The Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo is one of the most important museums of modern and contemporary art in Latin America. With approximately 10.000 works, the museum collections cover a period that goes from the modernist Avant-Gardes in the beginning of the 20th century to the present day, both nationally and internationally.
MAC was created in 1963, when the University of São Paulo received the collection of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (founded in 1948), and the collection of the Italian-Brazilian businessman Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho (chairman of MAM), under the care of the museum.
As a university museum, its main aim is to research and divulge its own collections. Academic research is undertaken by the three professors of Department of Research in Art - Theory and Critique, and two professors working at the Department of Art and Education. The professors in the museum develop their work as researchers and curators by means of a programme of optional disciplines for under-graduate students who come from all under-graduate programmes of the university campus; by the post-graduate programme in Aesthetics and Art History – an interdisciplinary programme that involves four different faculties of the university, including MAC -, and by organizing exhibitions, lectures, conferences and seminars. The museum has had a long history of education of generations of students who take internship assisting the professors’ academic research, as well as supervision of Masters Thesis through the Graduate Programme in Aesthetics and Art History.
MAC also contemplates a programme of temporary exhibitions, so as to promote the debate of contemporary art issues, and stimulate the issues raised by its collections.
In its three venues (one at Ibirapuera Park, and the other two in the university campus), many extension activities are offered to the public, such as guided tours, short courses and workshop activities.
The museum receives an average of 60.000 visitors per year, most of them being students from primary and secondary schools and university students. In addition to this, the museum’s academic programme receives about 200 students every year in its under-graduate disciplines and post-graduate course.
MAC is to face a new challenge from 2010 on, as the museum is to move into a new building at Ibirapuera Park. The main building inside the university campus will be maintained to support the academic programme, but the exhibition spaces shall be transferred to the so-called Agriculture Pavilion, one of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings at Ibirapuera Park - a complex conceived to celebrate the 400 Years Anniversary of the city of São Paulo, inaugurated in 1954. From its actual 3.500 m2 of exhibition space (both in the campus and in the Bienal de São Paulo Pavilion at Ibirapuera Park), MAC is to have a total of about 20.000 m2 in its new building.
As an heir of the former MAM collection gathered along the 1950s, MAC has the most significant collection of modernist Brazilian and international art, reflecting the rich exchange between Brazilian artists and European artists during the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. In this sense, the collection also houses a number of works which participated and/or were prizes of the Bienal de São Paulo. Because the former Museum of Modern Art was in charge of organizing the Bienal de São Paulo (1951-1961), the exhibition had acquisition prizes in painting, sculpture and prints to enlarge and update the museum’s collection. Even after the separation between the former MAM and the Bienal de São Paulo, in 1962, MAC when created in 1963 continued to receive works that took part in the Bienal de São Paulo.
The conceptual art and artists publication collection of Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo holds nearly two thousand itens. The MAC USP is the only museum in Brazil to maintain a collection of this sort with such an international representation. Despite the severe political repression in the country at that time, the Museum, under direction of Prof. Walter Zanini (1963-78), adopted an experimental posture towards contemporary art and gathered conceptual artists and projects becoming an important exhibition and exchange center for national and international production. This collection includes hundreds of photographs performances, videos, installation projects, texts, diagrams, mail art, artist’s books, cards, stamps and other publications, concrete poetry and other visual poetry, most of them produced in 1960/70. At the moment the collection is the focus of a long term research project directed by the Museum curator and University professor Cristina Freire and her team of undergraduate and graduate students.
Once the museum started out its activities in the university in 1963, the first director of the museum, Prof. Walter Zanini, conceived a number of actions which helped to grow MAC’s collection, especially promoting exhibitions such as the so-called Jovem Art Contemporânea [Young Contemporary Art] and establishing a net of exchanges among artists all over the world (mainly Latin America and Eastern Europe). Such actions resulted in a significant collection of Conceptual Art of the late 1960s and 1970s. This period also marked the beginning of the photography collection in the museum, both by receiving exhibitions organized by museums abroad (mainly the Museum of Modern Art, in New York) and by questioning the boundaries of the canon designed to the acceptance of the medium in the museum. The museum also had, then, the gallery Lado B [B Side], where artists could show their experimentation with video.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo
Rua da Reitoria, 160
05508-900 – Cidade Universitária
São Paulo – SP – Brasil
Tuesday – Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM
Head of Research Department
Dr. Cristina Freire
Email : cfreire(at)usp.br