Curator Josué Mattos talks to the team responsible for the works at Centro Cultural Veras.

A cultural center is being created quite differently from private Brazilian art institutions, generally financed by millionaire patrons and even so with recurring stories of failure, some of them putting museums at risk, as happened with the closing of MAM-SP in 1967. .

The new location is Veras Cultural Center, conceived after a twenty-year gestation period by the monk and curator Josué Mattos, who had the idea when he lived in a monastery in the mountains of Paraty and ended up specializing in art in France. Further out of the curve, impossible.

Veras Cultural Center
Registration of the construction of the new Veras Cultural Center. Courtesy of the Cultural Center itself

Born in Criciúma (Santa Catarina), Mattos moved to Florianópolis in the 90s. “That's when the desire to do this project began. The concept dates back to 1999. At that time I was involved in alternative, spiritual and Yoga-related movements and attended a cultural center, which was not the best name for it, but that was what it was called”, begins to tell the atypical story. ,  by phone, right after deciding how to remove an immense rock that threatened the subsoil of the new space.

In 1999, the monk moved to Paraty, where he spent three years, and from there he left for Paris to study art, “because he thought it would be important for this cultural center”. He spent nearly ten years in the French capital, studying the philosophy and literature of Yoga and the History of Art and Archaeology.

“I returned to Brazil in 2006 for an exchange program with USP and that was when Lisette Lagnado was doing the Bienal. It was a moment of great initiation into curating. And, at the same time, there was a great exhibition of the MAM collection at Oca and I was invited by Thaddeus Chiarelli, my professor at USP, to be one of the exhibition's educators”, recalls Mattos.

The experience was essential in his journey: “Visiting the Bienal every day and living with the MAM collection led me to decide that, when I returned to Brazil, which happened in 2010, I would try to act as a curator to facilitate the construction of the cultural center .”

In the last ten years, all the works undertaken by the curator-monk have helped to make the new space viable, including the design and curatorship of the first edition of the Frestas – Trienal de Artes project, at Sesc Sorocaba, a periodic exhibition of contemporary art, which had started in 2014. “Invited to conceive a project for a biennial in the interior, I suggested that it be a triennial, due to debates at the 28th Bienal de SP, and even before, in the 1980s, when Aracy Amaral pointed out the short time to organize an exhibition of this size in two years”, he explains.

In addition to mobilizing its fees for the construction of the cultural center, it carried out two exchanges that allowed for the financing of labor and the building's elevator. In the first case, at the Adelina Institute, in São Paulo, he took on a kind of artistic direction that reinforced the institution's non-profit vocation. In Ribeirão Preto, Mattos headed the foundation of the Centro de Arte Contemporânea W, created by the artist Weimar, where he has been a curator ever since.

Another important form of contribution was the donation of works by around 120 artists, including Cildo Meireles, Rivane Neuenschwander e Ernest Net, most of them sold at auction at Casa Goia and Feira Parte, both in São Paulo. A multiples program, carried out with works fully donated by Regina Silveira, Jorge Menna Barreto, Sandra Cinto and Albano Afonso, has also generated funds for the purchase of construction materials.

In total, Veras is budgeted at R$ 2,35 million, including the purchase of land, architectural design, construction and equipment. Of this total, R$ 630 thousand still remain to be raised. If everything is achieved later this year, with the crowdfunding campaign to be launched in the first half of 2020, the space will open in early 2021.


When talking about Veras, Mattos usually refers to “our project” in the plural, which includes his partner and four other friends, “who are not in the field of art”.  The cultural center, therefore, “belongs to a non-profit association governed by private law, the same legal structure as most private museums in Brazil”, as defined by the curator.

The 1.100 m building2 It was designed by the offices of Terra e Tuma Arquitetos Associados and Gabriella Ornaghi Architecture of Landscape, both from São Paulo.  Terra e Tuma won, in 2016, the award for best house in the world by ArchDaily, thanks to Dona Dalva's house, in Vila Matilde.

When talking about Veras, Mattos usually refers to “our project” in the plural, which includes his partner and four other friends,  “who are not in the field of art”

The name Veras comes from the street where it is located, Vera Linhares, in the center of the island of Florianópolis, which does not coincide with the city center, but is 500 meters from the two public universities of the capital, the Federal and the State. However, Veras could also be a reference to the Vedas, the four books that formed Sanskrit and where, in fact, the inspiration for the four conceptual pillars of space comes from: science, philosophy, Yoga and art. “In the Vedas, they are the foundations that sustain a community”, explains Mattos.  In Veras, however, two of these concepts were freely translated:  science was changed to education and sustainability took the place of philosophy.

Mattos notes that, in Brazil, this transversality already occurs in other cultural spaces, such as SESC. “I strongly believe in transversality as a way to overcome the challenge of forming an audience in our region”, says the curator, based on his experience as director of the Santa Catarina Art Museum for two years, in 2017 and 2018. He left from there to an artist residency in Japan.


“When I decided to start the process of designing a cultural center, then solitary and silent, I could not imagine how much contact with the History of Art would allow me to approach experiences previously experienced only in contact with seekers of spiritual paths. That's when I came across the work of artists who seemed to be going in the same direction and I had the feeling of belonging to a vast community”, says the curator.

For him, references for the work in the new cultural center will be, among others, the experiments of Joseph Beuys (1921 - 1986), the mysticism of Mondrian (1872 - 1944) or Agnes Martin (1912 - 2004), the clinical condition of last experiments of Lygia Clark (1920-1988) as well as the creator of happenings, Allan Kaprow (1927 – 2006) or the suprasensorial Hélio Oiticica (1937 – 1980) with environmental art. Currently, he points out Jorge Menna Barreto, “who made the social sculpture of Beuys what he calls environmental sculpture, involving unconventional communities in the art system”, Mônica Nador, with her notion of shared authorship, Sandra Cinto, Ernesto Neto, Bené Fonteles, Rodrigo Bueno, with whom he maintains strong links.

In the field of exhibitions, “what we intend to develop here are the immersion of some artists with the community, which is very unfamiliar with the status of this artist who does not need to develop objects”, he says. A reference is the Manifesta biennial, which took place in Zurich, in 2016, where artists went to create projects in the city. “In Florianópolis, we have forty-odd beaches, two rural communities, a minimally developed urban center, and the question is how to create mechanisms of contemporary art that make this unique topography count.  What we want is to give voice to artists who are willing to create relationships and promote dialogue, regardless of whether what is accomplished can be called art, because I believe that this issue is no longer relevant today”, he concludes. 

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