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PRINT January 2001

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São Paulo's new curator

On November 21 the Bienal Foundation of São Paulo confirmed the appointment of German Alfons Hug as curator of the 25th Bienal, scheduled for April 2002—the first time a non-Brazilian has helmed the event. But given the crisis that has rocked the institution since May of last year—two postponements and infighting that resulted in the resignation of six council members and curator Ivo Mesquita (see November issue)—now is as good a time as any for an outsider to step in.

Indeed, many in the Brazilian art world support the appointment of a foreign curator: “Choosing a stranger is a good thing because he’s not part of the political games that surround the Bienal,” explains emerging artist Jurandy Valença. Marcia Fortes, codirector of the Galeria Camargo Vilaça, agrees: “Let’s lust say that this will be a major opportunity for growth on the part of the curator.” Mesquita himself is unfamiliar with Hug’s work “I know he did an exhibition about Brasilia in 1994, but without taking any risks—he brought in only six artists, all very good Brazilians and Germans.”

Born in 1950 in Hochdorf, Germany, and trained in comparative literature, linguistics, and cultural studies, Hug has been a director of Goethe Institute branches in Africa, South America, and, since last July, Russia. Between 1994 and 1998 he was director of visual arts at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, where he also curated a number of international exhibitions, including “Die anderen Modernen” (The other moderns), a 1997 show of thirty contemporary artists from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Hug is planning a “Metropolitan Iconographies” theme for the Bienal, which will span artistic production in São Paulo, New York, Caracas, Johannesburg, London, Berlin, Moscow, Istanbul, Beijing, Tokyo, and Sydney. He will curate the Berlin section himself and has already secured commitments from the painter Franz Ackermann and the photographer Frank Thiel.

Celso Fioravante is a journalist based in São Paulo.

Translated from Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers.