Visual arts: Rio yawns and stretches

Fourth in a series of conversational nuggets about the transformation of cultural life in the marvelous city.

“For a long time I thought about living in São Paulo,” says up-and-coming curator, art critic, journalist and blogger Daniela Name (pronounced Nah-mee). “Rio lost importance, we allowed it to become just another city on the arts circuit. Young artists felt they must go to São Paulo.”

Now, she adds, “We’re getting organized.”

Daniela Name

Name herself recently organized the Jogos de Guerra (War Games) exhibit at the Caixa Cultural, open through August 28. Many of the pieces are by non-cariocas, and predate the ongoing integration of the city, kicked off in late 2008. But much of the conflict to which they refer arises from the perturbing socioeconomic inequality that still exists.

The curator writes: The effects of our individual and collective lack of preparation to deal with this new territory – another person, another language, another credo and even another soccer team – are the theme of this exhibit.  We are awkward at the negotiating table and art has been a good strategy for our our slim results– to bring them to light, analyze, and, if we’re lucky, to minimize them.

A visit to Jogos de Guerra leads one to wonder how artists in Rio perceive their changing environment and if it influences their work. But it’s probably too early to tell if the city’s integration is energizing art in cariocaland.

Rio has long attracted and inspired artists. In 2003, a group of artists called Imaginário Periférico came together, aiming to “expand the scene of artistic production, currently centered on and monopolized by curators, institutions and marchands, to the outer reaches of the city.”

There have always been artists living and working in those outer reaches, people such as Jarbas Lopes, active since the 1990s.

So far, the only news is that there is at long last money in Rio, to create, promote and invest in the arts.

On August 11, the state cultural secretariat announced it will spend a record US$ 26.7 million on cultural projects this and next year, on initiatives ranging from low-budget films, to architectural restoration and funk music.

And early next month, the first Rio Art Fair will be held on an old wharf in the port area, currently undergoing revitalization. The four-day Fair has attracted about 80 Brazilian and foreign galleries, based in Latin America, Europe and New York. At least one Rio artist, Smael, will be going directly from ArtRio, as the fair is called in Portuguese, to show his work in Paris. [An article in the Sept. 9 O Globo newspaper described the fair’s enormous sucess, with entire stands being emptied (and re-supplied) by visitors’ purchases. RioRealblog observed on a visit that the exhibition, especially of Brazilian works, is more impressive than many museum exhibits].

Meanwhile, a great deal is still lacking for the new Rio de Janeiro to fully inspire and attract the art world. “Some kind of structure is needed,” notes Name. She says that the renovation of the old Imperator cinema, located in the North Zone neighborhood of Meier, is an example. Transformed into a cultural center, it will boast three cinemas, a large theater, an exhibition area, bookstore, restaurant, café/bistro and a garden– all with help from state and municipal governments. Of course the danger here is a return to decadence, once the current politicians are out of office.

For the time being, such enterprises may multiply Rio’s growing cultural energies and jar people out of their comfort zones. “We experience the city by way of images,” reflects Name. “Isolated in Ipanema, we can see Ethiopia.” As Rio integrates, she adds, we can see, hear and feel so much more, especially in a place with so much history. “There are a thousand cities superimposed!”

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Visual arts: Rio yawns and stretches

  1. Sean Gibbons says:

    Great entry. There’s actually a lot happening in Rio in the way of the visual arts, and its wonderful to see such an infusion of funds dedicated to further growth. We need to celebrate the contributions of established institutions and curators while providing increased opportunity for emerging independent voices in the arts. And lets not project what may happen when there is change in political leadership…if we collectively support this renewed commitment to the visual arts by attending exhibitions, collecting works by emerging artists, and frequenting cultural spaces then it can only flourish.

  2. hal Michlewitz says:

    more exciting info about the changing rio scene. i won’t be in rio early september but will be in paris. when and where will the exhibit of Smael be. thanks, Hal Michlewitz-boston

  3. Rio real says:

    Hi, Hal! These are the galleries in Paris where he will be showing:
    Galerie Brugier-Rigail: (Sept.16-27)
    Galerie Onega: (dates not given)

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