Fair Weather

São Paulo

Left: Curator Moacir dos Anjos and SP Arte fair director Fernanda Feitosa. Right: Artist Lúcia Koch. (All photos: Miguel Amado)

In São Paulo, everything is upside down: eighty-six-degree autumns, dinners at midnight, ubiquitous smokers, gracious people. It all proved that, even in the most inverted worlds, ever-increasing fairs are an existential necessity; in addition to its well-known biennial, São Paulo now has another cultural attraction: SP Arte, which in its third year is rapidly establishing itself as another essential event in any contemporary-art globe-trotter’s diary. Still, some dealers didn't even bother: According to gallery director Cristina Candeloro, Luísa Strina was “in Miami working on the next Miami Basel.” With almost no other openings that week, the city’s cultural institutions seemed strangely apathetic. Nevertheless, the fair served up an excellent survey of Brazilian artists and galleries (only six of the fifty-nine booths were from abroad), from Fortes Vilaça, Brito Cimino, and Casa Triângulo to Ernesto Neto, Rochelle Costi, and Lúcia Koch—the latter presenting, in a parallel program, a large installation evoking, in her own words, “a booth, a garage, and a cell.”

Arriving at Niemeyer’s famous pavilion in Ibirapuera park directly from the airport, I rolled in just in time for the opening-night festivities. Portuguese dealer Mário Sequeira was delighted: “I already sold most of what is on view!” Eyeing his roster of European superstars, including Franz West and Douglas Gordon, I wondered at the hint of surprise in his voice. Dealer Luciana Brito confirmed that she, too, had seen a boost in sales, thanks to a rising generation of collectors. During a late dinner at renowned Pizzaria Bráz with, among others, curators David Barro and Paulo Reis, artist José Bechara, and dealers Lúcio and Flávia Albuquerque, discussion turned to the fair's crucial role in bridging the gaping chasm between contemporary art and the public. Fair director Fernanda Feitosa touched on the same idea, saying, “We are young but already appeal to new audiences. The fair will grow and everybody will ask how Brazil could have lived for so many years without it.”

Left: Curator Adriano Pedrosa. Right: Galeria Fortes Vilaça co-owner Alessandra D'Aloia.

Feitosa made her comment as she drove me back from a party at dealer Fábio Cimino's Paulista Avenue apartment (a sort of private museum with amazing works by, among others, Nelson Leirner). This was on Friday, my third-consecutive night out—par for the course for many of the guests, who stayed out until 5 AM dancing, keyed up on chopp, a light beer, or the country’s celebrated caipirinhas. There, as at previous events in the posh mansions of dealers Regina Pinho and Raquel Arnaud, a mix of young artists, curators, and collectors mingled to the sound of Brazilian electronic music coming from—where else?—iPods. If, at Arnaud’s house, Madrid-based collector João Teixeira Gomes held court for a rapt audience by describing his long car journey through Africa, at Cimino’s I was the one being noticed. Curator Inês Raphaelian and friend Bruno Assami played the role of my personal hosts, even warning me of the menacing photographer making the rounds that evening. Raphaelian explained: “It's for Glamourama, a website featuring celebrities.” I didn’t even know there were any.

Conversations that evening were dominated by issues surrounding the biennial—reports of financial misconduct were going into print in the city’s major newspaper, yet the president of the promoting foundation had just been reelected on Thursday. These heady topics also figured in an earlier engaging tête-à-tête with curator Adriano Pedrosa at his charming triplex apartment on the seventeenth story of a Jardins skyscraper. Chat was also refreshing at Galeria Vermelho's intellectual soiree with artist Ana Maria Tavares, curator Martin Grossman, and dealers Eliana Finkelstein and Eduardo Brandão, among others, where we discussed the conservative programs that have marked São Paulo’s museums in recent years.

On Saturday morning, I skipped a collector’s brunch at Galeria Fortes Vilaça to pay a visit to artist Sandra Cinto at her studio in the popular borough of Vila Madalena, where she offered me her latest self-published book. After seeing José Leonilson’s ironic drawings at the Estação Pinacoteca and attending a crowded opening of Antonio Manuel’s survey show at downtown’s Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, I made a last-minute trip to the fair, where I witnessed dealer Márcia Fortes’s daughter hanging out at the gallery's booth, looking inordinately pleased every time a featured sound sculpture emitted its funny loud noise. At 8 PM, Feitosa’s personal driver arrived to pick me up. While taking me to the airport, I noted the city’s uncanny lack of advertising, a result of the mayor's recent ban on “visual pollution.” Listening to Tribalistas’s “Já sei namorar” (I Already Know How to Date) on the plane, I left Brazil armed with four bottles of duty-free cachaça and affirmations of my initial impression that Brazil is different—better, perhaps: Even the rain of a tropical storm, which on Saturday had caught me unprepared, was warm.

Miguel Amado

Left: Dealer Fábio Cimino. Right: Artist Luiz Zerbini.

Left: Galeria Vermelho co-owner Eliana Finkelstein. Right: Critic Fernando Oliva and Centro Cultural São Paulo director Martin Grossman.

Left: Dealer Mário Sequeira and Paula Sequeira. Right: Artist Sandra Cinto.

Left: Casa Triângulo gallery assistant Gabriela Inui and owner Ricardo Trevisan. Right: Curator Paulo Sérgio Duarte.

Left: Galeria Fortes Vilaça gallery director Alexandre Gabriel, Galeria Fortes Vilaça co-owner Márcia Fortes, and her daughter, Antônia Ortega. Right: Artist Ana Maria Tavares and Galeria Brito Cimino co-owner Luciana Brito.

Left: Artist Camila Sposati. Right: Collector Fábio Faisal and SP Arte fair project manager Têra Queiroz.

Left: Artist Carlos Contente, A Gentil Carioca co-owner Marcio Bottner, and artist Paulo Nenflidio. Right: Artists Gloria Marti and Antoni Abadi.

Left: Curator Paulo Venâncio Filho, artist Ana Holck, and artist Daniel Feingold. Right: A view of São Paulo.