An exhibition to tell us and show how Brasilia was born | Antenna 1

The decision to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília was one of the most famous episodes in the history of urbanism, architecture and the arts in general in the 20th century. More than a thousand kilometers from the sea, Brasília took shape in the second half of the 1950s and was inaugurated on April 21, 1960 by Juscelino Kubitschek, the president who commanded the country’s destiny between 1956 and 1961. Renowned figures such as Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer are just a few among the protagonists of a story that is now being told in the exhibition Brasília – From Utopia to the Capital, which, created to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian capital, then began to travel the world, having symbolically arrived in Portugal in the year in which the bicentennial of Brazil’s independence was celebrated. On display in an annexe at the Museu Nacional dos Coches, in Lisbon, until February 28, with the next stage, starting in May, at the Pernambuco Institute in Porto, the exhibition is free to access and brings together images and objects that not only highlight the urban dimension and of this feat as well as the “candangos”, that is, those who built its streets and buildings.

The exhibition, curated by Danielle Athayde (author of a master’s thesis on this subject), presents around 300 works of art and documents, among which we find models of buildings (such as the palaces of Planalto and Alvorada), a photographic model of the urban plan, sculptures by Maria Martins, Bruno Giorgi and Alfredo Ceschiatti and photographs signed by Marcel Gautherot, Peter Scheier, Jean Manzon and Mário Fontenelle. This set of pieces comes from several Brazilian collections, including the Instituto Moreira Salles, the Public Archive of the Federal District and the Brasília Collection. This last collection was put together by the couple Izolete and Domício Pereira, who arrived in the new capital even before its official inauguration, which covers five decades of the history of Brazilian art.

The idea of ​​building a capital in that region has to do, as the exhibition curator explains to Antena 1, it has to do with “the economic development of the interior of Brazil”, so much so that, later on, other cities in regions equally remote from the coast knew signs of evolution. “That was the beginning of everything,” she explains. Brasília, in particular, became “iconic” because some “masters of architecture, urbanism and the arts” were called upon to create it. Danielle Athayde tells that Juscelino Kubitschek, during the 1955 election campaign, guaranteed that, if he were elected, Brasília (for which there were already first studies and surveys), would get off the ground. And so it was. Former governor of Minas Gerais, Juscelino Kubitschek “was a visionary man” and “already knew Oscar Niemeyer”. He then made him “an invitation to create the main palaces of the city and it was Niemeyer who then suggested to the president the idea of ​​holding a competition to choose an urban project”. From the many applications, the winner, Lúcio Costa, “with his pilot project for Brasília, very simple, but which is really iconic and never seen before”, describes the exhibition curator.

And anyone who has since walked through the center of Brasília, in particular the Esplanada dos Ministérios, Praça dos Três Poderes and the Palácio da Alvorada, ended up visiting milestones in the history of art in Brazil. The city, underlines Danielle Athayde, is known for being “an open-air museum” and says that Juscelino Kubitschek and Oscar Niemeyer launched invitations to “Brazilian artists who stood out in modernism”. Alfredo Ceschiatti (sculptor of the angels of the Cathedral), the sculptor Victor Brecheret, Bruno Giorgi (author of The Warriorsfamous representation of the candangos) or Marianne Peretti (author of the stained glass windows in the Metropolitan Cathedral) are some of the examples that the curator points out, referring to them as “artists who have a very symbolic work in the city”.

It was inevitable to confront the curator of this exhibition on Brasilia with the scenes of vandalism that took place there on January 8, 2023. “We are in a state of shock”, he replied. And she adds: “what happened was a murder, it was an extermination of the Brazilian arts”, concluding that “it is impossible to imagine that one day this could happen in the capital of Brazil”.

Text by Nuno Galopim

You can listen here to the complete interview with Danielle Athayde, curator of Brasília – From Utopia to Reality.

The exhibition is currently on display at the Museu Nacional dos Coches, open from Tuesday to Sunday – from 10am to 6pm (last entry at 5.30pm). Closed at lunchtime, from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

The catalog, in PDF format, is offered on the museum’s website.

Leave a Comment