Francis Bacon, Seated Figure, 1961, oil on canvas, 165,1 x 142,2 cm, donated by J. Sainsbury Ltd, 1961, collection: Tate, London. 2018. PHOTO: The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS, London/ AUTVIS, Brazil, 2018. Reproduction/MASP

“Today our art is judicialized”, summarizes the lawyer Danilo Andrade Maia, who represented institutions such as MASP and Instituto Moreira Salles, the huge barrier to the realization of exhibitions that institutions have faced in the country. It so happens that airports such as Guarulhos, Viracopos and Galeão have charged an abusive amount of fees when works of art arrive in the country. The first time this happened was in the middle of SP-Arte, when works that came to the fair were stuck in customs. Subsequently, several entities faced the same problem, which remains unresolved.

ARTE!Brasileiros spoke with Fábio Frayha, MASP's new Director of Operations and Finance; Jochen Volz, Director General of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, and with Danilo to understand what these tariffs are and how this represents a scandal in art in Brazil.

Danilo de Andrade Maia emphasizes, first of all, that this is not a question related to taxes, but a discussion around storage and warehouse services. The first refers to the fee for the works to be kept, while the second refers to the internal movement of these loads. “These are the only two services that airports, such as public service concessions, have a legal obligation to provide”, points out the lawyer. The airport receives and stores the works (storage) until they are removed. In this process, consequently, it moves them inside the airport (capatazia).

A fee was always charged based on the weight of each work for these services, as Danilo explains: “This is not a Brazilian invention. This is an international criterion that has always been adopted. Regardless, therefore, of the value [of the work]. What counts for the purposes of storage and movement, and it makes all sense and logic, is the weight of this merchandise”. This year, airports began to interpret this storage and handling rule differently.

Danilo explains that they have validated the rule against an expression of the law that talks about works that enter Brazil for temporary purposes, “as long as they are intended for civic-cultural events”. Airports then began to question the 'civic' of the expression in a nationalist way, as if it were valid only for works that praise Brazilian production. “They are understanding the expression within a patriotic-ufanist conception”, he explains. In this way, the measure appears protectionist.

Therefore, the concessionaires no longer charge tariffs by weight, as they do not consider the works in the civic-cultural scope, and begin to require a tariff based on the commercial value of each work. “Right now, the concessionaires, namely the airports, are unilaterally interpreting this provision in their favor”, comments Maia. The lawyer also points to the real meaning of the expression: “This concept of civic, linked to the cultural, is rooted in and concerns civilization, the universal character, the universality of cultural events”. With that, as exemplified by him, a show that would pay five thousand reais for storage and foremanship starts to pay three million reais.

The lawyer says that other arguments came up on the part of the airports. These, according to him, are not supported by law: “They say, for example, that there are entities, museums, that charge admission. However, charging for admission, even if on certain days and times, is simply a very shy way of trying to make these exhibitions viable. And the law does not establish that as a requirement.” For him, allegations like this are unfounded and the reasons, in essence, are financial: “It's a desperate attempt to find another source of income. Let's remember that one of the concessions, the Viracopos airport concession, was recently the subject of an attempt to even return it, as the concessionaire claimed that the account was not closed”, recalls Danilo.

Danilo's office is headquartered in four capitals (São Paulo, Salvador, Brasília and Porto Alegre) and has already attended, in addition to Masp and Instituto Moreira Salles, Instituto Tomie Ohtake and SP-Arte to address these issues, where writs of mandamus for the release of works, without the abusive charges, by airports: “We are aware that countless other entities in the country are having the same problem and not all of them with, let's say, the condition of having a national law firm like ours, covering all areas, including tax law”. He points out that the firm was willing to help in this matter without any commercial interest, but out of passion for culture, as it considers the episode a scandal, given that this has made international entities “concerned and dismayed by the institutional reaction against it”. to culture”: “And when I say institutional it is because, it is worth remembering, these airports are agents of the public power. They have a public concession.” According to him, ANAC, which should do something about the problem, claims that this is not the agency's responsibility. On the other hand, the concessionaires say that they are following the law, albeit with a peculiar interpretation, and that the ANAC would be able to change this.

The Ministry of Culture took a stand against the new form of charging made by airports. For Maia, the support is “gray”, because “he cannot interact and dialogue with those on the same plane”, referring to ANAC. Although the dialogue is being possible and they have been successful with the injunctions, the bureaucracy necessary to prove the purpose of the shipment of the works has also been an obstacle. He sees the “absurd” movement of the federal justice in these cases as something without reason. This is because many of these exhibitions are planned well in advance and have prior disclosure. According to him, there are “piles and piles” of requested documents. It is the case, for example, of Afro-Atlantic Stories: “There is a paradox that, in Afro-Atlantic Stories (…), if you had to pay what the airport asked for, it would be much more than all that was spent and invested in the exhibition itself, prepared two years in advance”, he comments.

About the impact of this for art in the country, Danilo has no doubts: “It is a situation considered pathetic outside Brazil and that nobody believes in such an absurd criterion”. MASP's Director of Operations and Finance, Fábio Frayha, is also aware of this fact. He says that it is very difficult to explain what has happened to outside institutions with which the museum negotiates for the holding of exhibitions: “This creates a total insecurity on our part, whether we are going to be able to make these exhibitions viable. So, our curatorial agenda is absolutely compromised for the next few years”.

Despite having been successful with the injunctions to release works according to the previous tariff table, Fábio confesses fear: “You don't know exactly the deadlines you will have and how you will manage to coordinate these processes”. According to him, who considers what has been happening as a setback, this places Brazil in a “very marginalized position” both on the international and national scene, given that it makes exchanges between institutions difficult.

For the Director-General of the Pinacoteca de SP, Jochen Volz, the situation could decree the end of international exhibitions and the isolation of the country if measures are not taken. He sees the changes as arbitrary and considers the interpretations as “biased”. Works that make up the exhibition radical women, which opened at the Pinacoteca on August 18, are stored at Viracopos and Guarulhos airports, says Jochen. The institution has already filed a writ of mandamus to pay the amount in table 9, that is, the previous one.

He highlights that part of the museum's mission is “showing Brazilian Visual Arts in dialogue with the cultures of the world (…) to promote the public’s experience with art, stimulate creativity and the construction of knowledge”: “The Pinacoteca intensified cultural exchanges with European, American, Asian and Latin American institutions, having brought exhibitions such as Rodin, Eckhout, Henri Moore, Ron Mueck (with visits of almost ½ million people), that year Hilma af Klint (180 thousand people) and now Radical Women”.

In addition to the financial impact, according to him, what has happened can cause the end of society’s access to international art: “approximately 90% of our visitors would not have access to these experiences if it were not for these exhibitions brought by the Pinacoteca, simply because they do not have the economic conditions to travel to the countries of origin of these international collections and museums”. Jochen also thinks it is important to emphasize that “the airport is not a suitable place to store artworks, so they should simply pass through the airport, through advanced customs clearance points”.


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