Inventory of the Arts 2020

Awareness of the Presence of New Identities

More paradoxical than it would seem, this year of cutbacks and dismantling in Brazilian cultural politics has, in spite of everything, opened more space for non-white artists – whether in new galleries, retrospectives at major museums or debates in academia.

Outside the Rio-São Paulo Axis

Another public institution, the São Paulo Cultural Center, is celebrating the 30th edition of the “Programa de Exposições” (Exhibitions Program) by promoting black artists’ artistic production of recent years. In 2020, one of the exhibits selected names beyond the Rio-São Paulo axis, pointing to the ethno-racial and gender diversity and indicating radical changes in the awareness with regard to new identities present on the country’s contemporary art scene.

It must not be forgotten, however, that black professionals at museums and cultural institutions were hit hard by the closure of spaces as well as by the crisis of the sector. In São Paulo in particular, employees of the Afro Brazil Museum and the Tomie Ohtake Institute were among the most adversely affected. The closure of the Sesc São Paulo Network, which in recent years has developed assertive work on racism, particularly struck cultural mediation and exhibition installation professionals.

Social Networking

Just after the pandemic began, educational and cultural programming on the internet was emerging – sometimes spontaneously, sometimes motivated by private and public calls. This includes free or paid debates, programs, workshops and lectures given by individuals, groups, public universities, museums and cultural institutions. At the same time, social networks like Instagram, which already functioned as a means for showcasing works of the visual arts, also started hosting meetings streamed from all over the country.

Among the most interesting, although not exclusively racialized, the series of conversations Performance na Rede (Performance on the Web) brought together performers and thinkers from all over Brazil. The meetings are part of the activities of the Embassy of Performance Art (EPA), a project created by Maíra Vaz Valente and Raphael Couto along with another activity of the same organization, the Perforcâmbio (Performance Exchange). Currently, the EPA participates in an activity that involves performers from all over Latin America, an unprecedented feat, according to Maíra Vaz Valente.


Among the various academic events, it is worth highlighting the “Ciclo internacional de webinários – Artes africanas: histórias perspectivas e fluxos” (International Round-Table Webinars – African Arts: Histories, Perspectives and Flows), which runs through December 2020, organized by the Federal University of Recôncavo in Bahia (UFRB) and streamed on the África nas Artes (Africa in the Arts) channel. The Research and Training in Curating Exhibitions Network, which brings together research institutes and centers around racial debate, is holding the monthly webinar “Curadorias: histórias e práticas entre diversidades” (Curatorships: Histories and Practices among Diversity) through February 2021. The event opened with Alex Tso, founder of the Galeria Diáspora (Diaspora Gallery), and invited guests during the month of November were Angolan curators Luamba Muinga and Marcos Jinguba.

Created one month after the start of the pandemic in Brazil, the Pensarafricanamente (ThinkAfricanly) channel already has 10 thousand subscribers and has presented a diverse programming of themes like public policy, entrepreneurship, gender, arts and culture and religiosity, among several others. The meeting dedicated to the famous writer, visual artist and Candomblé priest, Mestre Didi (1917-2013), included the participation of artist Ayrson Heráclito, thinker Muniz Sodré, singer, dancer and professor Inaycira Falcão and philosopher Marco Aurélio Luz.

The Market

Important to note as well that SP-Arte, considered the main Latin American art fair, just a few years ago didn’t even know that indigenous or trans racialized artists and poets existed. Now in 2020, the 17th edition (virtual) of the Fair presented 136 exhibitors and organized debates and lectures on violence, ecological vandalism and the situation of women and black people in Brazil.

New to this edition of the Fair are the Galeria HOA (HOA Gallery), the group Levante Nacional Trovoa (Trovoa National Uprising) and the 01.01 Platform. The Levante Nacional Trovoa is a group of racialized visual artists and curators founded in 2017, while the 01.01 Art Platform is an initiative that brings together a significant group of artists. Created in 2018 with support from institutions in Ghana, Portugal and the United Kingdom, the objective of the 01.01 Art Platform is to promote a circuit of cultural exchange that involves promoting and consuming art in a conscientious, just and engaged manner.

Alexandre Araujo Bispo is an anthropologist, critic, independent curator and educator.

Translation: Sara Hanaburgh