15 Artists to Watch at SP-Arte

  • Installation view of Alexandre Heberte’s work at SP-Arte, 2017. Photo by Mark Rosen.

    Installation view of Alexandre Heberte’s work at SP-Arte, 2017. Photo by Mark Rosen.

SP-Arte opened the doors to its 2017 edition on Wednesday in São Paulo. Now in its 12th year, the fair welcomes 159 galleries into the halls of Oscar Niemeyer’s iconic Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo. The fair has grown considerably in its number of international exhibitors, which is up to 44 this year, spanning galleries from Europe, Central and South America, the U.S., and Japan. The audience of fairgoers, which is 95% Brazilian, has also grown (from 6,000 in 2009 to 27,000 in 2016).

Exhibitors to a great degree catered to that audience, presenting choice works by historic and contemporary Brazilian artists, from modernist Alfredo Volpi, to the recently deceased Tunga, to Vik Muniz. The fair also represented the strong design history in the country, with 25 Brazilian design galleries exhibiting. More broadly, it placed greater emphasis on modern artists and the trajectory of contemporary art—a new curated sector, Repertório, is devoted to artists who have made integral contributions to contemporary art. Also notable this year is a curated exhibition of Japanese artists, in honor of the city’s new cultural center, the Japan House, which opens next month.

Ahead of the fair, SP-Arte director Fernanda Feitosa addressed the weight of the current economic crisis in Brazil. She said that while there is no good time for an art fair now, “we cannot live by expecting a good time or a better time.” In times of crisis, she said, galleries must tighten their business practices and tap into creativity in order to strengthen their programs.

“The art market is not immune to the ups and down of the economy, not in Brazil, not anywhere else,” Feitosa said, “but we have a different strength, we’re moved by passion, we are moved by a piece you really want to buy and these passions are not limited by prices.” This not to say that SP-Arte has been unaffected by the crisis. While the fair witnessed a decline in sales between the 2015 and 2016 editions, the director remains optimistic. “These are cycles, you have to be prepared.”

While blue-chip international galleries and Brazilian galleries primarily brought their most prominent and sought-after artists, there was a strong range in terms of medium. “The artistic language in Brazil is very broad,” Feitosa said, pointing to the country’s strong art-historical traditions in painting, photography, sculpture, Minimalism, concrete art, and abstraction. Exhibitors, attuned to this history, focused on these more traditional mediums rather than digital and video works.

While the fair was flush with mid-career and established Brazilian artists, there were still discoveries to be made. Below we share 15 artists who are producing innovative and thoughtful work, from Brazil and beyond.



Joanna Piotrowska

B. 1985, Warsaw • Lives and works in London

Madragoa • Solo Section, Booth SL11

  • Installation view of Joanna Piotrowska’s work at Madragoa’s booth at SP-Arte, 2017. Courtesy of Madragoa.

    Installation view of Joanna Piotrowska’s work at Madragoa’s booth at SP-Arte, 2017. Courtesy of Madragoa.

The Polish artist began a project last year in Lisbon (ahead of her show with Madragoa there), where she visited people in their homes and asked them to build shelters from their personal belongings. She then photographed the shelters with their creators, resulting in a series of somewhat dark though intriguing images of people confined (some appear trapped) within these structures. Drawing upon the childlike affinity for building forts, she chose to do this with adults, questioning how the act would change. As the photographs evidence, with adults, these makeshift structures become portraits of their creators—some sturdy and others precarious, some minimal and others elaborate—that reflect survival instincts and the basic need for shelter among impoverished peoples. Presented in brightly colored frames that might be found in a child’s room, and titled “Frantic,” the works are meant to surface the sensation of building these structures, from the excitement of a child to the anxieties of an adult. Piotrowska is currently continuing the project, now working with people living in Rio de Janeiro.



