The Brazilian Modern Art Week
What was 1922’s Brazilian Modern Art Week?
The Modern Art Week was an art festival in São Paulo, Brazil, from February 10 to February 17, 1922. Not only did 1922 put Brazilian art on the international map, but it also marked a full century of Brazil’s independence from Portugal. For seven days, artists constructed, deconstructed, performed, sculpted, gave lectures, read poetry, and created some of the most avant-garde works ever seen in Brazil. The emphasis of the week was modernism – lectures about modern art were given, new styles of music were played, and difficult poems were read out loud. Although artistic manifestations of the group that became the Brazilian Modernist vanguard were already happening since the 1910s, five influential artists were ahead of the movement: painters Anita Malfatti (1889-1964) and Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973) along with writers Menotti Del Picchia (1892-1988), Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954), and Mário de Andrade (1893-1945). Known for their pivotal role in the arts, they were called the “Group of Five."
For seven days, the lobby of the Municipal Theater was open to the public with around 100 artworks on display. With new shapes and colors, the exhibition shocked the audience used to a more academic and “behaved” art. Even among criticism, the event inspired discussions about modern art. Opposed to the conservative culture at the time, modernists went against the academic standards and prompted a new Brazilian art. In search of a national identity that moved away from ties with Europe, their idea was to “rediscover” Brazil and its aesthetic.
Rethinking the Modern Art Week
Although Brazil’s black population was around 36% at the time, the event and its organizers did not invite any artists of color. According to Gênese Andrade, the organizer of the collective “Modernismos 1922-2022” (Modernisms 1922-2022), “Black people and Brazilian culture of African origin were represented in the 1920s by the bias of exoticism, influenced by the European negrista wave. This has only been seen critically recently. Black artists found it more difficult to insert themselves and to be recognized, but today they are being reassessed and their work has been more studied, more widespread.”
Furthermore, Ruy Castro, a writer and journalist, started a crusade in newspaper columns to show the injustice to the modernists of Rio de Janeiro. In “As Vozes da Metrópole” (The Voices of the Metropolis), he lists 41 of these names forgotten by time. "One of the reasons is that they were journalists and writers professionals, not playboys and dilettantes, members of an organization among friends", he said, in an interview with Estado de São Paulo. Some of the most important artists at the time were not invited to participate in the exposition. From musicians and writers to painters, Alfredo Volpi, Lima Barreto, Pinxinguinha, Lino Guedes, Arthur Timótheo Da Costa, and Benedito José Tobias are just some of the numerous names that come to mind when rethinking the Modern Art Week. (Quotes from an interview conducted by Emmanuel Bento, on February 14th, 2022, for Jornal Digital, UOL. https://jc.ne10.uol.com.br/cultura/2022/02/14946807-racismo-e-hegemonia-...)
If the Modern Art Week Were to Happen in 2022, Who Would Be Invited?
As in 1922, nowadays some of Brazil’s best-known artists are Black or mixed-race. With this in mind, who would be invited to the exhibition? We have assembled a list of people in the Brazilian artistic scene that could not be forgotten in rethinking the event.
- Gilberto Gil
- Antonio Obá
- Jaime Lauriano
- Josafá Neves
- Maxwell Alexandre
- Sonia Gomes
- Conceição Evaristo
- Djamila Ribeiro
- Jarid Arraes
- Marcelo Darcelo D’Salete
Modern Art Week Event - Luso-Brazilian Cultural Exhibit
In celebration of the centenary of Modern Art Week in Brazil, stop by the Global Hub on Monday, April 18 from 12-4:30 PM to view an exhibition of the life and work of the main modernist representatives and Luso-Brazilian traditions and cultural manifestations.