Experiencing Brazil through its vibrant artJacqueline Montagu’s collection of diverse paintings representing Brazil started in the living room of her Rio de Janeiro home 30 years ago.
It was a 1971 painting, titled “Jacare,” by Francisco Da Silva that caught the attention of Gustavo Novoa, a Chilean gallery owner, who was visiting her home. Saying that Da Silva’s paintings were coveted by collectors, the gallery owner asked Ms. Montagu if he could buy it from her on the spot. She turned down the offer, and it prompted her to collect a total of 15 major works by the same painter.
Ms. Montagu, who divides her time between her home in New York City and Cascais, Portugal, grew up in a family of avid art collectors who befriended artists. She continued collecting paintings and lithographs by leading Brazilian artists. Impressed by the quality and diversity of fine art, the Brazilian government decided that the collection, curated by the collector herself, would tour Rome for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil in 2000.
The exhibition, “Brazil through its Artists,” opens today at Galerie Pici in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. It is the first of its kind in Korea. After Seoul, the collection will go to the National Gallery in Bangkok and then to Kuala Lumpur.
The exhibition, sponsored by the Department of Culture of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil, coincides with an official visit by the president of Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva, later this month. It features a total of 60 works by eight important but stylistically different artists: Roberto Burle Marx, Joao Henrique, Antonio Maia, Lia Mittarakis, Candido Portinari, Francisco Da Silva, Jose Tarcisio and Rubem Valentim.
The works ― mostly medium-size oil paintings and lithographs, truly diverse in subjects and styles ― stimulate viewers’ imaginations. Landscape paintings open doors to the lush jungles of Brazil that swarm with exotic creatures. “Each work expresses the impulse of heart...a marvelous vision of reality and fantasy,” Ms. Montagu noted.
A fantastically beautiful Brazilian landscape by Lia Mittrakis made the cover of “Time” magazine on June 1, 1992, for the worldwide Earth Summit. Religious heritage among Northeastern Brazilians can be found in Antonia Maia’s lithograph, “Expectativa,” whose minimalist composition expresses existential contradictions in man.
The exhibition includes eight masterpieces by Roberto Burle Marx, one of the world’s greatest architects who died in 1994 and left behind paintings heavily influenced by cubism. In 1991, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective show of his works.
Bold and colorful lithographs by Rubem Valentim carry the imprint of Afro-Brazilian rituals in Brazil. His works were included in the exhibition of “Body and Soul” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2003.
The works have many complex elements ― poetry, lyricism, beauty, religion and more ― and embody the soul and sentiment of Brazil.
What makes the exhibit in Korea different from the original collection shown in Italy is that 59 of the 60 pieces are from Ms. Montagu’s personal collection and one comes from a Brazilian expatriate in Korea whom she met last year while visiting Korea. Julia Geier is the wife of German Ambassador to Korea, Michael Geier.
“We found that she too owned a major painting by Antonio Maia, and she was excited to be able to lend her painting to the Brazilian exhibition,” said Ms. Montagu, relaxing in the living room of the residence of the Italian ambassador to Korea in Hannam-dong. She said her friendship with Italian Ambassador Francesco Rausi goes back to 1989 when Mr. Rausi was living in Brazil as a diplomat.
“The opening reception tonight will have a truly international community,” she said. “The traditional Brazilian cocktail, made with Cachaca Montanhesa, and some of the finest Italian cuisine will be served to Korean art industry professionals as well as the German and Italian communities.”
by Ines Cho
The exhibition “Brazil through Its Artists” runs through the end of May. Galerie Pici is located at 122-22 Cheongdam-dong and is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m daily. For more information, call 02-547-9569.