Contemporary art in Brazil: an ethnography of its european interactions and appropriations

The 20th century saw the rise of an exhibitionary complex (Bennet, 1988) and the creation of important art institutions with the goal to enrich Brazilian art, as well as put the country within the international art scene, making Brazilian art works visible to the world. In fact, the international market has begun to pay more attention to Brazil since its economic boom in the 2000s, which was responsible for shifting the balances of power between the country and Europe, with reflections in the cultural field.

The Bienal de São Paulo and the Inhotim Institute for Contemporary Art are the main institutions in the contemporary art scene in Brazil, with interesting connections between them, such as, for instance, the circulation of the same artists and international curators. Due to their amplitude, national and international resonance, they are valuable sites to verify to which degree Europe´s loss of global hegemony is mirrored in collection, classification and exhibition practices in Brazil (in connection with Europe), as contemporary art is one of the multiple narratives responsible for the ways in which differences and hierarchies are created.

On the other hand, fieldwork in Europe seeks to analyze what are some of the recent acquisitions, classifications and exhibitions of Brazilian artists at European art institutions. If, in the early modern age, Brazilian artifacts were displayed as ethnographic, the idea is to verify if art objects from Brazil can pursue an ‘universal value’ beyond their provenance, or whether they are still classified by their geographical provenance. At the same time, it will be possible to analyze in which degree art from what was previously characterized as the periphery still become legitimated by being exhibited in Europe (Asbury, 2012:147) and whether the periphery can be a place where new alternatives are built (Ginzburg and Castelnuovo, 1991).