Andrea Rocco

B. 1977, São Paulo • Lives and works in São Paulo

Galeria Rabieh • Main Section,Booth J12

Rocco creates paintings and sculptures that include coy references to art history, infusing its principles and themes with her distinctly contemporary approach. At the fair she’s filled a wall with over 100 portraits—a diverse range of vibrant small canvases filled with joyous characters, all imagined, and created with various types of paints and materials, even an occasional dash of glitter. The works are part of a three-part research-driven project for which the artist is rethinking the historical frameworks of painting in art history: portraits, landscapes, and still lifes.



Matthew Lutz-Kinoy

B. 1984, New York • Lives and works in Los Angeles

Mendes Wood DM • Main Section, Booth H1

  • Installation view of Matthew Lutz-Kinoy’s work, courtesy of Mendes Wood DM.

    Installation view of Matthew Lutz-Kinoy’s work, courtesy of Mendes Wood DM.

Lutz-Kinoy makes playful ceramic sculptures and large-scale paintings that represent and respond to the human body. The New York-born, L.A.-based artist recently became represented by Mendes Wood DM, where he just closed a large solo show. While his practice spans painting, sculpture, installation, and performance, many of the works on view at SP-Arte, created during a three-month-long residency in São Paulo, were made using a traditional Japanese kiln and techniques. Tapping into the strong Japanese culture present in the city, his works are, as the gallery’s Magê Abàtayguara describes, “in dialogue with traditional ways of creating vases and masks.”



Alexandre Heberte

B. Juazeiro do Norte, Ceará • Lives and works in São Paulo

Projeto Melissa Meio-Fio • 2nd Floor

  • Installation view of Alexandre Heberte’s work at SP-Arte, 2017. Photo by Mark Rosen.

    Installation view of Alexandre Heberte’s work at SP-Arte, 2017. Photo by Mark Rosen.

Heberte was hard at work at his loom for the duration of the fair’s first day, weaving enticing new textiles as part of his ongoing Tramo São Paulo project, which surrounded him like dozens of narrow curtains. The São Paulo-based artisan and weaver is a current student at Faculdade Paulista de Artes, and for this project, he researched the various regions of São Paulo where he has traveled. He spoke with people and culled together objects, ultimately choosing 33 regions to create a long woven panel to represent each one. Heberte uses brightly colored yarns as well as plastic, synthetic textiles—he even weaves objects, like watches, into his works. Drawn to weaving for its use throughout disparate time periods, he highlights its historic traditions and the medium’s ability to connect various groups of people.



Bel Barcellos

B. 1966, Boston • Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro

Gabinete de Arte k²o • Main Section, Booth A4

This Rio de Janeiro-based artist focuses entirely on embroidery, creating fine figurative scenes that she sews directly into the canvas. Last year, several of the artist’s works were acquired by esteemed collections, including that of Ella Fontanals-Cisneros and the Museu de Arte do Rio. For a past series, Barcellos was inspired by the Neo-Concrete movement, particularly the works of Lygia Pape, and created compositions where the figure appeared amid blocks of embroidery. More recent works have pictured couples and explored relationships; her latest series, titled “Enigma,” comprises somewhat surrealistic scenes of couples floating above or below blue embroidered waves.



Ana Elisa Egreja

B. 1983, São Paulo • Lives and works in São Paulo

Galeria Leme • Main Section, Booth F7

  • Ana Elisa Egreja, Escada galinhas, 2016. Courtesy of Galeria Leme.

    Ana Elisa Egreja, Escada galinhas, 2016. Courtesy of Galeria Leme.

  • Ana Elisa Egreja, Banheiro rosa com polvos, 2017. Courtesy of Galeria Leme.

    Ana Elisa Egreja, Banheiro rosa com polvos, 2017. Courtesy of Galeria Leme.

Currently featured at Leme’s gallery space, Egreja is known for her realist paintings, and emerged among a group of likeminded painters, which formed in 2008. She creates large oil paintings that illustrate not only her deft abilities with paint, but also a thoughtful focus on interiors. The large-scale painting at the fair, picturing a kitchen with yellow cabinets and windows that look out on an idyllic vista, is part of the series featured in her current show, which documents her grandmother’s home. Egreja made the house into her studio, but it will soon be torn down. Ahead of this fate, she rented various types of animals and set them loose in rooms of the house, then photographed the bizarre scenes and painted them. The resulting images see octopi slithering across the bathroom, chickens perched on the stairs, and yellow birds flitting through a room she had covered in graffiti—among others.



