Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (photo by the author)

Brazil is one of the fastest growing economies of the “developing world.” In fact, so much so that it is now considered an “NIC” or newly industrialized country, a term used to describe being in between “developing” and reaching “fully developed” status.
Today, Brazil is looking towards a future as host to major global sporting events, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2014 Soccer World Cup. Leading up to these events, global investment in the country is sure to rise, promising a healthy future for arts and culture on all levels of the spectrum.
Over the past several years, art has played a major role in the upliftment of Brazil’s underprivileged areas, known as favelas. In 2006, Dutch artist duo Haas & Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn) began The Favela Painting Project which set out to actively rejuvenate Santa Marta, one of the poorest favelas in Brazil.

Haas & Hahn, Favela Painting Project, Rio de Janeiro (image via

The project employed members of its community to paint vibrant and colorful murals throughout its streets and on the facades of its houses. The murals radiated positivity, championing the artists’ principle that “what feeds the eye also feeds the soul.” Hass & Hahn’s creative approach to color made Santa Marta a landmark, and images of its murals were seen all over the world.

This is, of course, following in the footsteps of internationally acclaimed artist Vik Muniz, arguably the most famous contemporary artist to come out of Brazil. Currently based in New York City, Muniz is best known for his series of work entitled Pictures of Chocolate, created using Bosco Chocolate Syrup. The second is likely to be Ernesto Neto who, together with Muniz, represented Brazil at the 2001 Venice biennale.

Brazil also has in place an increasingly fervent museum and exhibition infrastructure. Most notably, the Sao Paulo Museum of Art is home to a vibrant exhibition program exhibiting both contemporary art and film, recently showing the photographs of genius filmmaker Wim Wenders. Another renowned museum is the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Its spaceship inspired design has made the museum an unlikely landmark in the city of Niterói. Not only this, the Brazilian art calendar boasts the Sao Paulo Biennale, one of the world’s oldest art biennials. In 2010 the biennale, curated by Brazilian curators Moacir dos Anjos and Agnaldo Farias, featured over 140 artists and attracted the likes of artists Aernout Mik, Tacita Dean, Anri Sala, Douglas Gordon, Marlene Dumas and Ai Wei Wei, to name a few. It also featured rising Brazilian art stars Albano Afonso and Daniel Senise. Acknowledging that it is impossible to separate art from politics, the biennale was themed “There is Always a Cup of Sea to Sail in,” a line written by Brazilian poet Jorge de Lima.

29th São Paulo Art Biennial (image via

With this dynamic art infrastructure in place, one can understand how Brazil is becoming one of the world’s select emerging art markets. Brazil has experienced an increase of wealth forming a rising middle class that is also quickly becoming a new collector base.

Now, with sporting plans in motion, Brazil is capitalizing on its moment. Next month, art and design conference Nova Bossa: Boom SPDesign will bring together international as well as local artists and designers at the Centro Universitário Belas Artes in São Paulo. Though a little all over the charts, the conference guest list includes architect Chad Oppenheim, Brazilian interior designer Brunete Fraccaroli, Miami artist group Friends With You. Interestingly, conference organizer Roberto Lot Cocenza describes the conference as “ a catalyst for connecting this exciting Brazilian moment to the global experience.”

With healthy growth set to continue, it’s an exciting moment for Brazil, indeed!


Claire Breukel is a South Africa-born contemporary art curator and writer. Her interest is in contemporary art that falls outside of conventional modes of exhibition, and often affiliated with “developing”...