Muro no fundo da minha casa, 11 x 50 cm
Arthur Bispo do Rosário was exhibited for the first time at the Bienal de São Paulo in its 30th edition. However, in 1995, six years after his death, his work was shown at the 46th Venice Biennale, representing Brazil alongside Nuno Ramos.
Brazil’s first participation in the Venice Biennale was in 1950. Ciccillo Matarazzo, then President of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, was responsible for the presence of Brazilian artists in that Biennale with a view to creating the Bienal de São Paulo within similar parameters the following year. The Brazilian presence in Venice became the responsability of the Bienal de São Paulo until 1968, when, already suffering health problems, Ciccillo handed this task over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1993 the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo took on this responsability once more and in 1995, in the centenary year of the Venice Biennale, presented works by Arthur Bispo do Rosário and Nuno Ramos, with Nelson Aguilar acting as curator.
A report from May of 1995 encountered in the documentation shows that the works by Bispo underwent a process of conservation and restoration, sponsored by the Fundação Bienal, shortly before embarking for Italy. In 2000, Bispo’s work was present at Parque Ibirapuera in the exhibition Mostra do redescobrimento (Rediscovery Exhibition), which integrated the exhibition Imagens do Inconsciente along with other artists from the Engenho de Dentro.
Arthur Bispo do Rosário’s history is well known. A simple Google search will result in 1 million entries. Since Bispo’s appearance in the art world – soon after his death in July 1989 – his works have travelled to several cities in Brazil and around the world, as shown by the newspaper clippings in his artist’s file at the Archive.
Curator Frederico de Moraes organized the first major exhibition of his work at the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, in Rio de Janeiro, in October of 1989. Moraes had already attempted to set up an individual exhibition of Bispo’s work while he was still alive, in MAM-Rio, but Bispo “refused to be separated from any one of the hundreds of pieces that littered the cramped space of the cell where he lived” (Tribuna Bis, 11 October 1989).
His work consisted of a enormous collection of objects which he gathered, sewed, organized, classified, like a great archivist who collected pieces from everyday life in order to bring them into the light, in the kingdom of heaven. He would pass almost every day in the same place, the psychiatric center Colônia Juliano Moreira in Rio de Janeiro and everything he created came from that very universe.
Many of the objects he collected and organized formed typological groups of everyday existence – which he called “displays” – as if he really wanted to show to someone who did not know us what we used to drink, to wear, to eat, build, celebrate…
Retentor de óleo, 108 x 43 x 12 cm | Canecas, 110 x 47 x 12 cm | Confetes, 115 x 47 x 13 cm
Congas e Havaianas, 186 x 66 x 10 cm | Macumba, 193 x 71 x 18 cm | Botas, 115 x 55 x 13 cm
“Minatures that allow for my transformation, all of this is material that exists in the Land of Men. My mission is this – to achieve what I have done, so that the next day I represent existence on Earth. This is the meaning of my life.” Arthur Bispo do Rosário
Vinte e um veleiros, 90 x 60 x 36 cm | Pedras, 21 x 47 x 28 cm
With thread that he took from uniforms and sheets, he sewed the Manto da apresentação (Presentation Cloak) considered by many to be his master work. Made over the course of his life for his arrival in heaven, the cloak represents his sources: on the outside, images and texts from his private world, on the inside, names of beloved and chosen people. And is it not just this that we take with with us in the end?
Bispo wearing his cloak. Photo: Walter Firmo (Brazil in Venice catalogue – 46. Biennale di Venezia)