10 Artworks to Collect at SP-Arte
Since 2005, SP-Arte has cemented its role as one of the most important fairs in South America, this year bringing together over 125 galleries in its stunning Oscar Niemeyer-designed home in São Paulo. Next week, a highlight of the notoriously light-filled pavilion will be a strong showing of works by South American emerging artists like Carla Chaim, Ana Prata, and Matheus Rocha Pitta. Buoyed by a cohort of biennial darlings like Victoria Fu and Thiago Rocha Pitta, diamond-in-the-rough modernists like Almandrade and Henri Chopin, and boundary-pushing designers like the Campana Brothers, this year’s edition just might be one of SP-Arte’s best. Below, we’ve scoured the preview to bring you the fair’s 10 most collectible works.
Matheus Rocha Pitta, Slab #70 (Twelfth Assault), 2016
Athena Contemporânea, Booth F 16
Brazilian artist Rocha Pitta has had a busy few years. Fresh off of a 2015 Delfina Foundation residency in London, he recently opened a solo exhibition, curated by the Guggenheim’s Pablo León de la Barra, at Casa França-Brasil in Rio de Janeiro. When this particular work popped up on de la Barra’s Instagram feed last week, little did we know that it was slated for Athena Contemporânea’s SP-Arte booth. Part of an ongoing series in which the artist embeds fragments from contemporary newspapers into concrete slabs, this piece shows a series of hands waving in the air, isolated from their original bodies. We’re left to wonder: Are they raised in celebration, or surrender? It’s this kind of thought-provoking ambiguity that bolsters Rocha Pitta’s entire body of work, which specializes in mining historical and contemporary media to shine light on our impending future.
Almandrade, untitled, 1999
Galeria Baró, Booth F 10
While lesser-known to an international audience, Almandrade (born Antônio Luiz M. Andrade) has recently been recognized in solo exhibitions—and on the South American fair circuit—as a pioneer of Brazilian visual poetry, a movement that took hold in the 1960s and ’70s. This elegant mid-career sculpture siphons the artist-cum-architect’s interests in visual language, constructivism, and minimalism into one very small, albeit arresting, form. We predict you’ll see more of Almandrade’s diverse body of work, which mingles early text-based ink drawings with more recent color- and line-driven paintings and sculptures, as post-war South American art continues to gain global traction.
Carla Chaim, Presença, 2015
Casa Nova Arte e Cultura Contemporanea, Booth B 08
Last year, after winning the Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil Contemporary Award, Chaim transformed the prize’s namesake São Paulo museum by swathing one of its galleries with a colossal graphite installation—and recording the arduous task in time-lapse videos. The gesture is part of the São Paulo-based artist’s performative practice, which tracks the ephemeral (and often invisible) nature of artistic process. At SP-Arte, evidence of her most recent experiments are on view, the most compelling of which is the video Presença. In it, Chaim applies strips of black tape to the walls of a small white gallery, only to reenter the room moments later to change the configuration of the tape—and likewise the perceived architecture of the room. It is a mesmerizing meditation on the power of the human hand to shape our surroundings.
Bruno Novelli, Untitled, 2016
Zipper Galeria, Booth J 03
Novelli’s paintings can feel like contemporary expressions of magical realism; his compositions embed construction bricks and new age healing crystals into lush tangles of flora and fauna. Here, the thirtysomething Brazilian painter layers palm fronds, mangrove stalks, geodes, and lapis obelisks with the precision of a digital collagist and the palette of a Mexican muralist.
Przemek Pyszczek, Facade, 2016
Following Pyszczek’s recent solo exhibition at L.A.’s Nicodim Gallery, the gallery is carrying this momentum on to South America, where they’ll show his work at SP-Arte. This painting is part of a series inspired by the apartment block facades of Pyszczek’s native Poland, which he left for Canada as a young child. By fusing the hard-edged aesthetic of Soviet-era architecture with a buoyant primary palette, it explores the tensions between memory and reality, identity and displacement. These dichotomies inform Pyszczek’s entire body of work, and are driven home by sculptures that dot the booth: playground structures deconstructed and twisted into abstract, absurdist forms.
Victoria Fu, Belle Captive I, 2013
Simon Preston, Booth OP 08
After her inclusion in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Fu’s transportive videos and installations have cropped up in museum and gallery exhibitions across the globe. For SP-Arte, Simon Preston presents a solo booth of the California-based artist’s work, which encompasses several of her most ambitious projects of the last five years. While the booth will debut a new and never-before-seen video, Untitled (2016), we have our eye on an edition of Belle Captive I, the very work that was projected onto the Whitney’s walls during the Biennial. The video, which spills across two screens, layers fragments of stock footage (women drinking water, children waving at the camera, lilies blossoming) over gauzy, pulsating gradients. The result is a mesmerizing, internet-age dreamscape, where advertisements and virtual identities mingle with escapism.
Thiago Rocha Pitta, The Green Mirage, 2016
Galeria Millan, Booth H 02
São Paulo-based artist Rocha Pitta—known for suspending the dynamism of natural forces in videos, sculptures, and even paintings—unveils a new, large-scale watercolor at the fair. In The Green Mirage, the artist captures the mind-bending effects of extreme desert heat. Here, the horizon line becomes the charged point of chemical reaction: Where the sandy foreground meets a cool blue sky, colors mix and bleed into one another, alluding to the phenomenal qualities of a mirage.
Humberto and Fernando Campana, Racket and Detonado Chair, 2014
Firma Casa, Booth DS 07
Firma Casa brings together a characteristically quirky group of the Campana Brothers’ recent works, the highlight being this eye-catching chair, which combines two of the designers-cum-artists’ ongoing series: “Racket,” pieces inspired by 19th-century chairs, and “Detonado,” elegant furniture cobbed together from patchwork wicker. This work continues the brothers’ exploration—and elevation—of everyday and discarded materials, always achieved with a refreshing dose of humor.
Ana Prata, Astrology Birth Chart, 2015
Galeria Millan, Booth H 02
Following solo exhibitions at nonprofits Kunsthalle São Paulo and La Maudite Paris in 2015, Prata’s work seems poised to enter the international stage—a prediction backed by her inclusion in the current three-person exhibition at London’s Pippy Houldsworth. This piece joins the ranks of Prata’s diverse group of paintings, which lift symbols and techniques from her painter-heroes (Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Sigmar Polke, and Francis Picabia, to name a few), then reconfigures them on her canvases. While the resulting compositions range in style, they host an encyclopedia of gestures that, while inspired by art history, have become distinctly Prata’s—small half moons that allude to the heavens, spindly palm trees that hint at paradise, and daubs of paint that stand in for movement and the passage of time.
Henri Chopin, Party. Men, 1975
Richard Saltoun, Booth SL 06
Chopin might be best remembered for swallowing a microphone to create his “poésie sonore” (French for “sound poetry”), which captured what the artist considered to be sound in its most pure, authentic state. An influential member of the French avant-garde in the 1950s and ’60s, Chopin also explored the elasticity of language in performances, paintings, films, and typewriter poems, a smattering of which are on view in Richard Saltoun’s SP-Arte booth. Here, Chopin used the era’s cutting-edge technology—the typewriter—to create an image from numbers, festooning it with the phrase “Party. Men” and, ominously, a found razorblade. Taking all of its parts together, the composition becomes an analogy for the malleability of language—words can be playful, powerful, even wounding.