Vexoa - We Know / Pinacoteca showcasing Indigenous Contemporary Art from Brazil as a first in the major gallery

Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo, one of the most renowned art galleries in Brazil, holds for the first time an exhibition of contemporary indigenous art, curated by indigenous researcher Naine Terena. Véxoa: We Know will bring together 23 artists/art collectives from several areas of the country, presenting paintings, sculptures, objects, videos, photographs and installations besides a series of activities performed by indigenous groups. 

 The show is a milestone of representativeness at Pinacoteca and Brazil, for being the first major art gallery in Brazil to hold a comprehensive exhibition about Brazilian indigenous contemporary art: “Pinacoteca de São Paulo has been dedicated to Brazilian visual arts since its foundation in 1905, but only in 2019 did it incorporate into its collection Brazilian works of art produced by indigenous artists. This exhibition is the outcome of an active dialogue in recent years between the museum and several contemporary agents of Brazilian indigenous art, putting into question the history of art that the museum intends to narrate and those histories that have remained invisible”, says Jochen Volz, the museum’s director.

 Last year, through Pinacoteca de São Paulo’s Patrons of Contemporary Arts Program, works made by indigenous artists were acquired by the museum. This had never happened before in Pinacoteca’s history. The acquired works include The Modern Anthropologist Was Born an Old Man and Civilization at Last, by Denilson Baniwa.

 The selected works, historical and contemporary productions by individual artists and also by artists’ collectives, illustrate the plurality of indigenous artistic production. Paintings, installations, sculptures, objects, videos and photographs debunk the identification of indigenous art with handicraft objects.

 In Véxoa, the works are not exhibited chronologically, because the show takes into account different temporalities of indigenous artistic production, which changes across time and is neither fleeting nor time-specific. “That is why the works occupy a dialogical space that has nothing to do with their structure, original locality, artist or any other ethnographic classification”, Naine explains.

vexoa denilson baniwa

 Denilson Baniwa was born in the village of Darí at the Baturité/Barreira community, Amazonas, and is already well known by the public. He presents two works: an installation made from remains of the National Museum’s fire in Rio de Janeiro, as a reference to the indigenous material culture that perished in the conflagration two years ago, and a performance consisting in planting flowers, medicinal herbs and chilis at Pinacoteca’s external “territory”, which will be transmitted by security cameras to the inside of the museum.

 The exhibition also discusses stereotypes about indigenous art, often identified with handcrafts. In this sense, indigenous artists exhibit objects made by them but usually not considered as such. Since they carry symbols and elements which are not deemed to belong to the culture of original peoples, they were mistakenly taken out of the realm of indigenous art.

vexoa denilson baniwa

Source: Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo website

Photos: Levi Fanan Pinacoteca de São Paulo.

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