ArtRio Director Brenda Valansi on Brazil as the Art World’s Hotspot

Set in the refurbished landmark Pier Mauá with breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay, ArtRio reflects the growing presence of contemporary art in Brazil—one it strives to cultivate not just during fair week, but throughout the entire year. Just in time for the opening of the fair, now in its third iteration and accessible online exclusively on Artsy, we spoke with Brenda Valansi, the co-creator, producer, and director of ArtRio. In our chat, Valansi speaks of ArtRio as an international platform for a growing Brazilian visual art scene, combining big-name institutions with younger galleries and experimental curatorial projects, and expounds on the way collecting art has become a form of communication in a globalized era. In addition to sharing which artists we should keep our eyes on, she tips us off to local hot spots—off-the-map boutique hotels, “unpretentious art hubs” for dancing, and bars for draft beers she promises to be very carioca (the Portuguese descriptor for Rio-natives).

Artsy: Art Rio has been labeled a watershed moment for the Brazilian visual art scene. What role does the fair play in the growing presence of contemporary art in Brazil?

Brenda Valansi: Our goal is to disseminate art and culture throughout Rio and Brazil not only during a week but through the whole year. The success the fair achieved in such little time is proof of how Brazilian people are willing to emerge in the art scene. ArtRio has become an international platform to absorb and spread art and provide freshness and innovation to Brazilian galleries, institutions, and collectors.

Another important mission is to stimulate people who are not necessarily engaged with the art scene, taking out this intimidating atmosphere from these venues. Breaking this idea also helps the galleries to stimulate their experimental curatorial side.

Even if the fair has a strong commercial side which is important, we are offering to all visitors a unique chance to experience the best of what has been produced in Brazil and abroad lately. Together with our Selection Committee that participates heavily in the curatorial identity of the fair, ArtRio will gather a concise and respectful body of galleries that are, in different ways, related to what the Brazilian market is aiming for.

Artsy: The slogan of last year’s fair was “Rio is Art. All the time. Everywhere.” How does ArtRio work to establish daily interaction with art?

BV: ArtRio has various projects apart from the fair that are somehow connected to it. We organize conferences around Brazil to unite people who are interested in understanding how to build a coherent collection. We also have a social program that once a month takes underprivileged children to museums. In addition, we work closely to Rio’s institutions such as MAM [Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro], that in this edition will anchor monumental works surrounding their gardens designed by Burle Marx, and MAR [Art Museum of Rio], that will host a benefit gala dinner in partnership with ArtRio to raise funds for its collection.

Artsy: Brazil has seen substantial cultural and economic growth and a rise of the middle class—who seem to gravitate toward collecting art. Can you talk about this wave of new collectors, and how ArtRio might be suited to their needs?

BV: Indeed, we saw a significant increase of new collectors these past years. The economic growth was undoubtedly one of the factors for the emergent countries to gain more attention worldwide, and consequently our institutions are now taken seriously by the art scene opinion-makers.

Collecting art has become a way to communicate in this post global era. It is much more a way of bringing people together and supporting the community who share a common interest than to segregate cliques. We always work with the distinguished profile of our collectors, “collectors-to-be”,  and visitors in mind, and it is essential to give them an ample panorama of today’s art circuit. This is the reason for ArtRio to have several different types of galleries. International big players like Gagosian, White Cube, and David Zwirner, opinion leaders like Massimo de Carlo, Luisa Strina, and Silvia Cintra, and young hip galleries like La Central, Athena Contemporânea, and PSM.

Artsy: Can you explain the different sections of ArtRio (Panorama, Box, Solo Projects) and any highlights we should look forward to in your program?

BV: PANORAMA is aimed towards established galleries. VISTA is dedicated to young galleries featuring experimental curatorial projects. SOLO is once again curated by Julieta Gonzalez (of Museo Tamayo) and Pablo León de la Barra (of the Guggenheim, New York), this year inspired by sociologist Sergio Buarque de Holanda and anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. LUPA, launching this year, with monumental and large-scale works, promises to be one of 2013’s highlights.

Another special feature this year is the workshop by EAV Parque Lage school that will teach people, on site, how to produce different types of prints with very known artists.

Artsy: Which Brazilian artists should we keep our eye on?

BV: Lucia Laguna, Gustavo Speridião, and Amalia Giacomini

Artsy: With one weekend in Rio, what locals spots could you suggest for a visitor?

BV: For accommodation I recommend the new boutique hotel Casa Mosquito. It’s hidden in an amazing location, and very cozy. To have a very carioca [authentic] draft beer, you should go to Bracarense or Jobi, both in Leblon, or to Bar do Mineiro in Santa Teresa. My favourite restaurants are Albamar, Gero, and Celeiro. Casa França Brasil and Paço Imperial are both spectacular venues and the most recent, MAR and Daros, are a must see. For dancing I suggest this new place called Cave or the unpretentious art hub called Comuna.

Artsy: What are you most excited to see at this year’s fair?

BV: Our new monumental and large-scale project that will take place in the annex 4 of Pier Mauá called LUPA, curated by Abaseh Mirvali. Already confirmed are works by James Turrell, Fred Sandback, and Julio Le Parc.

Brenda’s Rio Recommendations: Casa Mosquito Rua Saint Roman, 222, Ipanema; Bracarense Rua José Linhares 85, Leblon; Jobi Rua Ataulfo de Paiva 1166, Leblon; Bar do Mineiro Rua Pascoal Carlos Magno 99, Santa Teresa; Albamar Praça Mal. Âncora, 186 - Centro; Gero Rua Anibal de Mendonca 157, Ipanema; Celeiro Rua Dias Ferreira, 199, Leblon; Casa França Brasil Rua Visconde de Itaborai, 78; Paço Imperial Praca 15 de Novembro 48; Comuna Rua Sorocaba, 585 - Botafogo.

Brenda Valansi’s story with Visual Arts begins in 2003, when she lived in New York. She studied at the School of Visual Arts of the Lage Park and at Rio de Janeiro’s Catholic University (Puc-Rio), where she took Art History. Brenda Valansi is one of the founders of CRANIO, an innovating place for arts and culture, where she’s promoted lectures, debates, courses, and exhibits. As a visual artist, she held solo exhibitions and participated in collective ones in Brazil and abroad. Portrait by Sergio Greif.

ArtRio is on view at Pier Mauá, Avenue Rodrigues Alves, 10, Praca Mauá - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 5th through 8th, 2013.

Explore ArtRio on Artsy.