SP-Arte is one of the art fairs with an edge that has helped to bring attention to the contemporary art scene in Brazil. Founded by Fernanda Feitosa in 2005, each year finds more and more galleries participating and attracting a larger international audience. In 2014 the fair hosted 136 galleries and in 2015 promises more than 140 galleries along with the return of favorites such as David Zwirner (New York), Mendes Wood (São Paulo), Lisson Gallery (London/New York/Milan), and Gagosian Gallery (New York/London/Paris/Athens/Rome/Hong Kong/Geneva/Beverly Hills). In its 4th edition, SP-Arte Curatorial Lab will also be presented along with the site-specific curatorial projects of two chosen emergent curators. Katy Diamond Hamer recently sat down with Fernanda Feitosa to discuss the upcoming art fair and their dialogue is below.
KATY DIAMOND HAMER: Let’s start by talking about Brazilian art fairs.
FERNANDA FEITOSA: I think the Brazilian art fairs are becoming more well-known as Brazil, in a sense, is becoming more well-known for [contemporary art]. Our contemporary artists in the past ten years have been critical in for the perception of the people abroad to learn more about Brazil beyond football, beyond the bikini and general stereotypes of the country. I think many people also discovered Brazil through music such as bossanova. Some films were also important in cultural recognition.
KDH: I remember watching a film from the 70s while an undergraduate in a course called Greek Myths and Their Transformations on the Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro in Portugese), 1959 filmed in Brazil and set in a then modern-day favela.
FF: There are many films, but in the last ten years, it is the artists who have helped to bring attention mostly due to the auction houses and sale results especially by artists such as Adriana Varejão and Beatriz Milhazes. Also a rediscovery of museums of particular Brazilian artists such as Lygia Clark (1920-1988) -Editors note: the Museum of Modern Art in New York had the first ever retrospective of the artist Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988 in North America in 2014-Mira Schendel (1919-1988) had an exhibition at the Tate Modern that was amazing (Mira Schendel, 25 September 2013 – 19 January 2014 at the Tate Modern, London). Also artists like Volpi (Alfredo Volpi born in 1896 in Lucca, Italy but immigrated to Brazil at the age of 2 with his family and was based in São Paolo until his death in 1988) have works that are now seen more outside of Brazil. Much of all of these artists work hadn’t been seen much outside of Brazil because they had all been collected by private [Brazilian] collectors. Contemporary art is traveling, Modern Art from Brazil did not travel, it remained in the country. One of these reasons is that Brazilian collectors are very good. There is a good solid base of Brazilian collectors who have supported Brazilian artists.
After the art fair, this collector base has gotten younger and is traveling more as well as acquiring international artists. That is the reason for the success of the fair, specifically in these last ten years.
Even to this day 85/90% of the collectors coming to the fair are Brazilian. We have 10% coming from Germany, the United States,
KDH: Is one of your goals to open this collector base up and achieve more of a global audience?
FF: Yes, this is my mission. This was the first art fair in the country. So for us the main goal was the realization that art is important. It is my passion. I wanted to show my friends and then a larger viewership the power of art, and with twenty million people living in Sao Paolo, along with the wealthiest families in Sao Paolo. We wanted to show them the art of Brazil and then the international galleries. This is done (having shown 59 international galleries in 2014) but the job is never-ending as we continue to grow.
I am a collector myself as well. My background is in Law, which I practiced until 15 years ago, when I decided to further the conversation of contemporary art, starting with my friends. They made fun of me at first for collecting, but I took the time to talk to them about it, and eventually this is what lead me to launch SP-Arte.
KDH: Is there a certain gallery district in São Paolo?
FF: No, there are certain neighborhoods which have more, but there are many neighborhoods so it’s not like Soho [in New York] where you have one street and twenty galleries. You might have one neighborhood with twenty streets and one gallery, so they are spread all over. It’s not the type of situation you can conquer by foot. The fair helped in bringing together many different galleries to one single place
KDH: Where is the fair located?
FF: It’s in the Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo which is a very iconic building for art designed by Oscar Niemeyer. And just by doing this [establishing the fair], people got together. [In 2014] we attracted 22 thousand people. Rather than have a VIP Lounge (similar to the one in Art Basel Miami Beach) our sponsors distribute water, coffee and champagne to the public during the opening. After the opening champagne is sold but the water and coffee is still available free of charge. It has been a great experience.
KDH: How have the sales been at the fair through the consecutive years?
FF: The sales have been very, very good. We had 136 galleries in 2014 and sold half a million dollars during the fair. From what we exhibit, 70% is contemporary art and 30% is secondary market. Sales were from both areas.
KDH: What are the sections you have beyond that of the main section?
FF: [For 2015,] we have Showcase (three artists picked by their respective gallery), Solo program (curated by Maria Inés Rodriguéz), a Performance section and [the inauguration of] an installation sector, called Open Plan, all within the same pavilion.
KDH: What can you say about the performance section? Is it live performance or video?
FF: We’ve always had live performance as well as a partnership with the fine art university offering a platform for collaboration, setting a stage for them. We also are the only art fair that includes a folk gallery in the fair who represent outsider artists who come from the most poor areas of Brazil. Five years ago, we also opened the fair to street art and artists.
KDH: Well, all of this sounds great. I look forward to the fair and continued successes of contemporary Brazilian artists in the global art market.
SP-Arte will be open from April 9th-12th with a special preview event on April 8th, 2015. Location is: Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, [Biennial Pavilion] Parque Ibirapuera, Portão 3, São Paulo, Brazil