The Idea of Freedom
With the exhibition
O Retorno dos Gigantes / The Return of the Giants, the Deutsche Bank
Collection is currently presenting a comprehensive view of German
painting from 1975–1985 in Latin America. One hundred and fifty drawings
and paintings by representatives of the Neo-Expressionists (Georg
Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Jörg Immendorff, A.R. Penck) and the Neue
Wilden (Salome, Karl Horst Hödicke, Jiri Georg Dokoupil, Rainer Fetting,
Middendorf, Elvira Bach) are on show. After a sojourn in Monterrey and
Mexico City, the exhibition was presented in the
Museu de Arte Moderna in Sao Paulo. In an interview, Rejane Cintrao
, head curator of MAM, discusses the relationship of Brazilian artists
to German painting from the nineteen-eighties.
MAM Sao Paulo, 2003
Marie Luise Knott:
How and why did the idea arise to take on an exhibition that had already been
shown in Monterrey and Mexico City?
Rejane Cintrao: When
Hector Ramos, the vice president of
Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, suggested taking on this show, we were
very happy and immediately got in contact with the German curators and
Deutsche Bank Brazil, in particular with Datia Sano and Silvana Cerioni.
I was also personally very closely involved, not least because I’d
conducted tours in 1983 at the Biennial of Sao Paulo and had already
gotten to know Penck and Lüpertz, whose works were being shown at the
Biennial at the time. Two years later, in 1985, I was involved with the
Biennial once again through my activities at the Museum for Contemporary
Art at the University of Sao Paulo. Doukoupil had also been invited to
show there. In those days, I was already in close contact with Brazilian
artists, particularly the young artists of the
Geracao 80 (Generation 80), who were still at the very beginning of
The current exhibition The Return of the Giants
is closely connected with MAM’s program. Five years ago we had a large
Anselm Kiefer, and three years ago a wonderful exhibition on German
Expressionism with the collection of the
Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal. At the beginning of this year, we
showed the exhibition 2080 with Brazilian artists from Geracao 80
. We were keen on showing The Return of the Giants here, too,
partly to underscore our involvement with
Expressionism, and partly because we wanted to examine the influence
Expressionism has had on contemporary Brazilian artists.
When representatives of the Neo-Expressionists were shown at the Biennial in
Brazil for the first time twenty years ago, they met with great
enthusiasm on the part of both artists and the public. What was it that
fascinated the Brazilians so much back then?
Neo-Expressionists weren’t only enthusiastically received at the time;
they also influenced the works of many young artists. In Rio and Sao
Paulo, a return to painting was underway in those days. The Return of
the Giants is a great success today, as well. We’ve had more than
28,000 visitors, for the most part students who come because of our work
in the area of art education. Everybody’s been talking about the
exhibition: art critics, artists, and art enthusiasts alike.
Karl Horst Hödicke: Narcissus, 1983,
Deutsche Bank Collection
Again and again, one reads about the influence the Italian
Transavanguard ia and the Neue Wilden had on the
Brazilian art of Geracao 80. They all had a similar impulse:
after twenty years’ dominance of rationalism, conceptual art, and
minimalism in art, figurative painting experienced a new and sudden boom
all around the world. Is there really a correspondence between the
German and Brazilian art of the time?
art had been dominating for years in Brazil, as well. Following the end
dictatorsh ip (more
here), Brazilians found renewed hope throughout the nineteen-eighties.
Something new began for artists, as well: freedom. The return to
painting was a free and happy time. There was this boom and a sense of
joy, not only for the painters of Geracao 80, but also in music.
All of a sudden, musical groups were forming everywhere in the cities…
I think that the correspondence between Brazil and Germany consists in the
fact that the return to painting in both countries coincides with a
historical moment of political freedom. In Brazil, with a return to
democracy after twenty years of dictatorship. In Germany, with the end
of the dictate of Economic Recovery, perhaps, together with the opening
of society following 1968.
Have the Neo-Expressionists influenced Brazilian art in an aesthetic sense,
Cintrao: In a certain sense, they have. The idea
of freedom found its expression in the way the canvas was treated, the
way the brushstroke was applied. The Germans were daring; the most
important thing for them was to express what they were feeling through
painting. When the dictatorship ended, it was precisely this free
painterly gesture that impressed Brazilian artists. Questions of
archival durability seemed irrelevant back then. This changed in the
early nineties, when themes such as identity pushed into the foreground
through the rise of Aids.
But just so you don’t misunderstand me:
Germany and Brazil are two completely different countries, and their art
is extremely different, as well. Even if Brazilian artists are always
aware of what’s happening abroad and meet with international
recognition, there is an entirely individual character here – or, as the
Tadeu Chairelli recently termed it: a “Brazilian International Art.”
Walter Dahn: Nightmare, 1984, Deutsche Bank Collection