Museu de Arte Moderne, São Paulo, Brazil

The inside track on the São Paulo Biennial

Chus Martinez, the associate curator for the contemporary art festival, on the São Paulo scene

The São Paulo Biennial is one of the most important events in the contemporary art calendar. The associate curator for the 2010 São Paulo Biennial, Chus Martinez, talks through what’s on offer this year and why São Paulo is one of the best cities in the world.


Q: What are the highlights for you of the São Paulo Biennial? What should someone thinking of going to the São Paulo Biennial know?

The São Paulo Biennial is one of the most historically important appointments in the visual arts on the continent. The exhibition provides, at least this year, an opportunity to revise some very important historical materials, experiments in the way art and the social has been conceived in a continent acutely aware of its own cultural, political and economic position.  It offers a route that is going to take the viewer to the present and allow them to gain perspective on the here and now of the art practice in Brazil but also in the connections that can be established between their art world and others.


Q: Outside of the festival, what are your São Paulo highlights, in terms of must visits?

I confess to be a Paulo-ista! The city is really amazing. The programme offered by Teatro Arena - a mythical space downtown – has been conducted for the occasion by Helmut Batista and is going to be of interest. The theatre is situated in front of the COPAN building, one of the major works of Oscar Niemeyer. Also the Centro Cultural of the city of São Paulo, directed by Martin Grossman - a very active figure in the cultural life of the city - offers an interesting visit.

There are of course the museums, MAM which is situated next door to the biennial building, as well as the Pinacoteca. The Pinacoteca - situated in a great location downtown called Parque de la Luz - is directed by Marcelo Araujo and offers both a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions always worth the visit. Another of my favourites is Paço das Artes in the Campus of the University of São Paulo, a centre for the arts in a complex full of interesting buildings like the very famous architectural faculty or the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (now closed for renovation). Also the large and very well listed number of galleries is always very synchronized with the opening of the biennial.

When in São Paulo one should make sure to see all buildings by Lina Bo Bardi, the Italian-Brazilian architect: the Cesc Pompeia, her house, and the MASP at Paulista Avenue. The MASP is located near Spot, a great place to eat lunch or dinner and enjoy a cocktail. Not far from there is Libreria Cultura, which is also going to be present in the biennial, offering a great selection of Brazilian movies, like the magnificent new wave director Glauber Rocha, as well as translations of Brazilian authors like Clarice Lispector. I am sure I've forgotten something, but that only means you need to go back!


Chus Martinez, thank you.


Chus Martinez is the associate curator for the 2010 São Paulo Biennial and the chief curator for the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, as well as a curator for Creamier – Phaidon's latest global survey of today’s most significant emerging artists.