Art Crimes in Brazil

International art crime is a phenomenon that is on the rise linked to the struggling world economy. In Latin American countries, where valuables are often unprotected, art crime is not a recent phenomenon (Werner, 3). A significant number of art crimes within Latin America happen in Brazil.

During Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, four armed thieves made their escape through the crowds while casually getting away with stealing Pablo Picasso’s The Dance and the book Toros by Picasso, Henri Matisse’s Garden of Luxembourg, Salvador Dalí’s Two Balconies and Claude Monet’s Marine. The value of the hoard stolen that day has been estimated at over $50 million. The heist took place on February 26, 2006. The thieves used force and speed to accomplish the task at hand; they forced the staff of the museum to disable the building’s security and camera systems, mugged five tourists, and assaulted two police officers who attempted to stop them. The thieves knew exactly what they were taking which suggests they were professionals or may have been hired to pull off the heist on behalf of a third party (Agence France-Presse). The paintings have not been recovered to this day (Bazley, 58) and this heist is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) current list of Top Ten Art Crimes (Werner, 3).

The São Paulo Museum of Art was targeted on December 20, 2007, by three burglars who made off with Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Suzanne Bloch and Cândido Portinari’s The Coffee Worker. The stolen pair of paintings, both highlights of the museum’s collection (Philips). They were valued at an estimated $56 million. The Picasso was reportedly valued at $50 million and Portinari’s painting valued at approximately $5.5 million (Bazley, 59). In the early stages of the investigation, the police officers involved believed that the heist was carried out by professional criminals, but it turned out to be a local job (Philips). The thieves bypassed other even more valuable paintings during the heist so this was a targeted attack, police said. The raid was carefully planned and the thieves were in and out of the building within minutes, leading to the suspicion that it was an inside job (Bazley, 59). The paintings were eventually recovered when the suspects were arrested. This heist was orchestrated by a Saudi art collector who wanted the artworks for his own collection (Bazley, 59).

The last large-scale art theft in Brazil took place at the Pinacoteca do Estado of São Paulo in June 2008 less than a year after the São Paulo Museum of Art heist. Three armed robbers paid an entrance fee to get into the museum and managed to overpower the guards on duty. The robbers walked away with Lasar Segall’s Couple, Emiliano di Cavalcanti’s Women in the Window, and Pablo Picasso’s Minotaur, Drinker and Women and The Painter and the Model prints. The combined value of these works was a reported $612 000. Like the other two robberies, this was a targeted theft. All of the works except for Pablo Picasso’s Minotaur, Drinker and Women were recovered when two of the three suspects were arrested (Bazley, 60).

Some stolen works of art are recovered many years after the crime. Illegally traded art occasionally ends up in New York City. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York handed over two paintings to Brazil on September 21, 2010. The paintings are Roy Lichtenstein’s Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave and Joaquín Torres García’s Figures dans une structure which were allegedly smuggled out of Brazil by Edemar Cid Ferreira in 2006. Brazilian authorities seized and confiscated his assets, including his vast art collection after his bank was charged with fraud. The paintings were smuggled through customs because Ferreira had declared that they were other paintings not worth a lot of money. Roy Lichtenstein’s painting was sold to collector Seth Landsberg, and subsequently seized when it was put up for auction with Sotheby’s in 2008. Between 2009 and 2010 the paintings became U.S. property until their return to the Brazilian government.[1] A UNESCO Convention compels the United States and other countries to cooperate in stemming the global trade in illegal art. The treaty is put into effect when antiquities are stolen, but it also covers incidents of art smuggling (Bishop).

Leah Carleton


 [1] For more see <;

 Works Cited

Bazley, Tom. (2010). Crimes of the Art World. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.

Bishop, Marlon. (2010). “Lichtenstein and Torres Garcia Paintings Head Back to Brazil.” WNYC <;.

France-Presse, Agence. (2006). “Brazil Art Heist Is Cloaked by Carnival.” The New York Times. <;

Phillips, Tom. (2007). “Art thieves net 50m worth of paintings from Brazilian gallery.” The Guardian. <;.

Werner, Louis. (2009). “Art theft online.” Americas 61: 3.

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Mail Art in Latin America

In Ked Friedman’s historical overview of mail art, mail art is not defined by its use of a specific medium. It is defined by the fact that the piece must be sent as a piece of correspondence, which is to say through the postal service or the Internet.

Mail art is a long distance dialogue that allows an exchange of political and ideological views (Padín). It crosses aesthetic as well as geographic boundaries, breaking down the association between location and artistic style.

In the 1960s, Ray Johnston, an American artist, was one of the first to use the exchange of ideas between artists as an art form itself (Friedman 4). The Nouveau realist group in France then adapted this idea and mailed a fake stamp through the postal system causing a huge scandal (Friedman 4).[1]  The new art form was then adopted by the Fluxus movement who wanted to push the boundaries of the definition of art (Friedman 6).[2]

It was the New York correspondence school that shaped the practice of mail art by mailing to hundreds of people at once instead of a select few art intellectuals (Friedman 5). By the 1970s, mail art was a developed art form within Latin America. The first documented mail art show took place in 1974 in Montevideo, Uruguay (Friedman 16; Pianowski 212). Clemente Padín, Paulo Bruscky, Daniel Santiago and Eugenio Dittborn all figure prominently in the development of mail art in Latin America (Pianowski 212, Dittborn 40).

