Our Grass Is Greener On The Other Side Of The Fence

A couple of weeks ago, the Anhangabaú valley, one of São Paulo’s landmark, hosted O Estrangeiro, a performance that brought together the local street art duo osgemeos and the French street theatre company Plasticiens Volants.

A couple of weeks ago, the Anhangabaú valley, one of São Paulo’s landmarks, hosted O Estrangeiro, a performance that brought together the local street art duo Os Gemeos and the French street theatre company Plasticiens Volants. The event, an audiovisual journey staged by huge painted balloon puppets which floated over the audience, was inspired by Albert Camus’ most renowned novel, L’Etranger (The Foreigner), and is part of a series of events that celebrate the year of France in Brazil. Families, hipsters, skaters, beggars – the audience was a melting pot.

Almost simultaneously, the traditional MASP (São Paulo Arts Museum) reconfigured its interior to welcome an exhibition that’s remarkably different from anything that’s been displayed there in its whole history. With “De Dentro pra Fora, de Fora pra Dentro” (which can freely be translated to From the Inside Out, From the Outside In), the transgressive language of street art brought thousands of people to the museum on its first weekend, contrasting with the few dozens that normally visit the place. The same happened a few weeks earlier in another museum, at the inauguration of Os Gemeos’ Vertigem solo exhibit, which received seven thousand visitors in the opening weekend.

In a country where, with rare exceptions, museums are somewhat conservative and empty places that don’t recognize the value of street art, this shift is extremely positive. The curious thing is that many of these talented artists first earned recognition in foreign countries. For example, in 2008, the Tate Modern, in London, displayed the artwork of six street artists from around the globe, including Os Gemeos and Nunca. Only after this international recognition have traditional museums in Brazil begun opening the doors to them.

But the recognition of street art goes even further in Europe. France’s Fondation Cartier praises Cripta, a “pixo writer” from São Paulo, as one of the most impressive and original street artists in activity nowadays. Its current exhibition, Né dans la Rue (Born in the Street) displays his peculiar lettering all over the Foundation’s headquarter façade. The exhibit began in July and was so successful that it was extended until January 10, 2010. Pixação is a kind of graffiti that’s typical from Brazil, consisting of monochromatic words and phrases with angled, stylized characters. What’s most ironic about it is that pixação is hated in the country, being perceived as a form of vandalism, and now Fondation Cartier puts it in the same place as contemporary artists such as Beatriz Milhazes, the most valuable Brazilian artist alive. Hervé Chandès, the Foundation’s general director, asks: “Why Brazilian galleries take so long to understand?”

Will we see pixos in Brazilian galleries anytime soon? That’s a tricky question. Due to all the cultural and social stigmas attached to it in our society, it’s not nearly as “digestible” and commercially attractive as the yellow figures from osgemeos or the blue abstractions from Zezão. However, it will always exist and evolve in its natural habitat: the streets.

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