Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, Piracicaba, SP, 2010
President of the Instituto do Imaginário do Povo Brasileiro [Institute of the Brazilian Imaginary]
In 1971, when I was celebrating my first marriage anniversary, my mother, who had always encouraged her children’s sensitivity for art, took me to an art gallery in São Paulo, our city, for me to choose a painting as a present. I was enchanted by a painting that featured some “little bulls.” I then found out it was by artist José Antonio da Silva.
I tell about this episode because it was the first moment I caught sight of the existence of spontaneous art. I do not like the term naïf [naïve]. Like many others, it does not belong to the Portuguese language. It was adopted, and, in my view, it is very restrictive when the subject is art. This matter, however, is beyond the scope of the present text. Reading a great many other texts on the subject, in the catalogs of this biennial and in other publications, I have observed that this question is present and, in a certain way, it remains inconclusive.
From that first episode onward, I began to form a collection. At first it was only for my pleasure, but through the years, accumulating knowledge and visual experience, I perceived that my small gathering of artworks, paintings and sculptures was becoming so significant that I began to feel a responsibility to show them, to allow others the opportunity to contemplate their beauty.
Today I am a collector and gallerist. The passion, the responsibility and the joy of showing the artists rooted in our own populace has brought me to faraway places, some almost hidden in this vast country of ours, with its very strong characteristics based in diversity. This is our wealth. This is our power. It does not matter in what geographic region the artist was born. He is born, he grows and gives life to his talent anywhere, even in the most remote of places. The important thing is what he carries within himself; his talent, his creative soul, his need to express himself with the support that is within his reach, without concern for the market, for acceptance or for the valorization of his work.
In the Vale do Jequitinhonha region, from the clay easily encountered there, the sculptures by Isabel Mendes da Cunha and Noemisa are born, as were those of the late Ulisses Pereira Chaves. Juazeiro do Norte, in the state of Ceará, where wood is more abundant, is where Nino, one of the greatest creative geniuses of 20th-century sculpture, lived and died; it is also where his contemporary, Manuel Graciano, continues to live and work.
The many painters who have shown their works at the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil furthermore include José Antonio da Silva, a painter born in Salles de Oliveira, state of São Paulo; Alcides Pereira dos Santos, a Bahian-born artist raised in Mato Grosso; Ranchinho, from Assis, state of São Paulo; Julio Martins da Silva, from the state of Rio de Janeiro; Nilson Pimenta and his students from Cuiabá, Mato Grosso; and so many others.
In my first experience participating on the biennial’s jury, I was very much surprised to come face-to-face with around 800 works from various regions throughout Brazil. I felt a lack of sculpture, since painting represents around 95% of the artworks in the exhibition. Perhaps the reason for this is that the term naïve is immediately felt as referring to painting. Judging them was a difficult task. However, that is what we were there for, and I hope that we carried out our task with some criteria and sense of fairness.
For the two acquisition prizes, our choice fell on Neves Torres and João Generoso, in a clear option for poetry and lyricism as increasingly rare themes at this beginning of the 21st century.
For many, the spontaneous artists no longer exist. They say that TV, Internet and all the communication media of the modern world have done away with them. I disagree. This biennial, with the interest that our artists generate from all over Brazil, is the greatest proof of this.
SESC’s consolidated initiative, with the Bienal Naïfs do Brasil, deserves our respect and applause. We need many others, every possible one, to reveal and support talents from our land.