Photograph by Edgar Kanaykõ Xakriabá that would integrate the group exhibition of the series
Photograph by Edgar Kanaykõ Xakriabá that would integrate the collective exhibition of the series "Brazilian Stories", canceled by Masp. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

*A few days after the publication of this article, Sandra Benites, assistant curator at Masp and the first indigenous professional in the curatorship of a Brazilian museum, resigned. “It doesn't make sense for me to continue without being able to expand the debate,” Sandra told Folha de São Paulo. Read the article by Jotabê Medeiros below.

The Museum of Art of São Paulo. Photo: Marcelo Valente.
The Museum of Art of São Paulo. Photo: Marcelo Valente.

What is fundamental in the design of a modern museum? The preservation of bureaucratic and administrative canons or the creation of new instances agile enough to follow the reality, the present time, the urgent demands? The São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) seems to live this question acutely and schizophrenic.

In just a few days, the museum was publicly denounced for two cases of “bureaucratic censorship”, an expression that is perhaps a poorly worded euphemism to describe what actually happened. A few days ago, the museum decreed the suspension of a group exhibition of the series Brazilian Stories, which would open in July, due to the declared impossibility (not to mention the real: the lack of will) to exhibit a series of photos about the Landless Movement (MST). Before that, in February, the museum was denounced for canceling almost the day before the launch of a book by Guilherme Boulos, leader of the MTST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto).

The canceled exhibition was curated by two experienced professionals with a high level of political awareness: Sandra Benites, the first indigenous person to become the museum’s deputy curator, and the critic and essayist Clarissa Diniz, who was an assistant to Paulo Herkenhoff. The argument for the cancellation was the lack of time to hire and transfer the photographic material to be exhibited (curiously, just the most uncomfortable cut for the current occupants of power).

Warned of the suspension of part of its core due to “schedule problems”, the curators decided to cancel the entire exhibition. They say they were not warned, either by the production or by the museum curator, about the supposed deadline they would have failed to meet (read the official clarification published by the curators). Masp, for its part, informed that the deadlines were included in the contract. According to an official note from the museum, the institution states that it sought to make the deadlines for requesting loan works as well as their licensing more flexible, limited to six months (for national institutions) and four months (for national galleries and private collections), and accepted a request inclusion of posters and documents from the MST collection, “which rules out the hypothesis of censorship”.

But that's not how the curators see the decision. “Prevented from carrying out our agreement with the Movimento Sem Terra, its photographers (João Zinclar and André Vilaron) and Edgar Kanaykõ as a sanction for a mistake that we know we did not make, we feel disrespected, wronged and urged, as a result of this decision. , betraying the trust of this not only the biggest social movement in Brazil, but also the backbone of the resumptions“, wrote the curators in a private statement (addressed primarily to artists, activists, filmmakers, photographers, social movements, carnival artists, writers, actresses, linguists, collectors, institutions and universities that have integrated or joined in some way to the project).

“Accepting the exclusion of the images from the retakes in the name of the permanence of the nucleus would lead us to be disloyal to the subjects and movements involved in our curatorship – a contradiction that we are not willing to negotiate for not agreeing with such irresponsibility”, they continued. Asked last week by the report of arte!brasileiros on whether Masp's decision does not constitute censorship, curator Clarissa Diniz stated: “I think that preventing the complete representation of the resumptions It is, in itself, a political position.

Subsequently, the São Paulo Museum of Art removed the names of Sandra Benites and Clarissa Diniz from the synopsis of the Brazilian Histories series from its official website, warning that the program is continuing with seven other sections. The segment is defined as follows: “The privileged perspective is not so much that of art history, but that of social or political, intimate or private histories, customs and everyday life, based on visual culture. In this sense, the show also has a more polyphonic and fragmented character, fleeing from a definitive, canonical or totalizing decision”.

In other words: the decision to cancel seems to be the negation of this whole principle. The sequence of these facts at Masp is indicative of a dangerous outbreak. Asphyxiated by the bureaucracy of the federal government (which in turn has a single and assumed purpose: that of political and ideological persecution), Brazilian museums do not seem to pay attention to the fact that they are not the property of a political establishment, but harbor the very concept of Nation.

To deny the assignment of your audience to four days from the book launch No Fear of the Future (Editora Contracorrrente), written by Guilherme Boulos (PSOL-SP), who is a pre-candidate for federal deputy, Masp claimed that its statute prohibits the holding of “demonstrations of a political and/or religious nature”. Now, all the art in its collection (acquired, let's say, with public resources, when it was saved from judicial kidnapping by the intervention of the then president Juscelino Kubitscheck) is somehow political, social or religious, since The Temptation of Santo Antão, by Hieronymus Bosch, from the 15th century, passing through Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani and Manet. Although it emphasizes that there is no link between the suspension of the exhibition resumptions with the veto on the release of Boulos, it is impossible not to relate them.

This metastasis of a censorship supported by bureaucratic arguments, with fragile theoretical and legal arguments, spreads rapidly and worryingly from the central power of Brazil. In December, the Museum of the Republic stopped the work on cataloging and preparing the Nosso Sagrado Collection, a centuries-old collection made up of 519 pieces of Afro-Brazilian art that has been in the custody of the Rio de Janeiro police for more than a century (criminalized due to intolerance religious and racial). The order to stop work and “shelve” all the material came from the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Ibram), a federal government agency, and came from a religious extremist who occupies a prominent position in the high bureaucracy of museums.

It is necessary to remind these institutions that the circumstantial and opportunistic alignment of a museum to an ideology on duty, even if it is for reasons of financial health, has definitive costs. The presence of the museum in society is structuring, it has repercussions of a formative, educational and emancipatory nature.

KNOW MORE: read the note signed by the João Zinclar Collection, the Archive and Memory Collective of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the National Directorate of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) - Click here

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