Rubem Ludolf, Study for painting, 1970, Pastel chalk on paper.
Rubem Ludolf, Study for painting, 1970, Pastel chalk on paper. Photo: Private Collection

Two important institutions gained a physical headquarters in early 2020 in São Paulo. Paço das Artes and the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea (IAC) have somewhat similar histories in terms of the search for a space they could call “home”. Both institutions have in common the fact that they are headed by two women who did not rest for a single moment when working for a fixed place.

With activities since 1997, the Institute of Contemporary Art (IAC) it was born from the desire of gallery owner Raquel Arnaud to take care of documentary collections by artists. It was by “accident”, she says, that everything started to unfold. “One day, there was a flood at Willys de Castro's house and he came bringing me some documents for me to keep and save from the flood”. From then on, she began to think more intensely about how she would store those materials in order to preserve them. Years later, when the sculptor Sérgio Camargo died in 1990, she received her estate from her family, and with it came many documents. “Suddenly, I found myself with documents from these two artists and thought about founding the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea”. Raquel's good relationship with other artists made them, over the years, join the IAC, which today takes care of more than 42 sanitized, organized, cataloged and digitized documents. Raquel emphasizes the support of the architect Jorge Wilheim in encouraging the creation of the institution.

Sérvulo Esmeraldo, Project for Lens, 1968, marker pen on paper
Sérvulo Esmeraldo, Project for Lens, 1968, marker pen on paper Photo: Instituto de Arte Contemporânea Collection

When it was founded, supporters arranged for the IAC to be placed in a building at the University of São Paulo (USP), in a building that had belonged to the Faculty of Philosophy. “In the first loan we stayed there, we renovated more than anything else,” she says. With the change of the university's rectory in 2011, the building was requisitioned. Leaving there, the IAC was welcomed by the Centro Universitário Belas Artes. At the time, collections of more than 8 artists were already taken care of by the institute. “We already had a very large volume of documents, which was only growing. So, the space there became small. We needed to grow, but the college also needed more rooms, for example.” She emphasizes the kindness of Belas Artes throughout the welcoming period: “The time there was important because it gave us breath to think about solutions”.

The only way found to have no more doubts about staying in the spaces was to set up their own headquarters. So, Raquel decided with her family that she would sell some works from her collection to buy a property that would serve as her permanent headquarters. As of this year, the IAC has its own headquarters, located at the beginning of Avenida Doutor Arnaldo, in São Paulo, shortly after the junction with Avenida Paulista. In total, there are 900 square meters in a project signed by the architect Felippe Crescenti, with exhibition rooms, an administrative area, a café, a cleaning room and specific spaces for archiving, which have special equipment for storage and preservation, in addition to of security. The institute is responsible for taking care, today, of documents by Amilcar de Castro, Hermelindo Fiaminghi, Freitas Iole, Lothar Charoux, Luiz Sacilotto, Sergio Camargo, Sérvulo Esmeraldo and Willys de Castro. Until next year, documentary archives by Antonio Dias, Carmela Gross, Ivan Serpa, Jorge Wilheim and Rubem Ludolf will be treated and also made available.

Regina Silveira, CASCATA, 2020 installation. Digital printing on adhesive vinyl.
Regina Silveira, CASCATA, 2020. Installation. Digital printing on adhesive vinyl. Photo: Disclosure

a similar case

Since the beginning of 2016, when the Palace of Arts was evicted from the space he occupied at USP, there was a feeling of uncertainty about what his future would be. The building, designed by the same Jorge Wilheim who helped to boost the IAC, had a large space for carrying out activities and had been inhabited by the Paço for almost 20 years. As it belongs to the State Department of Health, there has always been tension in relation to the permanence of the institution in that location. “Anyway, it took us by surprise. It was all very fast. The request for us to leave there was made at the last minute”, says the director of Paço, Priscila Arantes.

There was still negotiation so that they could stay there for an extended period, at least until they held the Harun Farocki exhibition, which had been scheduled for some time, which was accepted. After the eviction, just a year later, the Paço was instructed to occupy a room at the entrance of the Museum of Image and Sound of São Paulo (MIS-SP), while internally it articulated itself in the search for a new headquarters. This allocation was due to the fact that both institutions are managed by the same Social Organization (OS). The room provided for the holding of exhibitions was used to maintain the Project Season, the flagship of the Paço. Larger exhibitions needed partnerships to set up, such as with Oficina Oswald de Andrade and MAC-USP. “Establishing networks of relationships, connections, was our way of resisting. These networks were very important because it was very confusing for people to know if Paço had closed or not”. At no point did the team stop engaging in the search for a place they could call home.

Regina Silveira, LUNAR, 2002/2003. Digital video. In collaboration with Ronaldo Kiel
Production and realization: Peripheral Look
Soundtrack: Rogério Rochlitz.
Photo: Disclosure

It was only at the end of 2018 that a substantial development took place, when it was announced that the mansion Nhonhô Magalhães, in Higienópolis, would have a space designated to be the new headquarters of the Paço. Since then, the institution's team has worked on transferring its activities there. The inauguration took place on January 25, with the individual thresholds, Regina Silveira.

The Paço occupies the basement of the Casarão, with three exhibition halls totaling more than 300 square meters. Meanwhile, its administrative part is located in the upper part of the building, which has been owned by Shopping Pátio Higienópolis since 2005, when it was sold by the São Paulo government. The bidding notice, however, had as a clause that a part should be assigned to the Secretary of Culture for twenty years, a period that can be renewed. “People say, 'Oh, I'm glad you waited.' No, I didn't. It was a job that we conquered as a team”, commented Priscila in an interview with ARTE!Brasileiros in December. She comments on the whole process that she faced until, finally, she had a space for Paço. She also talks about the projects that will be carried out later this year, about the international artistic residency that will be offered and about machismo in the world of cultural management. Check out the full interview on our website..

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