Collecting Art in Brazil

April 1, 2014

Known for favelas and the expansion of residential towers and office buildings, Sao Paulo hides a rich artistic and cultural life within its seemingly grey perimeter. The art market has been expanding quickly over the past decade and today artists can actually live on their work, as collectors multiply along with galleries.

The art market evolution

Since 2000 the Brazilian art market dynamics increased, as more than two-thirds of art galleries founded after this date. And further, a quarter of art galleries was established recently, after 2010, according to the Latitude Project study. This fact has enabled the growing number of real art collectors, which shows in gallery sales growth of 22,5% in 2012. About 71% of artwork sold in Brazil in 2012 was purchased by private Brazilian art collectors, while only 11,5% went to foreign collectors. Corporate collections in Brazil acquired 6% and Brazilian institutions only 4,25% of the works. Along with the enthusiasm of the buyers, growing are the market prices as well, indicated in a 15% increase in 2012. This is the new trend, since in the 70s and 80s Brazil was largely culturally secluded from the rest of the art world and artists could not live on their work, not even the ones who are today perceived as major representatives of Brazilian modern and contemporary art.

Brazilian Art Collectors
João Loureiro - Blue jeans

The evident change commenced in the middle of the 90s, as the economy of the country started gaining strength. But the gallery world was greatly underdeveloped in terms of quantity, so it was difficult to place works on the market. The situation changed today for the gallerists and collectors alike, to their mutual pleasure. As the population of Brazil is still young culturally, collectors who come from families with collecting traditions are scarce. There are prominent figures in collecting who had to develop their affinities towards art in the adult age.

Although the Brazilian art market is developing rapidly and fiercely, high import and export taxes still put a tangible obstacle to expanding collections with foreign artwork, while Brazilian official art institutions and museums acquire new pieces rather anemically, not giving enough opportunities to contemporary artists to promote their work.

Some of the most important Brazilian collectors today are Regina Pinho de Almeida, José Marton, and Camilla and Eduardo Barella.

Brazilian Art Collectors
Mira Schnedel at Tate London

The corporate collectors

On the other hand, corporations are given tax incentives if they decide to invest in and support the arts. One of the most prominent corporate collectors in Brazil today is the Itau Unibanco, adorning the offices of its headquarters with series of contemporary artwork, which was instigated by the merge of long time rival banks Itau and Unibanco, and thus the two most known families the Setubal and the Salles, who have been great patrons of the arts for decades. The bank today owns a collection of twelve thousand of art pieces, partly showcased in the headquarters office building.

It is not unusual for a bank to own a collection, but another magnate wishes to include art into a shopping mall empire. The CEO of Iguatemi group, Carlos Jereissati Filho would like to merge the architectural quality of malls with contemporary art, elevating the luxury and conceptual valor of these consumerist temples. One of his most daring projects contains a significant collection of contemporary Southern American art.

Slider images: Lygia Clark, Tatiana Blass.