Fernanda Brenner on São Paulo, Rio, and Pivô

Four years ago, São Paulo-based artist and curator Fernanda Brenner began the quest for the ideal art space—one that moved beyond the commercial spaces, galleries, and institutions in her city—and landed upon a space for sale inside the famous, sinuous Copan building by Oscar Niemeyer. Having investigated independent art spaces around the world, this 3,500-square meter space proved to be the perfect fit—and by 2012, Brenner founded Pivô, an independent platform dedicated to investigating the contemporary processes of artistic creation. On the occasion of ArtRioand with our sights set on Brazil, Artsy caught up with Brenner to learn more about Pivô and São Paulo’s unique position within the Brazilian art scene—and the relationship of the city to Rio de Janeiro, where she’ll travel for the international art fair.

Artsy: Can you tell us a little bit about Pivô and how (and by whom) the space was founded, as well as its unique location inside the Copan?

Fernanda Brenner: Pivô, a non-profit cultural association, is an independent platform dedicated to investigating contemporary processes of artistic experimentation. Its mission is to promote critical thinking on art, architecture, urban planning, and other contemporary art forms, by creating a dialogue between artists, producers, scholars, students, and the general public.

Artsy: How is São Paulo’s art scene representative of a larger Brazilian art (or cultural) scene? And, conversely, how is it unique from other Brazilian cities, namely Rio?

FB: São Paulo is the most established city in Brazil in cultural terms, it has a larger and more international art scene than the rest of the country, more galleries, museums, and cultural equipment in general. I guess the artists find more space to show their work and build connections here, but in my opinion there’s a need to exchange more with other states—a lot is going on in the northeast and the south of the country and still everything is very focused on the São Paulo-Rio axis. Rio has a great artist’s community, but is more local than São Paulo. A lot of important artists live there and in my opinion they have a vibrant art scene.

Artsy: Do you see Brazil as a country that is supportive of its artists and arts initiatives? If so, in what way? And what support is most lacking in Brazil for artists?

FB: There’s a few state grants and the Rouanet law, that allows companies and individuals to redirect their taxes to culture through a ministry of culture approval. This law helps but also creates an inner competition for funding between the cultural producers that I think is not healthy. In my opinion the public policies still have to develop a lot in order to be really supportive and I guess the only way is to strengthen the public-private partnerships. Pivô for example is a very specific situation; we are different from a gallery because it is not a commercial space, and it is not a museum or public space/program. As well, we don’t host a collection or have at this point any engagement with trustees or the government. This flexibility Pivô has as experimental space is what lacks in the art scene. Pivô is settled as hub for artists, a participatory environment that fosters innovation and critical thinking, with no entrance fee and much easier accessibility than traditional institutions. Our models were the European Kunsthalles and artist-run spaces in New York. In Brazil there aren’t many initiatives like those.

Artsy: Do you regularly travel to Rio? How would you best describe the relationship between Rio and São Paulo? And how do you think the art practices differ in Rio?

FB: Not as often is I would like! What I like about Rio is that the city as whole is a creative environment; people manage to do their own thing regardless of the very complex situation the city is going through. São Paulo is more about business and in Rio people are more connected to the city—they truly relate with the streets and the beach, very differently from São Paulo where everything is indoors. I guess São Paulo is where the market is and in Rio it seems like the artist community is more united.

Artsy: How do you feel that ArtRio has altered the landscape of arts in Brazil as a whole and/or the city of Rio? What similar initiatives are coming up in São Paulo?

FB: I haven't been following the direct impacts of the fair, but I guess an art fair is always good to set a panorama of what’s going on in the gallery scene. In my opinion an art fair should be treated as a professional environment and not as an exhibition space—a place for information exchange in a worldwide level and to build connections between galleries and collectors that wouldn’t meet outside the fair context. But a fair is about the market and I think it is important to discuss its impact on the local art scene beyond the commercial aspect. In São Paulo we have SP Arte that is a very strong art fair and also PARTE which is a smaller fair focused on less expansive work and emerging galleries.

Artsy: How do you think the art fair environment will change in Brazil, and elsewhere, if at all? And what are you most looking forward to at ArtRio?

FB: Well I would like ArtRio and fairs in general to focus more in the smaller and more curator-oriented international galleries, especially from Latin America. I’m looking forward to checking out the gallery Panorama in that sense and hopefully discover some interesting gallery that otherwise I might never get in contact with.

Artsy: What artists or gallery booths are you most looking forward to checking out at ArtRio or exhibitions taking place around ArtRio?

FB: I haven't looked through the exhibition schedule or the gallery list, but I often like Mendes Wood DM’s, A Gentil Carioca and Vermelho. I also want to visit the Casa Daros new space that I still didn’t get the chance to visit.

Artsy: What are your go-to haunts in Rio?

FB: I like some very traditional street bars and restaurants like Adega Pérola, Nova Capela, and O Braseiro da Gávea. Progetti Gallery has a very nice exhibition space at the central area and A Gentil Carioca too. Whenever I get the chance I like to escape to some further beach like Prainha or Grumari and also to visit Santa Teresa.

Artsy: Can you give us a few highlights from Pivô’s forthcoming fall and winter program?

FB: On September 21st, Rodolpho Parigi opens a solo show at Pivô, in a partnership with Nara Roesler gallery. On October 5th, we launch a new exhibition space—which was under considerable renovation—with a group show curated by Ricardo Sardenberg and a site-specific installation by Matheus Rocha Pitta. In November and December we are working on an benefit auction and a show called Brazil:Arbeit und Freundschaft conceived by the artist Pedro Caetano. The show itself is a project about how social relations interfere in the art community. You can find our full program on the website.

Fernanda Brenner’s Rio Recommendations: Adega Pérola Rua Siqueira Campos, 138 A, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro; Nova Capela Avenue Mem de Sá, 96, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro; O Braseiro da Gávea Praça Santos Dumont, 116 - Gávea, Rio de Janeiro, 22470-060, Brazil.

Fernanda Brenner works as an artist and as the director of Pivô, an independent art center at Copan building in São Paulo. As an artist, she has participated in a number of group shows such as “Concrete Mirrors” at the Crypt Gallery in London and “projeto Imóvel” at Copan Building in São Paulo. In 2010 she did her first solo show at Galeria do Bispo. As an illustrator, Fernanda has published her work at the supplement Ilustríssima of Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Vogue, Continuum and Capricho magazines, among others. In the film industry, Fernanda has worked in the art department of feature films, tv series and ads, including Blindness and the tv show Sling and Arrows, by Fernando Meirelles, and worked as a production designer at Tata Amaral’s Carnival of the Gods and Laerte's dress by Pedro Marques and Claudia Priscilla.

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