The XVI São Paulo Biennial, held in 1981, was instrumental to restoring the prestige of that event in the context of a country returning to “normalcy” after two decades of military dictatorship (in fact, the dictatorship would not end until 1985, four years after this biennial). A man of vast integrity, Walter Zanini was the right man for the task of putting the biennial back on track. There was ripe opportunity for change pursuant to the international boycott of the biennial, which began in Paris in 1969 with the “Non à la Biennale,” and the dismal administration and censorship of the event. In the auspicious context of increasing political openness, Zanini’s reputation as an intellectual, cultural manager, and art theorist made him the ideal person to usher in a new phase in the São Paulo Biennial.
Art critic, historian, and curator Walter Zanini (1925–2013) was the first director of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea (a part of the USP). From that post, which he held from 1963 to 1978, he encouraged the production of emerging artists and supported marginalized forms of artistic expression, including technological, conceptual, and multimedia works that made use of visual poetics. One of the curators of the first São Paulo Biennial (1951), Zanini was also a professor at the Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo (ECA-USP).
In an interview-statement [see 1111244], Zanini discusses the role he played during his tenure as the director of Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC-USP) in furthering artistic expression that engaged new communication media. Zanini’s text “A arte postal na busca de uma nova comunicação internacional”  addresses a topic central to the biennial he curated. In it, he asserts that since Mail art is a form of Conceptual art, its syntactic elements are much less important than the relentless flow of semantic information it formulates.