A member of the Piscina platform, Juh Almeida exhibited the work A woman speaks at SP-Foto VR
A member of the Piscina platform, Juh Almeida exhibited the work "A woman speaks" at SP-Foto VR. Photo: Courtesy Piscina and artist

*By Ana Letícia Fialho and Luciara Ribeiro

The result of the last elections, both in Brazil and in the USA, was marked by presences that, in some way, point to an unfolding of the anti-racist acts that grew in the world from the month of July, when the murder of the African-American George Floyd and the movement black lives matter mobilized crowds of people around the world. It was also during this period that, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, this debate grew within the Brazilian arts system, entering the space of institutions and demanding more assertive positioning and actions. Since then, we have seen an increase in discussions that guided the critical revisionism of museums, collections and acquisition policies; the hiring of more black, indigenous and trans professionals for coordination, curatorship and management positions; approaches around the languages ​​and methodologies adopted by the academy and the artistic media, among others. Despite the efforts of several agents and the greater visibility achieved by these issues, few effective changes were implemented.

Although we can let ourselves be carried away by positive examples that have been multiplying, it is worth highlighting here researches that show the long way to go. The first results of Mapping of black, black and indigenous curators, carried out in a collaborative way through social networks with the coordination of Luciara Ribeiro and published in partnership with the Afro Project and the Collective Art Workers, shows that even with the increase in the number of non-white curators and the opening of exhibitions that include the participation of these professionals, the 76 black curators and the 20 indigenous people listed, 80% of them work independently/autonomously, without effective ties with museum, artistic and cultural institutions. Without disregarding the personal choices of each one, this data reveals a low rate of formal employability of black and indigenous curators.

A MUNA, Black Women in the Arts, founded by Fabíola Rodrigues and Mariana de Matos, launched in 2017 a pioneering research to highlight the great inequality of race and gender that exists in the arts system in Brazil. The results, published on the MUNA page on Facebook, inform that in the 30th, 31st and 32nd Bienals of São Paulo, for example, 390 artists participated, including 45 women, of which only four black artists. The research also raised figures from the art market: a sample of 5 galleries in the Southeast (A Gentil Carioca, Celma Albuquerque, Mendes Wood DM, Nara Roesler and Vermelho) computed a total of 160 represented artists, among which 56 were women and only 1 black artist.

A more recent survey, developed by artist, curator and researcher Alan Ariê, in 2019, mapped the differences in gender, race and birthplace of 619 artists represented by 24 galleries in the city of São Paulo, and was disseminated through a profile created on social networks, the blackstudy. A fact that says a lot about the reactivity of the art market in dealing with the subject was the express refusal of some contacted galleries to participate in the survey. When the results were published, some of the galleries tagged on social networks were unmasked, showing discomfort with the theme and the results, which point out, for example, that among the “619 names raised by the survey, only 46 people are not white. Of these, 27 are black people – 23 men and only 4 women; 14 are Asian people – 9 men and 5 women; 4 are brown – all men; and only 1 person is indigenous.”

In view of this, we cannot close the year 2020 without reinforcing the importance of these debates being permanent in the arts, as well as a commitment to building a more democratic system for all. If at the institutional and curatorial level this debate had been going on for a long time and has become more recurrent and consistent in recent years, in the art market the phenomenon seems to be much more recent and still quite embryonic in Brazil. Nevertheless, although they may have different temporalities, trends observed in the institutional field and in the market should not be dissociated, after all, the art system is composed of distinct but interdependent instances, all subject to macrodeterminants, such as social movements and the pandemic context, that have driven and even accelerated changes in the sector.

In this sense, we saw some actions that took place this year that deserve to be highlighted. THE p.art.island, which emerged as a collective of galleries to think about collective and shared strategies of commercial and institutional scope, today brings together around 40 galleries from different locations and curatorial proposals. In addition to the actions designed for external action, discussions and collaborative contributions are recurrent (crowdsourcing) for the internal organization of this sector. As examples we can mention the creation of a unified list of curators and their lines of research, a joint spreadsheet of service providers and indications of carriers and the possibility of dividing and planning costs in transfers of works to the same destination, which have been frequent and profitable in terms of cost, time and ease.

Other sectors within the art circuit were strengthened through self-organization; this is the case of Art Handler Brasil, which was created based on the need for emergency actions to help assemblers of art exhibitions, and which was even one of the beneficiaries of the first coordinated actions of the p.art.ilha galleries.

