Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
Editorial Categories [?]

This piece reports the winners of the national prize issued by the jury of the 2nd São Paulo Biennial (1953). The writer of this text, Professor Walter Zanini, provides a short description of the art life of each of the prizewinners: Alfredo Volpi, Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and Bruno Giorgi, all artists based in Brazil. As background, works by these artists reflect echoes of the debate between Abstract and Figurative art that was going on at the time. 

Leia esta sinopse em português

Divulgação do resultado da premiação nacional pelo júri da II Bienal de São Paulo. Zanini faz um pequeno descritivo da trajetória dos artistas premiados, no qual também vemos reflexos do debate abstração x figuração daqueles anos.

Revert to English synopsis

In this text, we learn of the highlights of the 2nd São Paulo Biennial, held in December 1953 in the newly opened Parque do Ibirapuera to commemorate the fourth centennial of the city of São Paulo. This was an important time for the Biennial, as it began to gain more attention on the international art scene; in fact, some critics boasted that the event was better than the one in Venice. For most national observers, it was a good time to suggest reform. It was referred to as “The Guernica Biennial” since Pablo Picasso’s huge work was in Brazil at the time. The well-known artists whose works were shown at the biennial included Marcel Duchamp; the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi; and the still life painter and printmaker Giorgio Morandi. There were also some Italian Futurist works presented in the exhibition.

The artists awarded prizes at the 1953 event—Alfredo Volpi (1896–1988), Di Cavalcanti (1897–1976) and Bruno Giorgi (1905–93), represented trends linked to movements that were questioning figurative art. The first of these three, Volpi, was a self-taught artist in some way close to the modernist aesthetic that incorporated geometric and expressionist forms in its different phases. He started out as a member of the Grupo Santa Helena, whose spontaneity kept it from ever adhering to any specific aesthetic. The achievement of Emiliano Augusto Cavalcanti de Albuquerque Melo, better known as Di Cavalcanti, was creating art that was clearly Brazilian, free of foreign influences. In turn, the third prizewinner, Bruno Giorgi, whose roots were both Italian and Brazilian, spent most of his life in Europe. When he returned, he too became involved with the Grupo Santa Helena. At the time of this Biennial, Giorgi’s work focused on bringing rhythm, form and movement into a harmonic whole with curved lines and angular forms.

The system of awarding prizes implemented at the 2nd Biennial was in place until the 16th Biennial, held in 1981. It was a highly controversial system that called for academy involvement in the decisions. According to the newspapers, the academy circulated opinions among the jury and the prizewinners as well as among other artist participants and art connoisseurs in general.

In addition to being one of the curators of the 1st São Paulo Biennial (1951), the art critic, historian and curator, Walter Zanini (1925-2013), was the first director of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea [MAC] (linked to the Universidade de São Paulo [USP]). As director there from 1963 to 1978, Zanini made outstanding efforts to provide incentives for the work of new artists as well as for marginalized artwork of all kinds. This included technological approaches to Conceptual Art, with multimedia projects that were used to express visual poetics. He also taught at the Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo (ECA-USP). 

The 1st Biennial was a direct creation of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, with Lourival Gomes Machado as art director. In this regard, see “Apresentação” [digital archive ICAA (doc. no. 1110834)] and a document dated March 8, 1951, “Carta a Yolanda Penteado,” who was one of the great organizers of that São Paulo event (doc. no. 1110824). There is also Professor Zanini’s “Introduction” to the 16th Biennial in 1981 (doc. no. 1111291), which focuses on new technologies and trends. In an interview/testimonial, “entrevista-depoimento” (doc. no. 1111244), Zanini discusses his role stimulating all forms of art derived from the new communications media while he was serving as director of the MAC-USP.

Leia este comentário crítico em português

Walter Zanini é historiador da arte, tendo realizado sua formação na Europa. É professor aposentado da Escola de Comunicação e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo. Foi o primeiro diretor do Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade (1963-1978) e curador das edições da Bienal de São Paulo de 1981 e 1983. Como diretor do Museu de Arte Contemporânea, foi promotor das exposições Jovem Arte Contemporânea, que na década de 1970, ganham um caráter transgressor, além das duas exposições realizadas em colaboração com o artista Júlio Plaza ("Prospectiva" e "Poéticas Visuais"), que deram origem ao acervo de arte conceitual do museu. Também, sua curadoria para a Bienal de 1981 marca uma nova fase na organização da exposição, com sua proposta de analogia de linguagens, em que procurou dispor as obras expostas de modo a aproximá-las por comunhão de linguagens e temas.


h- A introdução da arte abstrata no Brasil

m- Bienal de São Paulo

Revert to English annotations
Equipe Brasil: Ana Magalhães
FAPESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Reproduzido com o consentimiento de Neusa Boari Zanini, São Paulo, BR
Arquivo Histórico Wanda Svevo, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo