AN AESTHETE’S GUIDE TO THE CONTEMPORARY ART OF SÃO PAULO

In celebration of the 13th reiteration of Latin America’s largest art fair, SP-Arte, held earlier this month in Oscar Niemeyer’s Bienal pavilion, this curated selection of galleries, hotels, eateries and creative hubs hidden amongst São Paulo’s high-rises will keep even the most well-heeled, art-loving travellers on their toes…


BEYOND THE WHITE CUBE: WHAT TO SEE

Above: Bosco Sodi at Galeria Luciana Brito

Galeria Luciana Brito is installed in a residence in Jardins designed by Rino Levi (one of Brazil’s most notable modernist architects), recently refurbished by architects Piratininga Arquitetos Associados to house the gallery. This is no soulless white cube: instead, the original design has been preserved, including a unique fireplace, gardens by landscape artist Burle Marx and furniture by one of Brazil’s greats, Geraldo de Barros. Mexican artist Bosco Sodi’s solo show comprised a series of canvases splashed with thick layers of red pigment and gold plated rocks placed throughout the house—a poetic ­commentry on the relationship between nature and culture.

Above: Ana Elisa Egreja and Pilar Quinteros at Galeria Leme

Galeria Leme is housed within an iconic concrete building in Butane, designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Metro Arquitetos Associados. It hosts exhibitions by local and foreign artists throughout the year. Ana Elisa Egreja, an artist from São Paulo, carpeted the alluring exhibition space to create a dialogue with her large hyper-realistic paintings of strange scenes she staged and photographed in her studio—a traditional 1950s São Paulo house that was her grandmother’s home. The gallery also fosters a programme of outdoor temporary site-specific installations by South American artists, for which Chilean Pilar Quinteros created a colourful foam replica of the São Paulo Luz train station clock tower imported from England in the nineteenth century–a commentary on time as a socio-cultural construct.

Above: Lydia Okumura at Galeria Jaqueline Martins

Expect to see conceptual art and site-specific artwork at Galeria Jaqueline Martins, by example of the alluring installations created by New York-based Brazilian artist Lydia Okumura, made in close dialogue with the building. The 600m² warehouse in Vila Buarque, restored by Tacoa Arquitetos, is a gem. Spread over two floors, there’s ample space for the most diverse exhibitions and Martins also holds a unique art display, designed especially for the gallery, which opens up like a huge free-standing book and is often used as alternative exhibition space.

Above: SESC Pompéia

SESC Pompéia is São Paulo’s ultimate leisure centre and exhibition venue. This old tambourine factory was refurbished and added to by Lina Bo Bardi in the mid 1970s to form a beautiful encounter between raw brick and concrete. The Italian architect who made Brazil her home is responsible for several seminal constructions and this is one of her signature projects, holding some of the city’s best public exhibitions. Bo Bardi’s bespoke furniture is dotted in the various common areas, which include a library, a theatre, craft workshops, and sports facilities.

Above: Lina Bo Bardi furniture at SP-ARTE [Photo: ETEL]
The emblematic modernist stilted ‘glass house’ Casa de Vidro is surrounded by tropical gardens and was designed in the early 1950s by Bo Bardi as her home. Open to public visits, the quarters hold furniture that was either designed (recently re-edited by specialist enterprise ETEL) or owned by Bardi, and every so often temporary exhibitions are held in dialogue with the unique surroundings, building and décor.


CONTEMPORARY COCOONS: WHERE TO STAY

Above: Lobby and pool at Fasano

Designed as a contemporary take on a 1930s style by two of Brazil’s finest architects, Isay Weinfeld and Márcio Kogan, Fasano caters to discerning traditionalists. The striking sunken bar in the lobby, flanked by antique leather sofas, serves perfectly poured Dry Martinis, while Fasano’s jazz club Baretto calls for a well-mixed Godfather. The restaurant is top-tier Italian and the indoor swimming pool on the 21st floor has panoramic views of the leafy Jardins neighbourhood, and is decked with Hans Wegner loungers. The rooms are some of the most functional and comfortable in town.

Above: Suites at Emiliano

A giant sculpture of a black cocoon by Brazilian artist Siron Franco greets guests in Emiliano’s sheer lobby, studded with Beto armchairs designed by Brazilian icon Sérgio Rodrigues. In the adjacent bar, rope chairs by the Campana Brothers call for an Aperol Spritz or champagne cocktail. The Spa is a perfect spot to recline and the Cube suite caters to all creature comforts—including a plunge pool. Both have fantastic panoramic views out to the Jardins neighbourhood skyline.

We is not any old hostel. The heritage building from the 1900s in Vila Mariana was refurbished by architect Felipe Hess (trained by Isay Weinfeld), and boasts fresh youthful interiors with bespoke, vintage and repurposed furniture crafted by Hess, catering to young, discerning and sociable travellers looking to stay in a prime location and meet kinfolk with whom to explore the city.

Above: Hotel Unique

Whether its concrete and copper-plated structure is reminiscent of a slice of watermelon, a half moon or the hull of a ship is debatable, but the Unique hotel, designed by Ruy Ohtake, is undoubtedly a dramatic architectural icon by Ibirapuera Park. The slick, design-heavy interiors by João Armentano cater to the party animal in you and call for Caipirinhas, Mojitos and Mimosas at the rootop bar—Skye—which has a red swimming pool, stellar menu by Emmanuel Bassoleil, and hands-down the best view of the Paulista Avenue skyline.


RECHARGE AND REFRESH: WHERE TO SPA, EAT AND DRINK

Above: Aigai Spa

Architect Mario Figueroa sought inspiration in Moorish buildings at the Aigai Spa to create spacious treatment rooms and courtyards dotted with plunge pools, ponds and furniture designed by Italian superstars Patricia Urquiola and Antonio Citterio. The striking building in Vila Madalena is enveloped by latticework, a beautiful hanging garden and a tiled mural by Coletivo Muda, and houses South America’s first authentic Hammam­—it’s possible to book the top floor exclusively for uninterrupted My Spa pampering.

Takkø Café neighbours Jaqueline Martins gallery in Vila Buarque and manages to be minimalist yet cosy. It caters to the creative community in the region: the straight expresso served in a short tumbler and the expresso and tonic are perfect pick-me-ups, and Flavia Maculan’s breads are to die for.

Le Petit Bar Le Jazz in Pinheiros is also small, but a vibrant watering hole where the best seat is at the counter, surrounded by vintage music posters (and great for people watching). To go with the fresh fig and goat’s cheese salad, order the best Bloody Mary in town by day, in the evening a Gin Tonic with Arapuru­—a Brazilian Premium Gin with notes of cashew fruit and local ingredients­—and a Bijou when you want to call it a night.

Mirante 9 de julho boasts a unique sense of identity and place. It neighbours São Paulo’s Museum of Art—Masp (do pop up there, it’s an icon and also designed by Lina Bo Bardi) and embodies the current São Paulo zeitgeist, offering good nourishing dishes, open-air cinema sessions and cultural events overlooking the 9 de Julho avenue­—it’s a very local experience and the perfect pit-stop on the art trail.

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Camila Belchior
Camila Belchior is a freelance writer, former Innovation Director and Editor at Bamboo Magazine, and current Content Director at Flamingo. Her specialities are culture, art, design, architecture and travel, and her work has been published in Bamboo, ArtForum, Frieze, Flamingo Lens, Wallpaper*, Time Out and Travel+Leisure, among others.