Gabriel Abrantes

B. 1984, North Carolina • Lives and works in Lisbon

Galeria Francisco Fino • Solo Section, Booth SL5

Following debuts of new works at the Venice Biennale, Berlinale, and the Locarno International Film Festival, the young American artist and filmmaker is building strong momentum. He’s becoming known for his sharp, well-produced videos—he writes, films, produces, and occasionally acts in them—which tackle historical narratives, politics, psychology, and social issues like gender and sex. At SP-Arte, Francisco Fino shows a video commission titled A Brief History of Princess X (2016), which Fino described as a “pseudo-documentary” meant to “cross video art and cinema.” The work is a tongue-in-cheek narrative based on the true story of Brancusi creating a distinctly phallic, and thus controversial, sculpture for Marie Bonaparte. It humorously delves into eroticism, female sexuality, and psychoanalysis, and imagines how these ideas played out during a notable chapter of modern art. An edition of five, the first edition was already sold to a museum, and the second was on offer for €11,000.



Pier Stockholm

B. 1977, Lima, Peru • Lives and works in Paris

Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer • Solo Section, Booth SL10

Stockholm is inspired by elements of architecture, the Age of Exploration, mountain-climbing, and the passage of time. At SP-Arte he presents a series of new sculptures, priced on the range of €3,200–€4,500, made from concrete and the blue foam commonly used to create architecture models. He calls these intimate sized works “civilizations.” Stockholm also shows a large, finely detailed drawing (priced at €9,000) and works on paper and collages (priced between €1,400–€3,500), which also include blue foam, though focus on photographs of the peak of Mount Everest—a recurring image in his work, as a symbol of a goal that is at once horizontal and vertical.



Marina Weffort

B. 1978, São Paulo • Lives and works in São Paulo

Galeria Marília Razuk • Main Section, Booth J7

  • Work by Marina Weffort. Photo courtesy of Galerie Marília Razuk.

    Work by Marina Weffort. Photo courtesy of Galerie Marília Razuk.

Among Weffort’s elegant textiles on view at the fair, certain works appear to comment on Brazil’s rich history of geometric abstraction, taking shape as monochromatic grids that embrace lightness and levity. Other works depart from squares and rectangles, utilizing the flexibility and movement of the diaphanous fabrics she employs. Weffort creates these works through a time-consuming process of cutting into swathes of fabric and pulling threads out one by one, to develop patterns and textures. Some works appear as taut rectangles, stretched in frames or attached to pins, while others hang loosely, allowing for the threads to drape and form dynamic shapes. The works are also kinetic—the fine threads softly sway with even the gentlest wind.



Dan Coopey

B. 1981 • Lives and works in London

Kubikgallery • Main Section, Booth F16

Ahead of his April solo show with Kubikgallery, which just recently began representing him, the London-based Goldsmiths grad is being exhibited in São Paulo for the first time at the fair. The artist is showing fine rattan sculptures that are suspended from the ceiling or mounted on a booth wall. Woven painstakingly by hand from fine strands of palm, the rounded, undulating forms are inspired by indigenous craft traditions and display a reverence for natural resources. Coopey leaves some works in their natural beige tone, while he dyes others with watercolors, rendering them in a pale rainbow of color that adds a hint of the contemporary to a medium that is often considered craft. Coopey began creating these works during a recent residency in São Paulo at Pivô, which is where the gallery first encountered his work.



Lucas Bambozzi

B. 1965, São Paulo • Lives and works in São Paulo

Galeria Emma Thomas • Solo Section, Booth SL13

Bambozzi’s work addresses our smart-phone obsessed society. He focuses on the manufacturing cycle of phones, highlighting the disconnect between the desire to innovate and the wasted materials that come with that innovation. The new series at the fair, “Último sussurro” (“Last whisper”), includes a pile of hundreds of old phones and discarded malfunctioning parts; some flicker with videos, representing the short lifespan of a cell phone. In past works he’s captured the exploitative labor practices in the Congo that occur in order to mine the minerals needed for cell phones; and he even created a machine to crush discarded cell phones, in order to separate the parts and make them easier to recycle. In Brazil, phones must be sent abroad to be recycled due to lack of infrastructure; for his large installation of old phones and parts at SP-Arte, Bambozzi sourced broken phone parts from a local store that fixes phones, with a promise to ensure that the parts are recycled if the work is not sold.



