Portrait of Décio de Almeida Prado, Lourival Gomes Machado and Alfredo Mesquita, by Luis Bueno D'Horta, 1981.

It was Ana Candida Avelar (now a professor at Unb, before my student at USP) who introduced me to the article by Lourival Gomes Machado, “Barr's Talk”, published in the Estadão Literary Supplement on October 19, 1957. The text mentioned the controversy that accompanied the choice and award of Brazilian artists from the 4th. Bienal de São Paulo, while criticizing, in an elegant but forceful way, Alfred Barr's statements about Brazilian art seen in that edition of the Bienal (Supl. Literário, September 28, 1957). The article was no small feat: Barr had been the great formulator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (he was present at the institution from 1929 to 1968) and, more than that, one of the most influential curators of the XNUMXth century. It is beautiful to see the Brazilian critic confronting the arrogance and ignorance of the North American about Brazilian art of that decade.

However, despite the excellence and relevance of Machado's article, I confess that what I most appreciated in the article was, in fact, the title: “Barr's Conversation”. With that simple expression, with that seemingly cheap pun, Lourival Gomes Machado summed up very well what he thought about the controversy in question and about Alfred Barr's position on local art: they were just bar conversations. And for Machado, “bar conversation” denounced a very common state of mind in the artistic environment of São Paulo: “a state of mind, attractive and handy, friendly and exclusive, intelligent and concessive, brilliant and inconsequential…”.

When Patricia Rousseaux invited me to maintain a column in ARTE!Brasileiros, suggesting that I think of a name for it, the title of Machado's text soon came to me: why not name the column “Barr's Conversation”? Undoubtedly a tribute to Lourival Gomes Machado – who with the title of the article proved not to be one of the “boring boys”, as Oswald de Andrade named the group to which Machado belonged at the beginning of his career (the people from the Clima magazine group) .

On the other hand, appropriating the title, in addition to the homage, also meant proposing a kind of bar conversation to the readers of ARTE!Brasileiros, and this is because I believe that – contrary to what Machado thought in the article – much of what is talked about at a bar table does not die there, pressured by its own inconsistency. On the contrary: the conversation can be light and apparently innocuous, but, if it has any foundation, it tends to remain in the minds of the interlocutors who ruminate on it until it changes, takes on a new body, transforms itself into new ideas, projects, works.

After choosing the title – Bar Talk –, I wondered whether or not I should remove the reference to Alfred Barr. Finally, I came to the conclusion that keeping his name in the column's title meant perpetuating Machado's brilliant pun. Which, in turn, amplified the homage he wanted to do with that choice. Let me explain: if Lourival Gomes Machado and his generation meant a lot to my education, there is no doubt that the role played by Alfred Barr at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (in addition to his books and texts) also had great significance for me. me. Keep in the column heading for the ARTE!Brasileiros references to significant names for my professional training (and for that of so many other colleagues) would be an important ballast to preserve, even if, in the case of the North American intellectual, he is only referred to in the “r” in parentheses – a kind of joke that should be taken seriously. At least for me.

*Tadeu Chiarelli is a curator and art critic. He is a professor in the Visual Arts course at USP. He was director of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo and the Museum of Contemporary Art at USP (MAC-USP). He has also served as chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM-SP). 

4 comments

  1. Wonderful, Thaddeus.
    Great space for you to show your critical production.
    Good luck with hugs.
    Dante Velloni

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