Clemente Padín is a artist, poet and art critic from Uruguay, his involvement with mail art is mostly known with his production the art magazine OVUM; he continues his mail art practices through a website called International Union of Mail Artists. Paulo Bruscky and Daniel Santiago are Brazilian artists, they opened the Exposição Internacional de Arte Postal in Brazil showcasing 21 countries and 3000 works of mail art, the exhibition was shut down and they were imprisoned only hours after the opening.

In Clemente Padín’s article, “Mail Art In Latin America,” mail art is defined as an artistic and multicultural document sent through the postal service by means of the use of collage elements, stamps, hand-writing, typing, photocopies or stickers. Like many other art forms associated with Conceptual Art it has an anti-commercialist and anti-consumerist character.

According to Fabiane Pianowski mail art in Latin America was used as a political tool to condemn the dictatorial system (212). Because they art was used as a means of transmitting information and building awareness, during various periods of dictatorship in Latin America mail art was suppressed (Pianowski 211). Many mail artists were imprisoned for producing in making art, for example, Jesus Galdamez, an El Salvadorian mail artist, who was imprisoned for speaking up against the government (Pianowski 211). He escaped death by fleeing to Mexico and living there in exile (Pianowski 211).

Michela Rosso explains mail art as an always evolving and changing art form; in the 1950s and 60s mail art was mostly a closed circuit where art intellectuals would share ideas (205). Now the mail art movement has opened up and mail art can be sent to anyone by anyone (Rosso 205). Many artists embraced the idea of mail art being open to a larger network of communication; this network became an alternative culture called the Eternal Network (Rosso 205). The Eternal Network did not believe in the exclusiveness of art institutions and put on shows that included all kinds of art works (Rosso 205). They promoted counter culture and anti-bureaucracy globally through the postal service by establishing a network of contacts that would eliminate the barriers between art and the public (Rosso 205). They would hold art exhibitions with three goals; “no fees are levied for participation; there are no juries nor selection processes and all pieces, sent by mail, are exhibited”. With these exhibitions a list of names and addresses of the participating artist would be sent out to increase numbers within the network (Rosso 205). Mail art separates itself from more static forms of art with its flowing network because anyone can enter and exit the network at anytime (Rosso 206). Mail art continues to transform itself and develop with the use of social media and other technologies (Rosso 206).

Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn commented on the technical-social stratification and the delay between Latin America and Metropolitan cultures through mail art (Richards 60). Dittborn made his first works called Airmail Paintings in 1984 (Dittborn 40). These works are mixed media pieces that are folded and sent through the postal service disguised as letters to be unfolded and hung with their envelopes by their recipients. (Dittborn 40). Much of Dittborn’s work documents Latin American visuality in various ways, for example, by incorporating images of local handicrafts, images of faces, child drawing, and images from other Latin American artists as subject matter (Richard 50). Dittborn made use of old photos and drawings to trigger Chilean memory through the content of his works, because pre-1973 material censored following a military coup in his native Chile (Richard 48). In Chile in 1973-1974 there was a shift in government; this was the year that military dictator Pinochet came into power. This changed the way Chile had been for decades as it was previously a democracy; a repression in freedom of speech and a fear of being tortured and killed for such speech became a part of everyday life. During Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, Dittborn’s work commented on power and mocked the established system by camouflaging itself, in the form of a letter it slipped into the system undetected (Rchard 61).

In Latin America the introduction of mail art began in the late 1960s and continues to flourish today with artist such as Eugenio Dittborn who has become an internationally known. Mail art encourages communicative exchanges between people from different cultures who may otherwise not have found each other in any other way. It enables the exchange of ideas and everyday problems. Mail art can be used to promote social justice and express political views (Pianowski 214). Mail art also functions as a mechanism for social commentary. In Latin America mail art has been used historically as a means to effect social and political change.

Elise Vandenbosch


[1] The Nouveau realist was a group from in France in the 1960s that explored new ways of perceiving the real through different forms of art.

[2] Fluxus is an international network of mixed media artist who explored the boundaries of art by combining media and considering objects and ideas as art that would not have previously been accepted.[4] Since mail art was used as a network where artist could share ideas and aesthetics, there became less of a sense of where each aesthetic style came from as the styles would be produced and transmitted globally.

Works Cited

Dittborn, Eugenio. “Roadrunners.” Remota. London: Publica Editores, 1997. 39-59. Print.

Friedman, Ken. 1995. “The Early Days of Mail Art: An Historical Overview.” In Eternal Network. A Mail Art Anthology. Chuck Welch, editor. Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press. Pp. 3-16.

Padin, Clemente. “Mail Art in Latin America.” Clemente Padin’s Art and People.. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <;.

Pianowski, Fabiane. “Mail Art: the Net Out of Control.” Arte y arquitectura digital netart y universos virtuales:MAQUETA PADRAO 17 Sept. 2008: 210-215.

