House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Nigel Coates

The architect explores São Paulo’s vibrant art and design scene

Nigel Coates

June 18 2011
Nigel Coates

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

I spend most of the morning in my hotel room, writing my blog for the day before. It’s a pretty standard non-environment designed to show no trace of occupation. Limed oak doors and a Piranesi print are evidence of the self-proclaimed “European style” of the whole building. At 12.30 my driver is waiting on the forecourt to take me to lunch at MAM, the Museum of Modern Art. I’m meeting two people from one of the leading galleries in São Paulo, the Galeria Baró. Over a buffet plate of (typically Brazilian) fish with tomato and banana, we chat about how the art world is edging towards design. Will I go and take a look at their two gallery spaces? Yes, I’d be delighted.

We’re heading through the leafy Jardins area to their new design space, a small but delightful stack of rooms with clever design pieces made from existing furniture, rope, beads, footballs. Brazilian design seems much closer to witty re-use than to manufacturing in the industrial sense. It has a spirited brashness and a great deal of humanity.

We continue by car along choked-up avenues, up and down winding roads, and crossing from one “polis” to the next. We finally reach the gallery that is in the (as yet) most rundown of these, a street lined with rubber tyre shops, welders and gloomy housing blocks. The gallery itself turns out to be enormous: an ex-garage with a sweeping industrial roof. The space is so big that they have six different shows going on simultaneously, including a vast print of Iguazu Falls covering the largest glazed wall. Dappled sunlight illuminates it from behind, and amplifies the double take on being a tourist at this major destination in the south of the country.

We head back to the OCA, a trip of only six kilometres but it takes more than an hour, zigzagging through the gridded streets but failing miserably to avoid the Friday congestion. Gijs Bakker, the founder of Droog, has been speaking to the Design São Paulo audience. We’ve never met so have a lot to learn about each other. Later we’re both invited to dinner at our host’s home. We arrive before the other (many) guests.

Waldick is a passionate collector and is pleased to show us around his art-packed apartment. The study has many gorgeous Brazilian photographs corralled onto one wall. Almost lost among these is a gorgeous Louise Bourgeois of abstract erotic shapes apparently getting to know one another. It’s dedicated to Waldick; he’s a pro in this world. Among the many other fine works and “design” sofas and chairs around the apartment, we spot a Cindy Sherman of a pregnant woman. It’s a good metaphor for Brazil, a country loaded with possibility.

See also

People, São Paulo