Overlooking Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro's municipality of Niteroi is a contemporary art museum like no other. Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer to house one of the largest collections of contemporary Brazilian art amassed by entrepreneur Joao Sattamini, the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi (MAC Niteroi) opened in 1996; 20 years and 150 or so exhibitions later, the beloved space reopened on June 16 after a year-long $2.5-million renovation, a facelift of sorts to ensure the structure is in top form for a busy season of exhibitions and programming surrounding the Olympic games.
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To mark the occasion, museum director Luiz Guilherme Vergara decided on three separate exhibitions, one of which – Ephemera: Dialogues Between-View – he curated. It draws on the museum's impressive holdings to present a show of greatest hits, works completed in the 1950s by some of Brazil's most important artists, among them: Anna Bella Geiger, Antonio Dias, Cristina Salgado, Jorge Guinle Filho, Lygia Clark, Nelson Leirner, Rubens Gerchman, Victor Arruda and the late Tunga. The Art of Storytelling, happening in another of the museum's galleries, is guest curated by Selene Wendt of Norway, and brings together the work of 22 Brazilian and foreign artists to explore the written word, in partnership with the nearby Inga Museum, where further installations, video and visual poetry are on display as part of the exhibition. Highlights from The Art of Storytelling include Sergio Bernardes and Guilherme Vaz's video installation in the main hall of the MAC, and a sculpture titled Cicleprototemple by Ernesto Neto that reacts to those who view it. The MAC Niteroi's main courtyard plays host to the third component of the exhibition, titled Listen to the Matter of Being Rubble, by sound artist Marcelo Armani; this installation, too, calls upon visitors to interact with the art.
The inaugural post-reno show came just weeks after French fashion house Louis Vuitton used the mod museum as the backdrop for its 2017 cruise collection (Catherine Deneuve, Jaden Smith and Alicia Vikander were in attendance).
On hand for the cultural celebration was a who's who from the South American art and philanthropic scenes, including the mayor of Niteroi, Rodrigo Neves, artists Victor Arruda, Katie Van Scherpenberg, Chico Cunha, Raimundo Rodriguez, Fatima Villarin and Suzana Queiroga; Rio de Janeiro's secretary of culture Eva Doris; Niteroi Culture's municipal secretary Arthur Maia; Niteroi Art Foundation chairman Andre Diniz; and Paco Imperial's director Claudia Saldanha.
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Come August, when the Olympics roll into town, the museum will present the exhibition Guanabara Bay: Water and Hidden Lives, a six-month-long celebration of Brazilian artists.