Richard, Nelly. “The Others.” Mapa: airmail paintings = pinturas aeropostales. London: ICA ;, 1993. 47-63.

Rosso, Michela. “Mail art as a forerunner of Clemente Padín.” Arte y arquitectura digital netart y universos virtuales:MAQUETA PADRAO 17 Sept. 2008: 205-210.

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The Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (LFC)

The Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (LFC) is a Cuban arts initiative and a platform for Latin American artists. Founded in 1995, the LFC is a non-governmental, non-profit foundation that Peter and Irene Ludwig created out of their love for the arts. It is funded through the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation located in Aachen, Germany. There are multiple Ludwig Foundations around the world, but LFC is an autonomous foundation administered by the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLC). Founded in 2000, the AFLC fosters cultural exchanges between American and Cuban artists and art professionals.1 They collaborate with individuals and distinguished cultural institutions such as Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Joyce Theater, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab, and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute to offer educational and cultural workshops, courses, festivals, internships, conferences, seminars, exhibitions and artist residency programs both in the U.S. and Cuba.2 With his wife, Peter Ludwig was an avid art collector and during his lifetime he amassed thousands of artworks, most of which were donated to museums and other art institutions.

Peter Ludwig was born in Koblenz, Germany in 1925, and his father was an affluent cement manufacturer. His brother was eventually chosen to run the family business, and Ludwig’s own career began successfully in 1951 after he married Irene Monheim, the daughter of one of Germany’s most successful chocolate makers. A year later, he was appointed managing director of Monheim Schokolade, based at Aachen, and in 1969 took over as its chairman.3 Both Peter and Irene studied art history at Mainz University. It gave them a common interest that turned into one of the largest art collections in the world. They spent a lot of their time and energy buying and viewing art. Picasso was one of Peter Ludwig’s favorite artists.4 Today there are no fewer than thirty Ludwig museums in Germany, as well as Cologne, Aachen, Vienna, Budapest and Beijing. The Ludwig’s have endowed these museums with artworks from their extensive collection.5

 Ludwig Foundations are recognized in the art world and they are held in high esteem because they represent the values of good taste, discernment, passion, and philanthropic community. The Ludwig’s are universally credited with raising Germany’s cultural profile, improved international relations, and heightened the general awareness of modern art.6 As a media figure, Peter Ludwig was often misrepresented, and his political sympathies were called into question, because of the way he seemed to be using his collection to benefit his business. He ruffled feathers when, in 1986, he rashly commissioned Arno Breker, once Hitler’s sculptor, to make portrait busts of himself and his wife.7 .Peter Ludwig died on July 22, 1996, just after their Cuban Foundation was established and Irene Ludwig died more recently on the 28th of November 2010.

The Cuban Ludwig Foundation benefitted many Cuban artists who would otherwise go unnoticed by the art world. On Peter and Irene’s website it states that the establishment of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation was not intended to serve the purpose of preserving the Ludwig Collection as a monument, but to pursue artistic ventures, in the spirit of the founders, that are future-orientated and productive.8

Other art foundations that support Cuban artists include The Cuban Artists Fund based in New York and Cuba Art New York, another American-based foundation. Just like the Ludwig Foundation these initiatives help fund and support Cuban ex-pats in the U.S. However, they do not provide the exchange opportunities that the Ludwig Foundation offers. The Cuban Artists Fund aims to support Cuban and Cuban-born artists living outside of Cuba with grants.9 Cuba Art New York has a similar goal and was founded by a group of artists and art enthusiasts to create and preserve the contemporary art of Cuban artists for institutions, museums, scholars, galleries etc. to use for reference and display.10 Both of these initiatives are based in America, which is great for recently immigrated or established artists in New York, but in Cuba there is definitely a larger need for these types of social networks.

Another widely known art institution in Cuba is the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art. It is dedicated to the study, research and promotion of contemporary visual arts from developing countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean. It was founded in 1983 in homage to Wifredo Lam, an important Cuban artist from the 20th century.11 The Wifredo Lam Center is also responsible for the Havana Biennial, which is an art exhibition held every two years in the heart of the city. In 2015, the city hosted its eleventh Biennial focusing on the relationship between visual production and the social imaginary.12

The Havana Biennial is an event that the Ludwig Foundation is also a part of in Cuba. The supported artists participate in this exhibition where many influential people from around the world gather to discuss art and connect with members of the Latin American art world. This Biennial is invaluable for the exposure it affords up and coming as well as established contemporary artists.

 In 2009, Carole Rosenberg, former President of the non-profit, autonomous, non-governmental American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLFC) wrote, “it has been fifteen years since I first visited Cuba. An invitation to attend the Havana Biennial came shortly after our government granted a consent decree making it legal for art dealers to go to Cuba to purchase art. During this period, I had the opportunity to become familiar with Cuban culture and meet artists and art professionals. Inspired by our experience, my husband and I felt a need to do what we could to bring American art to Cuba and Cuban art to the U.S.”13 This testimonial approving Cuban art captures the spirit of Peter and Irene Ludwig. Along with President Rosenberg, the Ludwig Foundation is still supporting Cuban artists today.

