photo: Robert Frank

With the inauguration of its new headquarters in São Paulo, on 20/9, Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) begins a new phase. There will be more than a thousand square meters of exhibition space, divided into three large galleries with double height ceilings. The building, designed by the Andrade Morettin Arquitetos office, also has ample spaces for a library specialized in photography, with a capacity for up to 30 thousand publications (at the moment it has 7 thousand books), rooms for courses, workshops, music shows , cinema sessions, restaurant and bookstore. Located on Avenida Paulista, very close to Av. Consolação and served by two subway stations, the space should promote an exponential growth of the public reached by the Institute, throwing the organization the challenge of reconciling work for a mass audience without losing sight of its basic guidelines.

The institution, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has very defined lines of action, with photography being its main area of ​​activity, followed by music and literature. The history of the IMS is, since its birth in 1992, closely linked to the idea of ​​preserving Brazilian culture and to a strategy of acquisition, preservation, restoration and dissemination of important collections, by important names such as Marc Ferrez and Marcel Gautherot (photo), Album Highcliffe (iconography), Chiquinha Gonzaga, Ernesto Nazareth and Pixinguinha (music), in addition to taking care of the personal archives of 29 Brazilian writers. To get an idea of ​​the size of the collection, it is enough to remember that the photography collection alone has more than two million images and it continues to grow. In recent years, it has also sought to broaden its view of contemporary production.

“Our idea is to offer programming that the public may not expect”

Another important aspect in the Institute's trajectory, which should gain enormous weight with the new space, is what Flavio Pinheiro, who has headed IMS since 2008, defines a “growing curatorial ambition”. It is true that the Institute previously had a space in Praça Buenos Aires, but it was a small, shy room that was not able to receive a large part of the exhibitions organized internally. The largest exhibitions held in recent years, with material from the archives or in partnership with important national and international institutions (such as those of William Kentridge, Richard Serra, Anri Sala), when they came to São Paulo, were shown in partner spaces, such as Pinacoteca, for example. The carioca headquarters, which occupies the former residence of the Moreira Salles family in the Gávea neighborhood, is extremely charming but farther from the public. It has a captive but restricted audience. The land is large (11 square meters, which allowed the entire collection to be stored there), but its exhibition space is relatively small. Only one of the three galleries in São Paulo already surpasses it in size. And the headquarters in Poços de Caldas (whose inauguration, in 1992, marks the birth of the IMS) has only regional reach.

“This is the big challenge. The Institute has a lot of prestige, but it never really had this public, this faster, more varied visitation. The objective is to maintain our quality standard. We don't want to lose this rigor”, emphasizes Lorenzo Mammì, general curator of programs and events at IMS.

The agenda prepared for the inauguration of the building already signals the plural character that the institution intends to adopt. The anthological series The Americans, made in 1955 by Robert Frank (in addition to the photo exhibition, there will also be a course on the beatnik generation and a film show), will occupy one of the galleries. The second space will house Corpo a Corpo, a collective exhibition of contemporary Brazilian photography, which brings together works by Bárbara Wagner, Jonathas de Andrade, Sofia Borges, Letícia Ramos, Garapa and Mídia Ninja. These are recent images, after the 2013 protests, which seem to have inaugurated a new political and social moment in the country, and which deal with the embodiment of violence, confrontation, class and power tensions. Galeria 1 will receive the video installation The Clock, by Christian Marclay – awarded the Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

Exhibition of The Clock, by Christian Marclay (Photo: Disclosure)
Exhibition of The Clock, by Christian Marclay (Photo: Disclosure)

The tendency – as can be seen – is to favor technical images, produced with equipment. “The photo renews itself in its digital banality. It has not ended, which makes our role as a mediator even more demanding”, explains Pinheiro. The cinema will also have a prominent place, occupying, with an intense program, the multimedia auditorium with 150 seats (which is able to project both analogue and digital films, as well as acoustic preparation for musical events). The objective is to work on the diverse character of audiovisual production, complementing the already vast cinematographic programming existing in Paulista and combining the new and the old, a selection of recent productions with more restricted access with the dissemination of a vast and more unknown archival material, of a more historical character. “Our idea is to offer programming that the public may not expect”, says filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho, the consultant responsible for this programming.

The presence of The Clock, which synchronizes different images of clocks captured in the cinema in real time, serves as a hook for a daring action: the decision to keep the institute open 24 hours a day. More than allowing the work to be fully appreciated and transgressing the rigid limits of operation, this alternative schedule aims to reaffirm the link between the new space and its audience, giving shape to a cultural center fully integrated with the urban scene, in its most different features, from the commercial period to the dawn.

This intersection with the urban scene and its inhabitants is reflected in other aspects of the São Paulo IMS, with effects both on long-term programming and on the space's own architecture. The project by the Andrade Morettin office imposes itself, with its light glass drapery, in the landscape of the Avenue, as can be seen in the photos taken throughout the entire period of construction by Michael Wesely, which will also be on display. And it seeks to integrate itself into this space by recreating, on the fourth floor of the new building, a living space that will function as a kind of square, with the dual function of access and living space, while the ground floor is thought of as a continuity of the street, also dialoguing with two other iconic buildings on Paulista: Masp and Conjunto Nacional.

This integration is also found in the choice of theme for the first of a series of long-term exhibitions (one year in duration), under the care of guest curators, which will occupy the top floor of the building, in an immersive image projection system. The inaugural selection, by Guilherme Wisnik, focuses precisely on the iconography of the city of São Paulo. There are three series, basically built from images belonging to the IMS collection, entitled Construction/Demolition, Signs and Characters. With about 8 minutes, each series proposes a tour that is both historical and poetic through important aspects of the urban character of São Paulo, translating into practice this “idea of ​​São Paulo’s nature as a place of permanent transformation, a place of construction and also of destruction”, explains Wisnik.

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