of plastic arts, among all cultural fields, is the most closed and elitist stronghold. And as we live in an extremely classist and hierarchical country, the view that one has on this production is very filtered by stereotypes, that it would just be handicrafts, something made for commercialization.”

popular and affordable

Popular in its content, the new Pontal Museum intends to be popular with the visiting public as well. In addition to the open square, the payment of admission will be suggested, but not mandatory, and the institution intends to have its economic sustainability based more on the idea of ​​engagement than on the box office. If it sounds utopian, this is how the museum managed to rebuild itself from its old headquarters and finish the works for the inauguration of the new space. According to Lucas, in addition to the support of private and state companies, hundreds of people have participated in the successful crowdfunding campaigns promoted in recent years, also resulting in a support network for the museum that remains active and articulated.        

The support network becomes even more important, according to the directors, in a difficult context for Brazilian culture. “75% of the work's resources came from donations from companies and people, not least because other government resources ended up coming in”, says Van de Beuque. “It is a time of lack of hope, of lack of horizon, and I think that culture has been suffering especially, in a constant way. So being able to open the museum in this context, with a project made possible by the mobilization of people, including collectors donating works, believing in their future, is wonderful. It shows that Brazilian art is important and that the public knows how to value the country's heritage.”

After years of financial and structural difficulties - in which the institution also depended on a series of partnerships with national and foreign institutions to show the collection and keep its name in the spotlight - the Casa do Pontal Museum seems to feel safe for a new lasting cycle. activities and socializing with the public. In October 2020, with the show See you soon, see you soon, the museum said goodbye to its former headquarters. In October 2021, the title “see you soon” finally arrived, at a time when, despite the crisis and conservatism in the country, popular art has gradually gained greater prominence and respect, according to the directors themselves.

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