Museu da Arte Moderna

By Lindsay Wong and Ariela Osuna

The Museu da Arte Moderna illustrates Brazil’s art culture and politics throughout history and Brazil’s modern image to the rest of the world. The postmodern edifice designed by Alfonso Eduardo Reidy and the landscaping done by Burle Marx makes this site an icon for Brazil’s modern image. Nevertheless, the Museu da Arte Moderna represents how the country slowly grew to embrace art during the 1900s to today.

Affonso Eduardo Reidy is considered one of the forerunners of the new Brazilian architecture, a style inspired by the International Style and overseen by Le Corbusier. The modernist museum building is an important component of the urban planning project Flamengo Park. Flamengo Park and the museum’s gardens were designed by Roberto Burle Marx, the iconic Brazilian landscape architect.

Twenty years before the completion of the large structure, the museum was born in 1948 as a civil entity by President Raymundo de Castro Maya and Honorary President Gustavo Capanema. It was located in one of the rooms in Banco Boavista. The inaugural exhibition, “European Contemporary Painting”, was held in 1949. In 1951, it hosted the first international biennial of Sao Paulo. Here, Museu da Arte Moderna became an international symbol for Brazil. In 1952, the City Council approved the proposal for land donation of 40 thousand square meters for the official museum, designed by Reidy.

Designed in 1955, the museum is connected to the rest of the city by a pedestrian walkway that overlooks the highway Av. Infante Dom Henrique. A series of artificial ponds open up before the building. Gardens, which employ regional vegetation, guide the entrance to the museum. The floor is tiled in the Copacabana sinusoidal form, à la Burle Marx.

The museum has a strong horizontal composition, with its main body measuring 130 meters long and 40 meters wide. Made out of concrete, the building’s expressive massing is very dramatic and seems almost Brutalist. Angled concrete pillar elements, placed at 10-meter intervals, bear the load of the building and lift up the building off the ground. This frees up space below the building and creates as a sort of exterior lobby, in the spirit of Le Corbusier’s five points of architecture.This diagonal elements are connected by longitudinal beams which allow the gallery level to be free of internal columnation or structural walls. The museum’s construction employed modern technology to control sunlight, and consequently heat in the building. The windows of the galleries are oriented north and south, exposing the north facade to direct sunlight most of the year. The museum’s windows are made out of thermalux glass and are protected with aluminum shutters, which are the main source of lighting control.

The MAM is an art center that provides theaters for concerts, plays, film exhibitions, conferences and ballets, art education with studio and lecture spaces, exhibition galleries for permanent collections and traveling shows and public services such as dining, workshops, collection ware houses and administration offices. It’s similar to the Cidades des Artes in the fact that there is very little public seating in the pavilion, which makes it hard for the public to use the area. However, the pavilion today is occupied by people riding bikes through the area, which illustrates how the people adapted to modern development in Rio.

The First National Exhibition of Abstract Art was held in 1953. The exhibition illustrates a shift from the traditional European art preference to more abstract art, corresponding to Brazil’s modern architectural golden age in the 1950s. In 1959, the Neoconcrete Exhibition acknowledges Brazil’s international awareness/presence because the exhibit included international artists such as Alexander Calder and John Friedlander along with national artists like Ivan Serpa. 1984 marks the end of military dictatorship in Brazil. As a result, Brazil was very conscious of its national identity. The museum held a national exhibit called, “Exposure, How are You” performed by Generation 80 from the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage. This exhibition brought together 123 national artists, whose works are still displayed in the museum today.

More recently, the museum inaugurated the permanent exhibition “From Modernism to the Informal Abstraction”, displaying the artist progression during the first half of the twentieth century in Brazil. In 2009, the Museu da Arte Moderna had an exhibit that celebrated the Neoconcrete art movement. This is very nationalistic. The Museu da Arte Moderna shared Brazil’s art culture to its public. Therefore, it has served the public well.


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