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December 14, 2011

The Brazilian Art Boom

By Amanda Friedman | Art

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Courtesy Estate of Lygia Pape

“Brazilian art” was such a hot buzzword at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach that Departures.com decided to catch up with Hugo Nathan, the president of New York’s Dickinson gallery, which has an exhibition through December 21 that is dedicated to art from the region. We wanted to find out: What is all the fuss about?

Departures.com: Why did you decide to do a Brazilian art show?

Hugo Nathan: I go to Brazil regularly to both source and sell European art, and all of the collectors there who have European art also have a collection of Brazilian art. I always thought that it would be interesting to introduce this art to a New York audience. The final piece in the jigsaw was asking Olivier Berggruen to curate the show.

Was this before Brazil’s economic boom?

That was about a year ago and, in that time, the prices have doubled for most of these artists. The museums in America and Europe have established themselves as the major collectors in this field, and Brazil has become this hot entity that everyone wants to be involved with. This all happened after we started working on the show.

Can you describe the exhibition?

It’s an overview of the Concrete and Neo-Concrete art movement. After World War II, Brazil started building a certain identity as a Modernist center. A number of young artists adopted a European, sort of, 1930’s Bauhaus style of geometric abstraction and completely Brazilianized it. In this show, you can see this evolution in a complete range of mediums&8212;there are prints, photographs, drawings, watercolors, collages, paintings, sculpture and even an art book.

How exactly did they “Brazilianize” the style?

The European style of geometrics is very mathematical and dogmatic, and there are strict rules and regulations. But artists in Rio started slightly bending the rules and being more poetic and playful. And that’s what I see as the Brazilianization&8212;it’s effectively Concrete art without the rules.

How has the show been received?

It’s been amazing. We’re not a gallery known for regular exhibitions, so we never really expect a huge amount of accidental traffic, but we’ve had a large amount through word-of-mouth. We haven’t been actively pressing museum curators to come in, but they’ve all found out about the show, and we’ve had people from all of the major museums around the world contacting us. That’s big for us because we really specialize in selling museum-quality work.

What is the price range for these pieces?

The photographs that form the beginning of the exhibit are $5,500 because they’re contemporary reprints. But if they were original prints, they would probably be $40,000–$50,000. The top price is Lygia Clark’s aluminum sculptures, which are priced at $3.6 million.

Why is Brazilian art a good investment?

Not only is the market going in one direction but, also, I think that a lot of it is work of international importance. Collectors are realizing that if they don’t buy it now, it’s only going to get more expensive.

What advice would you give to people looking to buy this kind of art?

The work is hard to source because a lot of it is already in museums. These pieces weren’t valuable until about ten years ago. So in some ways, you just have to take an opportunity whenever you see it. We’ve certainly been advising a lot of our collectors that if they see a great piece, take the plunge. My other advice would be to come down to the gallery and see it yourself. Through December 21; 19 East 66th Street; simondickinson.com.

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