10 Contemporary Brazilian Artists You Should Know

Artsy Editorial
Aug 31, 2013 4:05PM

“The really magical things are the ones that happen right in front of you. A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it is already there. And if you look with a bit more intention, you see it.”

      —Vik Muniz

Although Brazil has more than its fair share of talented painters and influential photographers, a dominant trend in the nation’s booming contemporary art scene is the notion of site-specificity. Indeed, Brazil is a very particular place, ripe with material and inspiration for artistic experimentation—and Muniz and these nine compatriots are the proof.

Carlito Carvalhosa

Precaução de contato, 2014
Galeria Nara Roesler
Já estava assim quando eu cheguei (pão de açúcar), 2006
Galeria Nara Roesler

A celebrated Brazilian conceptual artist, Carvalhosa uses diverse mediums and found objects to transform architectural space. His best-known piece is probably Sum of Days (2011), a monumental site-specific installation of white translucent material and recorded ambient noise he installed in MoMA’s atrium.

Saint Clair Cemin

Star, 2011
Bolsa de Arte de Porto Alegre

Ranging from figurative to abstract, Corten steel to rugged marble, Cemin’s sculptures reference a wide range of artists and cultures; indeed, though Brazilian-born, the sculptor now lives and works in Brooklyn and Beijing.

Sandra Cinto 

In her intricately detailed drawings, paintings, and installations, Cinto presents mesmerizing, engulfing images of the sea, sky, and natural elements as visual metaphors for the Odyssey of life. (Take a look at her transformation of the Seattle Art Museum here.)

Cildo Meireles 

Meireles creates massive, immersive installations that encourage interaction and reflect political concerns. His sprawling works incorporate found objects, like the bones, coins, and communion wafers seen here, or the bottles of his infamous Coca Cola Project in the Tate collection.

Iran do Espírito Santo 

Dropping Bottles - Sequence, 2014
Ingleby Gallery
Can G, 2008
Sean Kelly Gallery

Santo is known for sculptures in which everyday objects—such as dice, light bulbs, tin cans, and mirrors—are abstracted into simplified, minimalist geometric forms. Many of his works are included in MoMA’s permanent collection.

Cao Guimarães

Gambiarra # 109 , 2012
Galeria Nara Roesler
untitled from the series Úmido (Moist), 2013
Galeria Nara Roesler

Working across mediums, Guimarães evocatively captures everyday events and quiet actions in urban and rural settings throughout Brazil. He is well known for his gambiarras (loosely translating as “improvisations”)—subtle interventions he enacts on found objects and then documents in poetic, disquieting photographs.

Lucia Koch

Dupla {CZ1405 + AB1107}, 2014
Galeria Nara Roesler

Whether adding light filters and translucent materials, altering skylights and facades, or pasting images of three-dimensional spaces to walls, Koch centers her practice on transforming architectural spaces. Her acts are meant to create tension between interior and exterior, ultimately challenging the limits of particular spaces.

Ernesto Neto

Geometria espiralada da flor e seu cipó, 2014
Galería Elba Benítez

One of Brazil’s most influential installation artists, Neto creates large-scale, sensuous environments that evoke bodily experience, often working with a stretchy, stocking-like fabric in vibrant colors, which he fills with aromatic, organic, or tactile materials. “Sex is like a snake; it slithers through everything,” he says of his work.


Untitled, from the series Cooking Cristals, 2011
Bergamin & Gomide

José de Barros Carvalho e Mello, a.k.a. Tunga, makes site-specific installations that transform galleries into dreamlike environments using an array of materials, including plastic, thread, and repurposed objects. His extensive influence can be seen reverberating throughout Brazilian contemporary art.

Vik Muniz

Born into poverty in São Paulo and rising to be Brazil’s most famous artist internationally, Muniz repurposes everyday materials for intricate and heavily layered appropriations of canonical artworks. Among his many works, Muniz has re-created Warhol in diamonds, da Vinci in peanut butter and jelly, and large-scale Neoclassical masterpieces from trash in Brazil’s largest landfill.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019