The Sao Paulo Biennial, the second-oldest biennial art fair after Venice's, has helped put the city on the art-world map. This year's (October 7–December 17) will feature 118 artists from 51 countries, and interest in the event has bolstered the local gallery scene. The most celebrated space is Galeria Fortes Vilaça (1500 Rua Fradique Coutinho; fortesvilaca.com.br), representing such global stars as painter Beatriz Milhazes, sculptor Ernesto Neto, and photographer Vik Muniz. Down the street is Galeria Millan Antonio (1360 Rua Fradique Coutinho; 55-11/3031-6007; millanantonio.com.br), which shows a small but distinguished roster of artists both current and classic. Contemporary works by lensman Miguel Rio Branco and sculptor Tunga appear alongside paintings by the late Mira Schendel, a pivotal Brazilian artist who will be the subject of a special exhibit here in October.
Pioneer gallerist Luisa Strina was the first Latin American to show at the Basel art fair, in 1991, and she still handles masters like Cildo Meireles and Antonio Dias. She also nurtures emerging talent, for example, Laura Belém and Alexandre da Cunha. Brazilian art is the presiding theme at Galeria Nara Roesler (655 Avda. Europa; 55-11/3063-2344; nararoesler.com.br). One of the owner's first artists was the Pernambucan sculptor Francisco Brennand, and much of what hangs on the walls comes from that area. Roesler also displays pieces by Ruy Ohtake's mother, Tomie; Iberê Camargo from Rio Grande do Sul; and the painter Siron Franco, from Goiás.
A newer visionary on the scene, Eduardo Leme opened his Galeria Leme (88 Rua Agostinho Cantú; 55-11/3814-8184; galerialeme.com) outside the city's traditional art district, close to many young artists at the nearby University of São Paulo. The bright giant space with a pyramid skylight—designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, who won this year's Pritzker prize—suits the experimental work of a group of artists who are all under 35.