Nara Roesler: The Brazilian Art Pioneer Who Became a Leader in Contemporary Art

Few gallerists can say they’ve been at the helm of the business for over 35 years, and even fewer can say that the curatorial practices they uphold today are the same ones they employed decades earlier. Nara Roesler, something of a Brazilian art institution, is one of those few, and she has a roster of top-notch artists to prove it.

Though she founded her eponymous, São Paulo gallery in 1989, she figured as a prominent dealer in Brazil’s art scene for at least a decade before, beginning with a gallery in Recife in 1980. Aside from being a champion of major Brazilian artists who emerged in the 1960s—Helio Oiticica, Abraham Palatnik, and Antonio Dias among them—at an early stage in her career, Roesler looked to make connections between emerging and established artists, locally and internationally. She explains “I sought to connect two ‘Brazils’: I represented José Claudio, a local artist, but I did exhibitions with others like Iberê Camargo, Siron Franco, and Sérvulo Esmeraldo. So joining the established to the emerging names, local artists to those of great projection, has always been one of my signatures.” 

Describing her role as a gallerist as “a mediator who seeks to expand the possibilities of geographical, thematic, aesthetic, and cultural connections that art is capable of producing (and translating),” Roesler strives for big-picture goals of disseminating art and increasing its accessibility at the forefront. At the same time, she has always nurtured her artists, facilitating conditions and ensuring they are able to “evolve and gain prominence in Brazil and the world, and share this universe with the public.” These practices have served her well, which was evident in 2012, a landmark year for Galeria Nara Roesler between doubling its exhibition space, re-launching Hotel Roesler—a cutting-edge curatorial project—and welcoming two top-tier contemporary artists: Vik Muniz and Isaac Julien. In advance of SP-Arte 2014, and fresh off the heels of an impressive Armory Show presentation, we caught up with Roesler to hear what she has in store for SP-Arte, her city’s premier art fair.

On her SP-Arte presentation:

“At our booth at SP-Arte, we seek to unite the freshest works our artists have produced with their historical works, always thinking about the intersections among their older works and in relation to the art scene, as we do in the gallery. Several seminal artists that we represent exist in a dialogue with artists that emerged later. An example is Paulo Bruscky, an important figure from the 1960 up to today for his experimentation with new media, postcard art, and political art in various contexts. Alongside Milton Machado, another artist from this period, Bruscky paved the way for the poetic works of Marcos Chaves and Alice Miceli, for example.

A few booth highlights include:

Vik MunizSandcastle # 1 (Château de Chambord), 2013

Vik Muniz’s work Sandcastle # 1 (Château de Chambord), from last year, is included in the selection. In the work, he presents a photograph taken of a drawing of a French castle on a tiny grain of sand. It was a work that Vik developed jointly with MIT researcher Marcelo Coelho, who had to invent a way to draw on such a microscopic element. With this piece, Muniz returns to working with the sense of scale, but in a radically opposite way to his series of “Earthworks,” which featured drawings in macro dimensions created by direct excavations in soil, which he then captured in aerial photographs. In Sandcastle, the extreme miniaturization suggests the delicacy of a universe that can exist even beyond the range of vision. Vik’s role is precisely the bridge between this invisible universe and the human eye.”


Julio Le Parc, Continuel Mobile, 1962-1966

Continuel Mobile, one of a series works created by Julio Le Parc in the 1960s, causes a great visual impact through its composition—various acrylic plates suspended by wires—that combines three-dimensionality with the lightness of translucent materials, flirting with immateriality.”


Antonio DiasAir destroying gorgeous monument / Sun Photo's Self-Portrait, 1990/1991

“The production of Antonio Dias is also contemplated within the diptych Air destroying gorgeous monument / Sun Photo's Self-Portrait, produced in the early 1990s, in which sheets of copper and gold are printed on top of graphite sedimentation. The artist’s ongoing pictorial investigation culminates in works on display at Galeria Nara Roesler between April 1st and May 6th.”


Virginia de MedeirosJardim das Torturas, 2013

Jardim das Torturas  (Garden of Tortures) is a series of photos and video that Virginia de Medeiros displays in the Solo project section of SP-Arte, curated by Rodrigo Moura (Inhotim).”

What’s next for Galeria Nara Roesler?

“This year, we will expand activities, with the opening of our gallery in Rio de Janeiro scheduled for May. Beyond this, we continue our activities at art fairs around the world such as SP-Arte, exhibitions of our program, and the shows “Roesler Hotel”, inviting international curators to create accounts about issues in art today. This is our way of continuing to create the best conditions for our artists to produce and exhibit their work, in addition to drawing in viewers.”


Galeria Nara Roesler, SP-Arte, São Paulo, Booth H01, Apr. 3rd–6th, 2014.

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