A collage by Vik Muniz depicting Rio de Janeiro was seized in the scandal (all images courtesy the Oscar Niemeyer Museum )

A Brazilian museum has opened an exhibition of art seized amid the largest corruption scandal in its country’s history. Works Under the Guard of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, on view at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in the southern city of Curitiba, features 48 of the 203 photographs, sculptures, and paintings the institution is holding for the Federal Police.

The art was seized in the past year from the posh, private homes of people like Renato Duque, a former director at oil giant Petrobras who was arrested for accepting bribes from construction companies, awarding inflated contracts, and giving political kickbacks. He was one of 103 executives and politicians — many of them in the highest ranks of the ruling Workers’ Party — who together stole nearly $4 billion from the state-run company at a time when some 16 million Brazilians still live in extreme poverty.

While the value of the works remains unknown, their association with the scandal and the possibility that they were purchased with dirty money will inevitably cause them to be seen through the lens of corruption-fueled inequality. For instance, most Brazilians could never afford to buy art by Vik Muniz — two of his collages were confiscated in a raid.

At least now such works hang in a museum where anyone — for the cost of admission, about $1 — can see them, as well as pieces by many other Brazilian artists including Cicero Dias, Iberê Camargo, Aldemir Martins, Claudio Tozzi, Daniel Senise, Amilcar de Castro, and Carlos Vergara. If that’s not democratizing art, I don’t know what is.


A painting by Amilcar de Castro on view in the Oscar Niemeyer Museum’s new exhibition


A photograph by Miguel Rio on view in the Oscar Niemeyer Museum’s new exhibition

Works Under the Guard of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum continues at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (Rua Marechal Hermes 999, Curitiba, Brazil) through July 12.

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

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