Jasmine Formusa


1 American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba

2 Ibid.

3 Frank Whitford. “Obituary: Peter Ludwig,” The Independent, July 27, 1996, Arts section,

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 “History and Aims.” Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung,

9 “Organizational History,” Cuban Artists Fund

10 “Who We Are”, Cuban Art New York

11 “Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wilfredo Lam: Organizer of the Havana Biennial”, Universes in Universe

12 For more see Universes in Universe

13 American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba,

Posted in AFLC, American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, Cuba, Cuban art, Havana Biennial, Ludwig Foundation, Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art | Leave a comment

Mexican Photography

Photographs of Mexico have helped to define its people and culture. The purpose of Mexican photography is to create a cultural definition that represents the Mexican people so that one may appreciate and understand the message being conveyed. Culture can be defined through the narratives photographs create, through the content of the image, and through the way the photo is taken and/or edited.

The individual components in a photograph work together to influence the viewer’s perception of that image. What may appear to be a self- explanatory image may contain a deeper significance with symbols that may first be overlooked. Some critics, such as Olivier Debroise, feel that photographs of Mexican culture are “often described but seldom appreciated for its symbolic values” (Debroise, 27). For example, Tina Modotti’s photo, Composición con Maiz, Cartuchos y Guitarra, although appearing to be realistic, actually represents the values of Mexican culture by focusing on three ordinary objects. The bullets represent the revolution as a constant struggle to protect Mexican values, the corn is a symbol of sustenance, and the guitar represents Mexican popular culture. Thus, what may appear at first glance to be an unassuming picture may, in fact, have a deeper cultural meaning through the association of familiar objects with a whole culture. It is believed that “Photography in Mexico has been an instrument of surface definition and critical unmasking: it has both helped to circumscribe visual identity and to integrate the construction of such imagery and the gendering of ethnicity” (Segre, 158).

Photography has allowed the Mexican people to explain social inequality which since the Mexican Revolution has been a significant component of Mexican identity. Photographs do not only serve as a visual representations, they are also valued for their capacity to create deep social commentary. According to John Mraz, “Social relations are also documented in photographs, which can speak volumes about class, race, and gender” (Mraz, 36). What the photographer chooses to capture is not only based on objective reality but also on the message she or he is wanting to convey. As stated in Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico by Debroise (2001, 40) photographers often use things like costuming and props to manipulate and transform reality into the desired result of conveying a specific definition for the image being captured.

The way a photograph is taken also contributes to the definition of the Mexican culture through the photographers’ manipulation. Photographers experience their subjects first-hand and additionally they are aware of the cultural values they may be conveying to the viewer, such as truth. “Photography [in this sense] becomes the most active agent in enabling the truth value of [an] image” (Folgarait, 15). Photographers choose their subjects and the content of their images. For example, A Victim of the Executing Squad, by Walter H. Horne captures the intense brutality of a soldier’s death where the focus is between pools of blood centering the dead man. Capturing this photo in this strategic way develops an intense emotional connection between the spectator and the lifeless soldier.

For a picture to be able to define an entire culture the photographer must take into special consideration all of its components including “subjects… dress… presentation… surroundings” (Albers & James, 145) that all help to create a unified definition of, in this case, Mexican culture. All four of these components define how Mexican culture is perceived as a single entity. As explained by Albers and James in Travel Photography: A Methodological Approach (1988) photographers consider the content of the picture, the entirety of the photo, and the composition, the placement and organization of these components in relation to each other in order to create a cohesive photo. These considerations ensure the photograph’s components are structured to help define what is being captured. The photographer has the ability to structure the photograph in such a way that allows the audience to view Mexico in a way that is easily understood because of the apparatus of representation. In other words, “photographs are the result of an active signifying practice in which media-makers select, structure, and shape what is going to be registered” (Albers and James, 136).

The formation of the photo contributes to how Mexican culture is portrayed, not only by the content but also how the photograph is taken and manipulated. The message of these photos is not only conveyed by the elements of the photograph and the way it is taken but also in what is not included in the picture. These “pictorial elements are represented as symbols; they are devices that allude to meanings and understandings outside the picture” (Albers and James, 141) leading to curiosity about what is not captured because it is still significant to the subject. However, photographs are only read as an appropriate definition of the culture when their subjects are easily identifiable and their messages clear.

Kelsey Atkinson – Derasp

Works Cited

Albers, Patricia C, and William R. James. “Travel Photography: A Methodological Approach,” Pergamon Journal 15 (1988): 134-158.

Debroise, Olivier. Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico. Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1994.

Folgarait, Leonard. Seeing Mexico Photographed. London: Yale University Press. 2008.

Mraz, John. “Picturing Mexico’s Past: Photography and “Historia Grafica.” The South Central
Modern Language Association 21 (2004): 24-45.

Segre, Erica. Intersected Identities: Strategies of Visualization in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Mexican Culture. New York: Berghahn. 2007.

