Hélio Menezes and João Fernandes pose questions around the causes for the lack of representation of Afro-descendant artists in Brazilian art history, in the current system of legitimation, valuation and recognition existing in contemporary art and the importance of rethinking the role of institutions in relation to their context as well as other forms of curating, necessary for a paradigm shift.
To illustrate the conversation between Helio and Menezes and João Fernandes, we recovered examples of how some agents, curators and artists are revisiting this History, seeking references in other traditions such as the Afro-indigenous, something that is already having an impact on current artistic production.
Hélio Menezes (1986, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil) is an anthropologist, curator, and researcher. He has bachelor’s degrees in International Relations (2008) and in Social Sciences (2013), a master’s degree in Social Anthropology (2017) and is currently a doctoral candidate in that field, all at the University of São Paulo (USP). He is also an Affiliated Scholar at Princeton University’s BrazilLab, and has received scholarships to study at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences-Po Paris, 2007) and at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM, 2013). He is the current Contemporary Art curator of the São Paulo Cultural Center (CCSP). He has worked as an international coordinator at the World Social Forum in Belém (2009), Dakar (2011) and Tunis (2013). He has published essays in catalogues such as: Afro-Atlantic Histories (vols. 1 and 2); the 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art catalogue; Prison to prison: an intimate story between two architectures (Venice Biennale), among other publications. His recent works include the installation “New Republic” (2019), in partnership with Wolff Architects (Cape Town) for the 12th Architecture Biennale of São Paulo; and curatorship of the exhibitions “Voices against racism” (São Paulo, 2020); “The discovery of what it means to be Brazilian” (Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Chicago, 2020) and Afro-Atlantic Histories (MASP/Instituto Tomie Ohtake – São Paulo, 2018).
João Fernandes (1964, Bragança, Portugal) is a Portuguese curator of exhibitions currently living in São Paulo, Brazil. At the end of 2019, he was appointed artistic director of the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS), one of the most important contemporary art institutions in Brazil. Before that, between 2012 and 2019, he was deputy director of the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid. He has developed a large part of his career in Porto, where he was director of the Serralves Museum between 2003 and 2012, and where his work contributed to transforming the Porto institution into a reference museum.