Institution-Building in the Global South: Adriano Pedrosa of Museu de Arte de São Paulo

For the annual Art in America Guide, published in print in January, the editors spoke to five directors of notable museums and institutions—Adriano Pedrosa of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo; Ibrahim Mahama of the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art, Tamale, Ghana; Sharmini Pereira of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka; Hoor Al Qasimi of the Sharjah Art Foundation; and Roobina Karode of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi—about their work in and around the Global South.

Adriano Pedrosa has been artistic director of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) since 2014, having started after cocurating the 2006 Bienal de São Paulo and the 2011 Istanbul Biennial. At MASP, Pedrosa—who was also recently named curator of the 2024 Venice Biennale—has overseen a series of “Histories” exhibitions that began in 2016 with “Histories of Childhood,” followed the next year by “Histories of Sexuality.” His venerated 2018 “Afro-Atlantic Histories” has traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Its next stop is the Dallas Museum of Art.) In October, MASP will mount “Indigenous Histories,” an international survey organized in collaboration with the KODE Art Museums in Bergen, Norway. 

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Adriano Pedrosa, as told to AiA We are definitely returning to a sense of normality, little by little. In the past year we had some concerns about audience and attendance, and therefore about budgets as well. But we’re slowly getting back. Our “Brazilian Histories” exhibition was quite successful and drew a lot of visitors. We always try to acquire works from our “Histories” exhibitions—it’s the main channel of acquisitions, mostly through gifts from supporters of the museum. We had about 400 works in the exhibition, and we are in the process of acquiring some 45 of them. 

For us, 2023 will be a very special year dedicated to the exhibition “Indigenous Histories.” It has been six years in the planning. “Brazilian Histories” was, of course, focused on Brazilian art and artists; with Covid, that was a way for us to be cautious in terms of loans from abroad and financing. But we are finally getting back to international programming with an exhibition about Indigenous culture, in Brazil but also everywhere [around] the globe. People in the art world are paying attention to that now. 

There’s been a big shift since the late ’80s, when every exhibition in the US and Europe was, basically, European and North American artists. At the end of the ’80s, you started to see exhibitions of Latin American art on the international scene. And then, in the ’90s, that activity increased and became almost a norm. You can’t talk about contemporary art now without including artists from all over the world. Latin America tends to lead the way, but the trend has expanded to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. You see exhibitions organized by curators from these regions all over now. 

I think the last chapter of this will be paying serious attention to institutions and museums outside Europe and America. In the last few years, people have started to take note of what museums in the Global South are doing, and those museums are organizing more ambitious exhibitions in their own right. It’s part of a continuum.

Banner images above, from left to right: Denilson Baniwa, Dead nature 1, 2016 [Courtesy the Artist]; Duhigó, Monkey Hammock, 2019 [Courtesy the Artist]; Adriano Pedrosa [illustration by Denise Nestor]; view of “Brazilian Histories” [photo by Isabella Matheus]; MASP [photo by Eduardo Ortega]


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