Posted in Mexico, photography, Tina Modotti, truth in photography, Walter H. Horne | Leave a comment

Latin America at International Art Exhibitions

The representation of Latin American countries at art fairs and other international art exhibitions has grown steadily over the years. Latin American art is hugely important at an international level and prominent figures in the art world are finally beginning to taking notice of it. Are there organizations or groups responsible for representing Latin America’s identity in galleries, world fairs, and biennials? Yes.

The Americas Society strives to raise public awareness of the rich cultural heritage of Latin America through a variety of programs and exhibits.1 Additionally, the Organization of American States was created to help participating countries defend their sovereignty by promoting their economic, social and cultural development.2 Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA) is another organization based in San Jose, California which advocates “new visual, literary and performance art in order to engage people in civic dialogue and community transformation.”3 Aside from specific organizations, many prominent galleries and museums in countries outside Latin America have entire collections or departments devoted to the art and culture of Latin America. Among these are: The Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C., Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, Museo de las Americas in Denver, Colorado and El Museo del Barrio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. These museums show their support by exhibiting Latin American artists in a conscious effort to raise awareness for their work and their contributions to the international art market.

An exhibition is a “display of art or artifacts for temporary, public viewing.”4 Exhibitions that feature Latin American art have historically categorized the artworks as a group separated from mainstream art historical tradition. This raises two fundamental questions: What is the purpose of such art exhibitions? Is it solely to look inwards, generate national awareness? And, if the answer is No, then why isn’t more Latin American art included in the art historical canon? Images from Latin America help us to define art and whom we define as important to art.

In 1965, the Organization of the Americas started putting on exhibitions at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. in order to support member countries’ fine arts and craft and to generate awareness for the art of Latin America as a whole. At the Museum of Modern Art, an exhibition titled New Perspectives in Latin American Art, presented works by artists that have been added to the museums’ collection in the past ten years. Another notable exhibition was Space of Time: Contemporary Art from the Americas which looked at the way in which “artists of disparate ethnic, cultural and geographic backgrounds participated in artistic dialogues in the major art centers of the United States and Europe.”5 Taken together these exhibitions, among many others, shared the common goal of representing and promoting art from a somewhat neglected, ‘forgotten,’6 artistic nation. Despite their support, Latin American countries still face many difficulties in the unpredictable art market.

An art fair is a commercial exhibition where art gallerists and the artists they represent in their galleries are on public display. There are many art fairs that exclusively represent Latin American art. Pinta is a modern and contemporary Latin American art show. Its first exhibition was hosted in New York City in 2007 and has since moved to London, England. The fair includes galleries from the United States, Latin America and Europe coinciding with Christie’s and Sotheby’s Latin American art auctions. ArteBA in Buenos Aries (established in 1991), Zsona Maco Mexico Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City (established in 2004) and CIRCA in San Juan, Puerto Rico (established in 2006) and Arteamericas in Miami (established in 2006) are four additional art fairs that foster the arts in Latin American countries. The issue with having primary art fairs within Latin American countries is that the art remains local. Despite this, Pinta and Arteamericas have gained international recognition, raising awareness for the Latin American art.

Art biennials are held bi-annually in an effort to promote established and emerging artists from around the world. South America is host to the second oldest biennial in the world. At the Venice Biennial, which is the world’s oldest art biennial, countries such as Argentina (1954), Uruguay (1954), Brazil (1958), Spain (1958) and Venezuela (1964) have their own pavilions where national representatives are showcased.7  Founded in 1895, the Venice Biennial also served as a model for the São Paolo Biennial in Brazil.

The São Paolo Biennial takes place at Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion in the Parque do Ibirapuera. It was founded in 1951 with the aim to make “contemporary art known in Brazil, push the country’s access to the art scene in other metropolises and further establish São Paulo as an international art center. The biennial serves to bring Brazilian art closer to an international audience, and vice-versa. The international exhibitions are held under the direction of rotating chief curators.”8

The Havana Biennial (Cuba) was established in 1984 and the first edition was dedicated exclusively to Caribbean and Latin American art. This was a political gesture on the part of the exhibition organizers, and the Biennial has since become a key venue for all ‘non-Western art.’

Although the situation is slowly improving, is undeniable that Latin America lacks the global representation it deserves. Latin American artists play a significant part in the history of art. It is important that we embrace Latin American art.

Mark Ferkul


  1. Americas Society, Space of Time: Contemporary Art from the Americas (New York: Americas Society, 1993), 6-7.
  2. “Our Purpose,” Organization of American States, accessed November 1, 2011,
  3. “About Us,” Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, accessed November 10, 2011,
  4. This definition was taken from The University of Chicago’s keyword glossary definition of ‘exhibition’.
  5. “Space of Time: Contemporary Artists of the Americas,” Americas Society, accessed November 1, 2011,
  6. The term ‘forgotten’ was used to reference Latin American art by Annick Sanjurjo in the introductory notes in the catalog for the “Exhibitions at the Organization of American States 1965-1985”.
  7. The years in this sentence represent when the first artist exhibited from that country.
  8. “Biennial Foundation,” Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, accessed November 14, 2011,

Works Cited

Americas Society. Space of Time: Contemporary Art from the Americas. New York: Americas Society, 1993.

Americas Society. “Space of Time: Contemporary Artists of the Americas.” Americas Society. Accessed November 1, 2011.

Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. “Biennial Foundation.” Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. Accessed November 14, 2011.

Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. “About Us.” Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. Accessed November 10, 2011.

Museum of Modern Art. “Exhibitions: New Perspectives in Latin American Art, 1930–2006: Selections from a Decade of Acquisitions.” Museum of Modern Art. Accessed November 19, 2011.

Organization of American States. “Our Purpose.” Organization of American States. Accessed November 1, 2011.

Ramirez, Mari Carmen. “Beyond “the Fantastic”: Framing Identity in U.S. Exhibitions of Latin American Art.” Art Journal 51, no. 4 (1992): 60-68.

Sanjurjo, Annick. Contemporary Latin American Artists: Exhibitions at the Organization of American States 1965-1985. United States of America: The Scarecrow Press, 1993.

Serviddio, Fabiana. “Exhibiting Identity: Latin America between the imaginary and the real.” Journal of Social History 44, no. 2 (2010): 481-498.

Posted in Art Biennials, Art Fairs, Arteamericas, ArteBA, CIRCA, Havana Biennial (Cuba), Sao Paolo Biennial (Brazil), Zsona | Leave a comment

Latin America as Defined by the Media

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term media as “the main means of mass communication (television, radio, newspaper)” and as a media consuming society it is our most significant resource. Types of media include television, radio, film and video, print, photography and electronic (e-mail, the internet, etc.). We use these resources as a means of communication, entertainment, and a means of obtaining knowledge, however, not all the information we extract from the media is true. Regarding cultures, more specifically that of Latin America, we are constantly fed images which are ambiguous and also well known. We commonly refer to these definitions as stereotypes.

Racial stereotypes are defined as “automatic and simplified mental pictures of all members for a particular racial group.” Another definition of stereotype from the Oxford English Dictionary is “stereotypes are a fixed idea or image that many people have a particular type of person or thing, but which is often not true in reality.” A stereotype is a means of simplifying the complexities of our vast world and the people in it. These degrading, simplified ideas of different cultures are then broadcast through the media  to audiences who are asked to absorb and accept them without question. Since many people lack any sort of real relationship with members of other cultures outside of the media’s portrayal of them their understanding is quite limited.

Latin America, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is the “the parts of the American continent where Spanish or Portuguese is the main national language (i.e. Mexico and, in effect, the whole of Central and South America including many of the Caribbean islands).” Latin America is basically the assimilation of all the regions south of the United States or according to the media, the “other” — the “other” defining a region of non-white people who come from an exotic and tropical land. Latin American society is in reality complex, it comprises a broad variety ethnicities, races, and different languages.

The idea of stereotypes are contrasted against what are defined as the “norm,” most commonly concerning Western culture, this idea of the “norm” establishes a hierarchy among the different cultures. This system creates a level of superiority and inferiority and those who exist outside the norm are termed the “other.” For the purposes of this glossary definition, the “other” is the Latin American culture and society.

Through the propagation of racial stereotypes in the media, we begin to assimilate and integrate the common conceptions of Latin America, most specifically those of the people who make up Latin America. Common names for these people are Hispanics, Chicanos/Chicanas, and the most widely used, Latinos and Latinas. Through the media, more commonly television and film, we form our ideas of such communities.

For example, by means of the media we see painted a distinct picture of the male Latin American, or Latino. Since the most influential of media sources is mainstream film, as both a means of entertainment, the public often does not question what is being shown to them and absorbs all information which seems plausible. The repetition of the stereotypes through the media also impacts the public’s acceptance of them as truth.

Dolores del Rio

Early western films first introduced us to ideas of what a Latino is and how latin lovers act. The Latin lover or hero, a figure popularized by Rudolph Valentino, below, appears in early films such as The Kissing Bandit, The Bullfighter and the Lady, and Latin Lovers. More modern examples, featuring Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem, are Zorro, Desperado, and Eat Pray Love. Specifically in Zorro, Banderas plays the strong, romantic male lead who fights for honour and above all love. The latin lover contrasts with another stereotypical and enormously popular figure, especially in popular Western- themed films, that of the unintelligent, cowardly and lazy labourer or alternately the greasy ‘Bandido,’ an alien. We can see these kinds of characters in films such as The Thread of Destiny, The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.


Other common Latin male characters are villains and illegal immigrants (common representations in the United States). Concerning the idea of the illegal immigrant, we think of Latinos being smuggled across the border in the backs of trucks, or finding holes in a fence through which they can cross with the chance of them being discovered by border officials at any moment. Through the media’s influence, we also think of them as standing outside construction sites and stores offering various services or as day labourers working on farms, anything to make money. In the hit television series, My Name is Earl, a female character named Catalina (Nadine Velazquez) is an illegal immigrant working at a motel as a maid. The character is constantly on the watch for police officers and avoids anything to do with the law; she seems content to work for very minimal pay. The villainous character is associated with gangs, drugs, and car theft. The gang member is most common stereotype for Latin American youth, specifically in movies they are depicted as being up to no good, with their baggy, dark clothes and hoods hiding their faces; they are full of menace. These young Latin Americans are usually seen gathered together outside stores (bodegas) or seen creating bright spray-painted graffiti that ties to the idea of vibrancy and colour coming from the Latin American culture.

