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September 20, 2012 / the s.a. project

ArtRio 2012: some chatter and a photo-tour

ArtRio 2012 – Pier Mauá, Rio de Janeiro.

Photos taken from my tiny pink camera and then from my cell phone when the camera battery died. The big Nikon camera was left home this time. I noted down a lot of names but have lost/forgotten many of them. It was just too much to absorb. The 6 hours of walking and the long commute to and back was so worth it. Met great people, artists and gallerists. Some of the work was great, some was crap. Some loud, some silent. Although as a fair ArtRio is very commercial, yet it did seem to have a more arty-vibe than that of Art Dubai (the only other ArtFair I’ve personally attended, not counting ArtRio 2011). Probably got to do with the kind of people who came and also the location.


Spread across 80,730 square feet and four warehouses, the exhibition space housed 120 galleries – and my challenge to ‘do the fair’ in one day seemed like a pretty ludicrous idea. Post-fairwatching, my brain was tripping on colours, and my feet screaming to be let out my boots (which I had donned on for my art-vulture look). However, a fresh fruit cheesecake and a hotdog sustained me through my ambitious challenge and I managed to cram in as much as was physically possible. The entry ticket was priced like last year at R$ 30 (that’s approximately $15), which made the R$80 Fair Catalogue price very unreasonable. So I didn’t buy it.

Making my through – I got to see some great work from Brazilian masters, especially Modernist artists. I just love the texture and colour tones of the paintings made in the 70’s. It’s a large generalization to be sure, but hard to explain in any other way. But considering that half the galleries were Brazilian, I did get to see a lot of exciting local work – old as well as contemporary. My new favourite happens to be Vik Muniz – a New york based brazilian artist (a definition I wouldn’t mind attaching to my name!)

There were many big international contemporary ‘stars’ part of the fair, of course. I had many celebrity-awe moments – Picasso, Botero, Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Calder, Man Ray, Christo, On Kawara, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Kara Walker, Murakami, Nan Goldin, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Henry Moore...the list goes on.  And the largest, fanciest booth happened to be of a NY based gallery. They have the artists and they have the money. But as usual, it was the small galleries that intrigued me with their displays.

I also got to meet a kooky local artist Franklin Cassaro, who’s solo show my sister and I attended about a month ago at Laura Alvim gallery in Ipanema. We fell in love with him. He twists silver foil and paper endlessly to make organic lifeforms. One of his wind and silver foil installation at the solo show had me mesmerized for quite a long time. I said hello, and shamelessly snuck in my website. (← Just like I did here too!)

The large sculpture warehouse at the end housed some very interesting pieces from the Gagosian collection that I had never seen before – for instance the Roy Liechtenstein sculptures. Nearly all the dramatically lit works were awe-inspiring, but I just seemed to have come at a wrong time. I tried admiring the Henry Moore bronze but a lady was hell-bent on posing next to it in one of her ‘vacation shots’. Then there were the American minders – sharks in black suits – that protected the artworks. The blond yelled and yelled and yelled at everyone to stay away from the works, and complained loudly in english about the local people. For some reason I seemed to have overheard my fair share of Americans speaking their thoughts out aloud in english, because they naturally assume that those around them won’t understand. Given, most Brazilians don’t speak English. But I do and my experience was constantly getting dumped in dirty laundry water with her commentary. Another thing that left an impression – the Damien Hirst piece ‘Moments of Weakness’:  a glass cabinet with rows upon rows of sparkling manufactured diamonds – seemed loud, ostentatious. Maybe even vulgar. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I did. Nothing less from the master of bling, I suppose. The ladies, though, were stuck to it like his morbid butterflies on sugar-water piece.

What intrigued me about the fair the MOST was how I could relate, connect and contrast so many of the works with artworks of Pakistani artists. Sometimes it was the same channel of thought, sometimes it was strikingly the similar use of a medium, and sometimes it was the same imagery even. It just goes to show the universality of the language of art and the symbols we have come to associate with our existence over time. Back home I know people would quick to point out foul play and copycats, but I don’t agree. Sometimes, you just have a doppelgänger artist version of yourself out there. 

There was much I saw and I wish to share and I could go on and on endlessly. But I’ll let you enjoy the photographs instead. Next stop…Bienal São Paulo! (Now to book a cheap flight….)

Click the photo below to be taken to the Public photo album on Facebook ↓

‘Love is what you want’ – Tracey Emin

Or click this link: ArtRio 2012 Facebook Photo Album

This is a public album. Feel free to share the whole album or photos individually, but please remember to credit the images to Saira Ansari. There are just 3 or 4 photos in there that I didn’t take, but they have been credited to the ArtRio FB site they were taken from.



Leave a Comment
  1. Marria / Sep 22 2012 7:51 pm

    Whatay naice! Really enjoyed the photo-tour too and the website’s looking spiffy.

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