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New Art Scenes and Big Cities — Brazil Edition (São Paulo + Rio de Janeiro)

The study tour to Brazil took place between March 28 and April 10, 2009 and was comprised of two Bocconi University professors, four researchers and 20 students. The group went to Brazil with the primary purpose of analyzing the art systems of the two metropolitan centres of the country, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Artists’ studios, galleries, museums, and other institutions were visited in order to gain an overview of the networks and mechanisms that are operating in each of the cities and their respective influence on forming imaginaries. More specifically, various actors involved in the production, distribution and diffusion of art (artists, gatekeepers and other players) were interviewed, resulting in the collection of a plethora of data (reports, photographs, recordings).


Centro Cultural Sao Paulo


Martin Grossmann is the director of the Centro Cultural in São Paulo since 2006. He is also Co-ordinator of the Permanent Forum: Art Museums between the public and private realms (www.forumpermanente.org) and Professor of the School of Communication and Arts of the University of São Paulo/ECA-USP. He has a Fine Arts degree (1983), and an MA in Arts (1987) from the School of Communication and Arts of the University of São Paulo/ECA-USP. He got his PhD at the School of Architecture, University of Liverpool (UK) from 1988 to 1993. He is a member of IKT – International Associations of Curators of Contemporary Art and he has curated many exhibitions of Modern and Contemporary Art in Brazil.


The Centro Cultural of São Paulo (CCSP) was inaugurated in 1982. It was planned as an extension of the Mario de Andrade library, an important cultural institution in São Paulo. The building underwent restoration between 1975 and 1982 and has a surface of 46,500 square metres. The architecture of the CCSP is the first example of post-modernism in Brazil. The proportion of the spaces is well distributed and the internal structural design reflects the use of the building as a cultural centre, with huge open spaces perfectly designed for organizing exhibitions, concerts, shows etc. Moreover, the space was conceived in order to have a relationship with the people using it, so it offers easily accessible and open areas. The building is also strongly related to the city context thanks to the work of the architects Luiz Benedito Telles and Eurico Prado Lopez who integrated the building into the topography of the local area. The long and narrow structure follows the skeleton of one of the old metro lines and is parallel to one of the main motorways that cross the city centre of São Paolo (Av. Vinte e Av.Tres de Maio). In the beginning the space functioned as a library. The institution later enlarged its activities, inspired by the European model of cultural centres, becoming an enormous multidisciplinary cultural space. In fact, the main inspiration driving the mission of the CCSP came from the Centre Pompidou in Paris: the model of a modern museum acting as a laboratory for new ideas. At the moment, the CCSP is composed of six galleries for exhibitions, four theatres, one cinema and one arena for music, dance and art performances. The library, inspired by the library of Santiago, is still one of the main attractions of the Centre and a reference point for the students of São Paulo. The Conservation Lab hosts old papers and books and many pieces of art. In the near future, an audio-visual warehouse is going to be created. The Institution aims to be a comprehensive and unique public cultural centre in South America. Its main goal is to appear as an open and free space that communicates to and links people. The CCSP, therefore, acts as a Critical Mediator, basing its activities on the interactions among people and bringing together different arts such as theatre, dance, music, cinema and literature. In this way, CCSP not only mediates different people, but it also becomes an accessible democratic place where cultural exchange and pedagogic activities are pivotal.