Political-social demands have also instigated the creation of new galleries already based on more inclusive prerogatives. A pioneer in this regard, the Diaspora Gallery, launched in 2019, which also participates in p.art.ilha, sees dialogue with the sector and other galleries and cultural agents as a necessary and unavoidable path to expand the presence of social agendas within the art system. Yvette Mutumba, founder of Contemporary& magazine, in an article for ArtForum, cited the gallery as one of the ten outstanding projects for its year, which only reinforces the political importance of new galleries to renew the market.

Record of the artist's performance Tálamo, in Crato (CE), Photo: Jaque Rodrigues/Courtesy Levante Nacional Trovoa and artist
Record of the performance Tálamo, performed in Crato (CE) by the artist Maria Macedo, member of Levante Nacional Trovoa. Photo: Jaque Rodrigues / Courtesy Levante Nacional Trovoa and artist

A HOA, gallery by Igi Ayedun, also needs to be mentioned as good news. Launched in 2020, the gallery defines itself as an artist-led art organization, dedicated to Latin American contemporary art, and aims to break the notion of backwardness and dependence of the European and North American system in the arts. Its cast includes only non-white artists.

These movements also reverberated in the annual editions of the SP-Art, which took place online during the month of August, and ArtRio, which took place in person in October. Both allow the entry of projects that are not specifically configured as art galleries, but that open paths in the creation of new models for the circulation and commercialization of the arts. Among them are the 0101 platform, National Thunder and Pool, which, in addition to appearing as proposals for renewal for the market, are based on the fact that they are collectives based on non-hegemonic debates, such as intersectional feminism and anti-racist struggles.

the edits Viewing Rooms from SP-Arte and SP-Foto demonstrated that with virtuality it is possible to reach not only other audiences of buyers and galleries, but also to democratize access to the fair, and, to some extent, decentralizing it from the Southeast. Live on August 11, on the Instagram channel of Arte que Happens, the fair's director, Fernanda Feitosa, commented on the desire to expand SP-Arte to other regions of the country, decentralizing it from the southeastern axis and contributing to other notions of national production. Promoting the debate on the geopolitics of the arts in the national and international field in a fair with the projection of SP-Arte is fundamental, since in its structure there is still the majority presence of galleries from the economically favored axes. Perhaps, understanding the configuration of the arts through the geopolitical South-South's allows the expansion of perspectives for the arts, including the regions of the North, Northeast and Midwest of Brazil, as well as Asia, Africa and Latin America to the same extent that the rest.

"Azul Profundo II', by the duo Takeuchiss, represented by Pisicina, a platform for women artists, at SP-Foto VR
“Azul Profundo II”, by the duo Takeuchiss, represented by Pisicina, a platform for women artists, at SP-Foto VR. Photo: Courtesy Piscina and artist

The activation of the virtual as a space for commercialization was not only used by fairs. In the search for affordable alternatives, artists got together in collectives to market their works. One of these experiences was the birico, a digital platform organized by 40 artists from different regions of the country and with different social conditions, who sell graphic prints of their work in order to generate an emergency fund for its participants and for actions in Cracolândia, such as a “Social Artistic Residency” offering housing and training in different areas, and the productions carried out can be marketed and contribute to income generation.

Birico action in Cracolândia. Photo: Courtesy Birico
Birico action in Cracolândia. Photo: Courtesy Birico

There is no safe prediction about when the activities of the art market, strongly anchored in personal relationships and face-to-face activities, will be able to fully recover. Significant changes are underway, related to the form of production, exhibition, circulation and consumption of art, requiring adaptations and transformations of business models, where digital strategies assume unprecedented relevance. The sustainability and even the survival of companies and agents operating in the art market depend on this capacity for reinvention and action, while the pandemic lasts, as well as the recovery of the sector in a post-pandemic scenario in which the broader economic context will follow a lot. adverse. We believe that one of the most relevant and positive transformations underway is towards a more diverse, inclusive and collaborative arts system. Initiatives such as p.art.ilha, Diaspora, Birico and all the others mentioned, are already pointing to these new paths.

*Ana Letícia Fialho is a manager, professor and researcher in the areas of economics of culture and the art market. Doctor in Art and Language Sciences, she is an advisor for the project of the New Museum of Ipiranga.
*Luciara Ribeiro is an educator, researcher and curator. She has a master's degree in Art History from the University of Salamanca and the UNIFESP Graduate Program. She is a Museology technician at ETESP and content director at Diaspora Galeria.

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