Color image, horizontal. Photograph of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, one of the museums affected by the measures of the Federal government
The Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Photo: Disclosure

The Bolsonaro government has set up a delayed-effect bomb that has already begun to detonate, perniciously impacting the largest Brazilian museums and promising to irreversibly asphyxiate them by the end of 2022. In the last months of last year and at the beginning of this year, the The government's Special Secretariat for Culture archived the 2022 annual plans of several museum institutions in the country and left to their managements only the option of extending the 2021 annual plans with an incentive complementation (a mechanism they call “expanded”).

This is the case, for example, of the Pinacoteca of São Paulo, museum elected as the best in Brazil and Latin America in 2016 by the Traveler's Choice Museum, which had its 2022 Annual Plan filed by Associação Pinacoteca Arte e Cultura, the organization that manages the place. Annually, the picture gallery raises incentivized funds of around 18 million reais, and will have to work in 2022 with only 6 million (approved in November). As a result, the institution, which reached its ceiling in February, has already stopped receiving funds from interested sponsors, a situation that has never been seen in the 30 years of operation of the Rouanet Law (Law of Incentive to Culture).

The São Paulo Museum of Art, the masp, the most important in South America and one of the vital museums in the Southern Hemisphere, is experiencing a similar drama. The Promotion sector of the Special Secretariat for Culture approved a supplement of just 8 million reais for Masp in 2022, with the museum using 42 million reais in tax incentives annually. Also the Football Museum and the Museum of Portuguese Language had their projects transformed into biannual plans, which forces them to face the year 2022 not with the value estimated by their directors, but with a “complementation” at the exclusive discretion of the government.

In Rio de Janeiro, for example, the Museum of Tomorrow received authorization to raise a supplement to the value of its Annual Plan 2022 of 20 million reais, when the total annual value of its operating project provides for the raising of 63 million reais during the year. It is suspected that there are many other institutions facing the same problem, which jeopardizes the very continuity of their work in the near future, but museums avoid commenting on the problem, fearing retaliation (which is reasonable, considering the current government) .

It also seems evident that the action of the Secretary of Promotion and Incentive to Culture of the Bolsonaro government, headed by a server with an aggressive and disrespectful posture, André Porciuncula, has a political background. At the same time that it harasses, through economic means, consecrated, traditional institutions of notorious and praised museological activity in the arts and research sector, the government shows itself to be quite generous on other fronts. For example: it fully approved the request for a tax incentive for the architectural project of the Museu do Zebu, in Uberaba (MG), worth 3,2 million reais, as well as for its specific activities. It is an institution of ruralists that documents the development of the creation of that type of cattle.

The Zebu Museum
The Zebu Museum, in Uberaba. Photo: reproduction

In São Paulo, the confrontation between the federal and state cultural staff is explicit and unpleasant. Federal managers are at odds on social media with the Secretary of Culture and Creative Economy of São Paulo, Sérgio Sá Leitão, to whom most museums in São Paulo are linked, subordinate or accountable. As if they were dealing with a private toy of theirs, secretaries Mario Frias and André Porciúncula make inelegant (if not homophobic or misogynistic) jokes against their opponents on social media. Against Leitão, this confrontation intensified after a series of changes to the Rouanet Law (the federal legislation to encourage culture) that the Bolsonaro government announced on February 8. The changes, which have a colossal scope and are fundamentally negative, were edited through a Normative Instruction (IN) and one of the most exacerbated critics was precisely the São Paulo secretary.

“The new IN of the Rouanet Law is illegal,” said Sá Leitão. “Your editing takes flat-earthers to a new dimension. This is a sordid attack by Bolsonarism on one of Brazil's main assets, Brazilian culture. If there is still a rule of law in Brazil, Justice will not let it prosper”. Frias and Porciuncula limited themselves to mocking the secretary and posting accusations that weigh against Sá Leitão in federal courts.

But the fact is that the consequences of the Normative Instruction that changed the Rouanet Law are harmful and of imponderable reach. In addition to setting a bizarre ceiling for artists' fees (R$3), the measure had a decisive impact on museums, as it brings new provisions to the Annual Plans (which allow museology to plan its activities, that require advance negotiations with other museums).

The first change that raises concern is that all authorizations for capture will be concentrated in the Special Secretary for Culture himself, which gives a subordinate role to all previous technical studies. Proposals must be submitted by September 30 of the year prior to the Annual Plan, and their execution must be carried out within 12 months coinciding with the fiscal year. The Annual Activity Plan will not be allowed to coexist with other projects or annual plans by the same proponent and a series of cultural actions will be required from the museum in certain products (in proportion to the funds raised). Another requirement: funds will only be transferred after the previous project has been accounted for.

One of the largest financial institutions in the country, which uses the Rouanet Law for its actions, heard by our reporter, informed that it still does not have a study of the dimension of the changes because “many of the projects are already approved and in execution and were not affected by the current Normative Instruction". But he analyzes with a magnifying glass the implications of the text.

Several producers are counting on two things in relation to the government's action: 1) There is a request for unconstitutionality in relation to most of the measures (which had already been advanced in a decree) pending in the Federal Supreme Court; 2) the electoral calendar will certainly force not only a change in the package, but may also make it innocuous (Mario Frias himself must leave the Secretary of Culture to try for a seat as a federal deputy).

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