When it comes to Latina characters, there is one common theme: The sexy, exotic temptress with brown hair, brown eyes, and dark skin, popularized by actresses and recording artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Penelope Cruz, Shakira or Gloria Estefan. This character is typically animated, expressive and very sensual, she is almost like an object who is pursued by men and appears to be unable to stand on her own. Popular in the 1950s and 60s, Carmen Miranda played an exotic dancer with a fiery temper whose trademark was a fruit-laden hat, a variant of the contemporary fiery Latina. Dolores del Rio, pictured, the first Latina actress with international appeal, was the first to be cast in this way, In Girl of the Rio (1932).

When we think of Latina characters we also think of the stereotypically maternal ‘mothers’ or domestic workers such as maids or cleaning ladies. We can see these characters in such films as The Gangs All Here, Maid in Manhattan, Nine (where all the lead female characters are erotic and expressive temptresses who attempt to seduce the male lead) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Sofia Vergara dyed her hair dark brown to make her look more stereotypically Hispanic for the hit t.v. series Modern Families.

In conclusion, what the public gathers from the projections of Latin America and Latin Americans through the media are negative concepts. The public is bombarded with consistent stereotypes of the immigrant, the latin lover, the bandido, the temptress and the domestic worker, all of which portray Latin Americans in a certain, often negative, light. In reality, Latin America is a region as diversified as any Western society, made up of varying ethnicities, backgrounds, working classes, history, culture and languages.

Brody Johnston

Works Cited

Alex, Nola K. “”The South American Way”: Hollywood Looks at Latins and Latin America.” (1986). Print.

Berg, Charles Ramírez. Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, Resistance. Austin, TX: University of Texas, 2002. Print.Berg Ramirez, C. (2002). 

Chang, Szu-Hsien, and Brian H. Kleiner. “Common Racial Stereotypes.” ProQuest. Web. 16 Oct. 2011.<< 199667110/1325B6170331E2C08/22?accountid=11233

“Media’s Portrayal of Latinas.” Controversial Media. Web. 8 Oct. 2011. < latinas.html>.

Pehl, Jamie. “Latinos in the U.S. Media.” (2004). Print.

Rodriguez, Clara E. Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997. Print.

Trevino, Jesus S. “Latino Portrayals in Film and Television.” JCsplash. Web. 16 Oct. 2011.< LatinosFilmTvTrevino.html>.

Posted in aliens and immigrants, Carmen Miranda, Dolores del Rio, latin lover, Media stereotypes, Modern Families, movies, Sofia Vergara | Leave a comment

Classicism in Brazil

Artists have consistently been inspired by and returned to the arts of ancient Greece and Rome, which is referred to as ‘classicism.’ Alberti once equated classicism and beauty in regard to architecture, defining beauty as, “The harmony and concord of all the parts achieved by following well-founded rules [based on the study of ancient works] and resulting in a unity such that nothing can be added or taken away or altered except for the worse.”[1] By this definition, the classical phase is the moment when the style is at its fullest, following a primitive or less completely realized phase.[2] In the art world, the word classicism connotes a standard of excellence as well as power and authority; classicism connotes a hierarchy of the arts and it recognized as ‘high-art.’[3] Perhaps the formal influence of the art of ancient Greece and Rome is felt all over the world because this word is so strong.

The appeal of classicism is visible everywhere including in Brazil. In the years of colonialism, Portugal and other European powers sought to surpass each other in terms of the number of colonies they monopolized and the wealth they accumulated. Portugal sought to flex its metaphorical muscles through urban design, by changing the Brazil environment in an attempt to ‘civilize’ the nation.[4] By colonizing Brazil, the borders were opened not only to immigrants but to art. The new ideas provoked serious social changes and lead to the loss of traditional visual forms.[5] Portugal achieved the introduction of European style and classicism through the architecture program of the Academia Imperial e Escola de Belas Artes, an institution that was originally set up as a school of arts and crafts.[6] Budding artists were educated under the Academia’s artistic program and thus were forced to follow the artistic practices imposed upon them. The Academia expanded for many years, even growing to encompass a landscape school in 1870 that conformed to the classical ideologies while still portraying the Brazilian environment.[7] Although the Portuguese granted Brazil independence in 1822, the influence of European styles lived on through the Academia. French taste was pervasive there; the artistic program was structured exclusively on the canons of neo-classicism.[8]

Those responsible for Europeanizing Brazil used elements of the classical style on religious and governmental buildings to demonstrate the permanence of European ideals in comparison to the so-called ‘savage’ traditions of the past.[9] A church in Rio de Janeiro, known as Candelaria, conforms to the standard European formula prevalent at the time. The classical proportions and many details, such as the use of paired pilasters topped with Doric, Ionic and Corinthian capitals, illustrate how Brazilian architecture draws inspiration from the classical world.[10] Classicism always been based on harmony and symmetry, also evident at Candelaria in the identical towers that frame the dome. The dome represents the neo-classical ideals of nineteenth century Rio, and was crowned with a statue of the allegory of Hope.[11]