Celina Portella

B. 1977, Rio de Janeiro • Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro

Galeria Inox Arte Contemporânea • Showcase Section, Booth SC2

  • Celina Portella. Courtesy of Galeria Inox Arte Contemporanea.

    Celina Portella. Courtesy of Galeria Inox Arte Contemporanea.

A former dancer, Portella creates photographic works that include images of herself or parts of her body, which are placed in custom frames and often attached to mechanisms to emphasize strength, agility, and movement. “You see the relationship between the body, dance, and history,” says gallery director Guilherme Carneiro. Works on view at the fair include framed images of the artist grasping a rope, from which an actual rope extends that is attached to a pulley system.



Ivan Grilo

B. 1986, Itatiba, Brazil • Lives and works in Itatiba

Casa Triângulo • Main Section, Booth H5

The young artist’s research-driven practice has for several years drawn the attention of Brazilian institutions, several of which, like Museu de Arte de São Paulo, have acquired his works. Grilo often addresses issues of immigration in Brazil through his works, which take shape as conceptual installations that combine found objects, texts, and images. The works on view at SP-Arte touch upon issues of inequality in Brazil. One work, Delírio Tropical #1 (Não existe pecado do lado de baixo do equador) (2017), documents the coast of Maranhão, Brazil, where the tides are so varied that the ocean recedes eight meters over the course of six hours. The work mirrors the gap in the distribution of wealth in Brazil, where in the same place, there can be people flush with wealth, and others in poverty. Another work, Delírio Tropical #2 (Ainda há chão) (2017),is a reflection of the subtropical region. It pairs two images of jubilant people in saturated colors with a glass of cheap liquor, responding to a study that found that the region is home to great poverty.



Rodrigo Torres

B. 1981, Rio de Janeiro • Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro

SIM Galeria • Main Section, Booth J8

Though Torres has long been been creating cut-paper collage works—intricate, fantastical scenes created using currency—over the past two years he’s also begun to work with ceramics. On view at the fair are two vessel-like sculptures that draw on the history of Chinese porcelain, but rather than the pristine, decorative vases found throughout China, his works appear to be packaging for them. Beginning with real Chinese vessels, Torres creates clay forms that wrap around them, and paints them with acrylic to mimic the textures and materiality of cardboard and masking tape. Remarkably realistic, the works cleverly question porcelain traditions and the value of ceramics.



Alberto Simon

B. 1961, São Paulo • Lives and works in São Paulo

Luciana Brito Galeria • Main Section, Booth G6

  • Alberto Simon, Untitled, 2017, mineral pigment on cotton canvas, 138 x 190 cm. On view at Lucianabrito Galeria at SP-Arte, 2017. Courtesy of SP-Arte.

    Alberto Simon, Untitled, 2017, mineral pigment on cotton canvas, 138 x 190 cm. On view at Lucianabrito Galeria at SP-Arte, 2017. Courtesy of SP-Arte.

Simon is showing with Luciana Brito for the first time at the fair, ahead of his inclusion in a group show at the gallery this summer. He presents a work from a new series of digital paintings printed on canvas, for which he simulates layers of brush strokes and daubs of paint, and intersperses them with digital, graphic motifs. While this painterly approach is new, the artist estimates he’s been working with the idea of “faking the medium” for some two decades. The work, Untitled (2017), is on offer for R$60,000 (approximately $19,000) and is one of the few digital works at the fair. “Digital hasn’t set foot in Brazil yet,” Simon said, which he suggested is due to conservative tastes. “People are not used to it, but if it’s on canvas it’s more acceptable.”


—Casey Lesser