The first meeting with Martin Grossman took place in the underground offices of the CCSP which have been transformed into an enormous open space. At the moment the Centro Cultural hosts about 200 employees and seven departments: library, conservation and archives, curatorial and programming, cultural activities and education, production and events, information and communication and, lastly, the administration department. In 2008, the Centro Cultural passed through an important administrative reform in which the entire organizational structure was redesigned. For the twenty years prior to the reform, the institution was characterize by an organizational divisional structure (vertical) in which all the departments (divided, at that time, by cultural activities, such as visual art, theatre, etc.) doubled all the organs internally. This chart didn’t encourage the collaboration between fields of work and there were few synergies. Today, as stated by Mr. Grossmann, who has been the promoter of the reform, the institution switched to a functional structure (horizontal) which increases relationships and collaborations, thus reducing costs. The management also redefined the office space distribution and decided to concentrate the curatorial staff around the same office area. The latter helps the coordination, regarding timelines and topics, in programming the events and increasing cultural synergies. The management is now trying to develop the centre following two main strategies: 1)Mediation: developing new ways to deal with the widest public possible as well as new ways of using the building by applying CRITICAL/CREATIVE management. 2)Accessibility: both in terms of physical and services access (free wi-fi) and in terms of being more open towards the city and the external environment. The goal is to dialogue with the city and all its people by involving them in the life of the centre through a membership program for example. The personnel declare that the CCSP is a democratic space, free and easily accessible. The large number of visitors testifies this perception. The centre is visited daily by 2500 people (about 70.000 per month). Of this amount, 60% are young people between the ages of 15 and 30. There aren’t many families and children among visitors, and the staff is aware of the need to improve their programs in order to attract this target. After a brief presentation, Martin Grossmann guided the group through the Institution, passing by the theatres, cinema, performing art arena, then the internal garden and finally the visit ended in the gigantic exhibition space of the mezzanine floor. In the afternoon, the director organised a conference along with members of the staff. After a brief presentation about the history of the Centro Cultural, some interesting topic regarding the financing, the artistic production and the international networking of the institution arose. The Centro Cultural is the only cultural space in Brazil fully funded by the city government (just some special events are funded by private bodies). Usually the cultural centres in Brazil are private, like for example the Banco Central do Brazil and the Itaù Cultural. The budget increased in the past few years, from 5 million Real in 2006 (without salaries) to 8 million in 2007 and in 2008 it rose to 16 million (including 5 million of salaries). 2008 has also been the first year that the CCSP had a specific part of the budget fully dedicated to programming activities and events. In the past, the administration had to arrange activities by taking money from the part of the budget dedicated to the maintenance of the building. Concerning the relationship and the difficulties of mediation of the centre’s architecture with the city of São Paulo, Martin Grossmann stressed that, originally, it was difficult to recognize growing imaginaries around the internal structure and function of the building. During the 80’s and 90’s the building functioned as a filter of the city, a place where anyone could find concentrated and easily accessible information about São Paulo. Nowadays, the city is changing and growing rapidly so the staff of CCSP needs to find a new modes of mediation. As new problems arise, new solution must be found in order to maintain the Institution’s critical role. CCSP also develops many partnerships with international institutions. The European country with which the centre has the most frequent exchange is Spain, because Spain tends to invest in South America. Argentina, particularly Buenos Aires, is a mayor partner because the city hosts many cultural centres similar in mission and programming to the CCSP. Moving the discussion towards visual art production, Dr. Grossman explained that the CCSP is interested in Brazilian contemporary art. The institution organizes exhibitions of young Brazilian artists and, sometimes, acquires works. Unfortunately, the strict budget and the amount of expenses that the institution incurs, does not allow for frequent acquisitions, thus slowing down the possibility of building a permanent collection. At times, the CCSP commissions permanent works and in the past twenty years artists have been called to develop specific projects. Dr. Grossman explained that the Institution founded a curatorial commission, mixing internal and external arts experts in order to equally select projects and organize workshops inviting people from the social and art fields. Through the commission, the CCSP is also able to manage and expose the art collection of the city of São Paulo. The Centro Cultural has many challenges for the next years. Firstly, the director would like the CCSP to culturally, be more democratic, increasing the exchange of programming with other institutions, extending its activities to new forms of art, and implementing innovation processes that at the moment do not fit in the schedule. Secondly, Dr. Grossman wants to improve the internal environment, by increasing synergies and relations within the staff. Thirdly, he wants to give more voice to issues such as social differences, topics that are of relevance for a country like Brazil. Generally, all cultural institutions should be more open and aware of social issues. Finally, another big challenge for the CCSP is to offer new activities to the public and to better understand what visitors would like from the institution, in order to better respond to the needs of various groups.

by Neri Bastiancich