Over the years, classicism extended its influence through the major centers of Brazil. The Academia trained young architects who traveled around Brazil repeating classical ideals after they had graduated.[12] Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo (1851-1928) was one of these eager young students, and he was responsible for the expansion of classicism in Sao Paulo. Educated in the academic style, Azevedo was responsible for much of the reconstruction of Sao Paulo, including the Municipal Theatre, completed in 1911.[13] Originally devised by the Italian architect Domiziano Rossi, Azevedo directed the construction and ultimately determined the final design of the Municipal Theatre.[14] One can see the classical influence of the building, with the harmonious arcades that line the façade to create the balance and unity sought after in the classical ages. Stylistic columns conforming to the traditional proportions also adorn the exterior of the building to add to the classical appeal.

Beyond architecture, the classical style was also influential for other artistic practices in Brazil. Painters adapted the classical styles to those of Europe. Among them was Rodolfo Amoedo (1857-1941) who painted Maraba, located in the National Museum of Fine Arts.[15] The work represents an indigenous woman in a European pose surrounded by a landscape. The painting demonstrates the restraint and closed composition typical of the classic style.[16] The use of an indigenous woman applies Brazilian roots into this classical piece demonstrating the use of classicism in a modern context. Although some artists were able to introduce Brazilian subject matter and references into their artwork, they were constrained by models set by the Council of Trent for religious institutions.[17]

Despite the success met by the introduction of classicism into Latin America, it eventually came to a close. After years of monopolizing the Brazilian artistic output, new styles developed and Rio’s Academia Imperial e Escola de Belas Artes was finally closed.[18] Artists, such as Candido Portinari (1903-1962), took over with new forms of expression inspired by post-colonial life. Interested in becoming a painter from a young age, Portinari entered into the Academia and enrolled in life class.[19] But he was still determined to paint his own country, not the romanticized version that had been portrayed for centuries, so he abandoned his classical training. We might say that although classicism has been abandoned by modern day Brazil, the remnants are found in the skeletons of old buildings and within museums.[20]

Emily Read

Works Cited

[1] “Classicism and Neoclassicism,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 10 Nov. 2009 <;.

[2] Thomas Pavel, “Classicism,” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, Ed. Michael Kelly, Oxford Art Online, 20 Nov. 2009 <;.

[3] The characteristics valued within ancient Greece and Rome range from unity, balance and harmony to proportion and restraint. The intent was to construct an ideal vision of human experience that should inspire others through rationality and truth. Michael Greenhalgh, “Classicism,” Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, 20 Nov. 2009 <;.

[4]For additional information regarding the ‘civilizing’ of Brazil through urban planning, read Roberta M. Delson’s article
“Planners and Reformers: Urban Architects of Late Eighteenth-Century Brazil.” It discusses the Portuguese’s belief that by creating harmonious and restrained urban areas for the ‘savage’ Brazilians, the environment will help adapt their behavior into more civilized individuals. Damian Bayon and Murillo Marx, History of South American Colonial Art and Architecture: Spanish South America and Brazil (New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc, 1992) 293.

[5] Ivo Mesquita, “Brazil,” Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century, Ed. Edward J. Sullivan. (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2000) 202.

[6] Carlos Lemos, Jose Roberto Teixeira Leite and Pedro Manuel Gismonti, The Art of Brazil (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1983) 153.

[7] Aracy Amaral and Kim Mrazek Hastings, “Stages in the Formation of Brazil’s Cultural Profile,” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts vol.21 (1995):13, JSTOR, 28 Sept. 2009 <;

[8] Roberto Pontual and Christopher Hartop, “Brazil,” Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, 5 Nov. 2009 <;.

[9] David Underwood, “‘Civilizing’ Rio de Janeiro: Four Centuries of Conquest Through Architecture,” Art Journal 51.4 (1992): 49, JSTOR, 26 Sept. 2009 <;.

[10] Underwood 52.

[11] The dome demonstrates ideals from the mid nineteenth century because it was completed in 1878, while the rest of the church was finished by 1811. Underwood 54.

[12] Lemos, The Art of Brazil 162.

[13] Carlos Lemos, “Azevedo, Francisco de Paula Ramos de,” Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, 10 Nov. 2009 <;.

[14] Lemos, “Azevedo.”

[15] Amaral and Hastings 14.

[16] “Classicism and Neoclassicism.”

[17] Tania Costa Tribe, “The Mulatto as Art and Image in Colonial Brazil,” Oxford Art Journal 19.1 (1996): 73, JSTOR, 7 Oct. 2009 < >

[18] Amaral and Hastings 14.

[19] Florence Horn, “Portinari of Brazil,” The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art 7.6 (1940): 4, JSTOR, 26 Sept. 2009 <;.

[20] In one symbolic move away from classicism, a project was undertaken to strip the exterior of the Fine Arts Museum in Sao Paolo, originally adorned in a neo-classical style. This action represents a renewal of Brazil’s desire to strip away its history of colonial domination.

Posted in Academia Imperial e Escola de Belas Artes, Amoedo, architecture, Azevedo, Brazil, Classicism, Portinari | Leave a comment