Nelson Leirner (b. 1932) poses a question in his article—“Qual critério?”—published in the Jornal da Tarde (São Paulo, December 21, 1967). He identifies the jury’s criteria for choosing his work—entitled Matéria e Forma (1965)— at the IV Salão de Arte Moderna do Distrito Federal held in 1967 in Brasília, which sparked the so-called Critic’s Happening; that is, the critics’ string of responses to his challenge. One of the works sent to the Salão consisted of a dissected pig behind wooden bars with a ham tied around its throat.
Geraldo de Barros (1923?98), another artist of Leirner’s generation, wrote about a group exhibition in 1965 at which Leirner showed Pop Art works [see 1110440]. The debate concerning the value of the work of art (in aesthetic and market terms) continued to be the key point in Leirner’s anti-system work.
The art critic Frederico Morais (b. 1936), a consistent advocate for the avant-gardes, organized the Salão de Brasília and was a member of the jury. He published Leirner’s letter and, in his reply, defended avant-garde art in his articles “Como julgar uma obra de arte,” which was published in the Diário de notícias (Rio de Janeiro, January 14, 1968), and “Porco e aposentadoria” [Pig and Pension], which appeared in the Diário de notícias (Rio de Janeiro, February 4, 1968).
This article shows the conflicting positions taken by Morais and the critic Geraldo Ferraz (1905–79), to whom both Leirner and Morais were replying. In a newspaper article published in O Estado de S. Paulo (São Paulo, January 28, 1968), Ferraz attacks the jury’s decision to accept Leirner’s work for the exhibition.
The term “happening” was subsequently used to refer to this episode that came to be known in Brazil as the Critic’s Happening. In 1959 the critic Mário Pedrosa (1900–81) had published an article about critical trends, in addition to the article in which he analyzed art criticism vis-à-vis the crisis of artistic values at that heady time, which was published in the Correio da Manhã (Rio de Janeiro, February 11, 1968) and titled “Do porco empalhado ou os critérios da crítica” [On Dissected Pig or the Critics’ Criteria].