The last two weeks have found us cutting across the globe to bring you coverage on the stone-cold titans of 2016’s art-fair circuit. By way of land, sea, and hot air, we’ve hopped across Dubai, Hong Kong, and Paris, digging for insider intel so you can remain both informed and coolly comfortable in your office chair. Today, we’ll be delving into the lauded spectacle that is SP-Arte, which is located in—no, not South Pittsburgh (great pierogis)—but São Paulo, Brazil. And SP-Arte’s South American digs are indeed quite vital to its identity, for the fair, since its 2005 inception, has been marked by a fundamental dedication to Latin American art: a modus operandi that’s rightly earned it a distinguished and enviable reputation.
SP-Arte has, of course, shaken things up for its 12th annual edition, but let’s first focus on what hasn’t changed. While the fair’s exhibitor list—now boasting 120 galleries—continues to amply represent Brazil’s ever-growing art scene, drawing together such established institutions as Mendes Wood DM, Nara Roesler, and Luisa Strina, its programming is as vital and exploratory as ever. Single-artist projects in the Solo Sector (curated by Luiza Teixeira de Freitas) will mingle with sprawling commissions courtesy Francesco Arena and Christodoulos Panayiotou, both featured in the recently launched Open Plan section. Muscles and minds, meanwhile, will be productively flexed by the fair’s Performance sector and slew of panel discussions.
New and notable at SP-Arte 2016 is the presence of a a just-unveiled Design sector, which will set its sight on locally rooted production and the storied history of Brazilian design. The addition is a canny and appropriate one, for the realm of design— one closely tied to the geography and landscape of Brazil—allows the fair to further its emphasis on site and national spirit. Woodworking, which has bloomed in the country from the colonial era to the present, will be among the many corners of practice to take center stage; expect furniture and furnishings both modernist and traditional, as well as contemporary work that skews beautifully experimental.
Galeria Fortes Vilaça | Lucia Laguna
With 15 years of operation under its belt, Galeria Fortes Vilaça sits comfortably as an esteemed presence within and beyond the Brazilian art scene. To attribute the Vilaça’s reputation to time alone, however, would cheapen it; what’s truly molded its high profile is a dynamic approach to programming whereby the young and established trade wall space, and guest curators lend range to the institution’s voice.
One among many local artists on Vilaça’s roster, Rio de Janeiro native Lucia Laguna practices “landscape painting” in the loosest sense of the term. Laguna’s works do perform a representative function, acting as “landscapes” inasmuch as they strive to depict Janeiro’s city sprawl, but Laguna toys with the genre by driving the (post-)impressionist ethos to its illogical endgame. Her works neither depict the city as it exists nor as it is received by the eyes of the subject; these are landscapes dragged through the muck of memory, where forms fracture and colors run under the heat of emotion.
Mendes Wood DM | James Lee Byars
Another São Paulo powerhouse, the six-year-old gallery Mendes Wood DM has fast developed thanks to a consistently thrilling exhibition program and a welcome inclination towards the conceptually heady and political. It’s apt that they would choose to feature the work of the late James Lee Bryars at SP-Arte, for Bryars’ work—strange, spiritual, and always posing questions—most certainly falls on the avant side of the fence. Known for his performance and installation pieces, the philosophically versed Bryars took pages from the books of Sixties Conceptual practice and let them flutter in the wind, less interested in devising operations than in eliciting a variety of experience. Five Points Make a Man traces back to notion that would manifest in several late-life works: the suggestion that five points, oriented in space, wield all the power necessary to represent a figure. Whether you view Five Points as such or admire it for its plainspoken elegance, it brims with beauty and simplicity.
OVO | Luciana Martins and Gerson de Oliviera
It would be nothing short of an oversight to address SP-Arte’s newly added Design sector without touching on the dynamic duo of Luciana Martins and Gerson de Oliveiria, who founded the OVO design studio in 1991. The pair have had ample time to hammer out a distinctive sensibility, and to be sure, the last two decades have found them constantly evolving through unconventional and experimental practice. Martins and Oliveira play wrly with perception and materiality as much as they endeavor towards chic or beauty, and consequently, their work invites thought as much as traditional use. Their modular Campo seating system, perched proudly above, is perfectly indicative of their freewheeling aesthetic, which obeys no laws but those of physics.
Galeria Marcelo Guarnieri | Masao Yamamoto
Call Galeria Marcelo Guarnieri the OG (original gallery, natch) of our list: operative since ’85, Guarnieri has graced São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and now Ribeirão with quality contemporary work for an impressive stretch of time, accruing no shortage of deserved renown in the process. Slated to feature among the gallery’s wares is the spectral, delicate work of Japanese photographer Masao Yamamoto, whose traditionally black-and-white prints wring tremendous power and affect from compositional sparity. Nearly abstract in formal make-up, its subject betrayed only by rippling water and distant haze, Nakazora 827 has us positively lightheaded. No doubt, it augurs good things for the caliber of Guarnieri’s offerings.