Due to certain visa issues, the chinese artist Al Weiwei had lost his flight only two days before the opening of Histories of Sexuality at the Sao Paulo Art Museum of Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) taking place on October 19, 2017. However, he managed to be present there. As a consequence of the several monographic shows of transgressing artists organized throughout the year (such as Miguel Rio Branco and Tracey Moffat, and also the women group Guerrilla Girls- more focused in the gender inequality in arts, rather than in sexuality itself), the exhibition program of the museum had generated a certain amount of controversy among the conservative sectors associated to the power and to the mass media. Weiwei did not remain at the reception in the museum where the main exhibition took place; rather, he went to the square nearby, where many protesters had congregated to express their support to the exhibition, while, to a lesser extent, other protesters were against it. By means of his instagram account, Weiwei showed his criticism to the censure of the central government, which had intended to twist the museum’s arm, so to speak.
The expentance generated by Histories of Sexuality speaks well of a curatorial model implemented by Adriano Pedrosa, an artistic director of the MASP, which included preparatory seminars leading to a series of monographic exhibitions and to a central exhibition about a single theme. In 2016, the theme was histories of Childhood. Emphasis was made in the plurality of stories underlining the multifacetic nature of all cultural experiences, which, in the particular case of sexuality, clearly promised to be more controversial than those related to childhood. For year 2017, besides the already mentioned exhibitions, the MASP organized two symposia, and Pedrosa invited three co-curators and, in addition, also organized monographic exhibitions of Teresinha Soares, Wanda Pimentel, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pedro Correia de Araújo and Tunga.
Emphasis was made in the plurality of stories underlining the multifacetic nature of all cultural experiences, which, in the particular case of sexuality, clearly promised to be more controversial than those related to childhood
The main exhibition, curated by Pedrosa, Lilia Schwarcz and Pablo León de la Barra, adjunt curators of the MASP, and Camila Bechelany, assistant curator for the MASP, included more than 300 works organized in eight themes: some like “Naked Bodies” were very descriptive, a gloating without prejudices to the carnal beauty that goes from the time of Ingres; “Sexual Markets” that looks through the filter of prostitution to the Edgar Degas’ “Small Dances” in bronze and many more; “Sexual Games”, a place for the humor of Miguel Anguel Cárdenas, among others; “Voyeurisms”, where the “Sky” video by Moffat (1991), snoops surfers changing their clothes in the beach and a fabulous painting by Jose Antonio da Silva where a face peeps out the window of a bathroom while a woman is taking a shower; and some other more veiled titles, such as “Totetisms” that could be named “fetish” due to the workship to certain parts of the human body; “Gender Performances”, emphasized in travestisms and celebrates the “queen” concept; “Religiosities”, certainly related to the subversive appropriation of iconographies, in the manner of León Ferrari; and “Languages”, of a more conceptual and even poetic tone, with artists like José Leonilson. On a different floor of the museum, the last segment dedicated to “Activisms and Politics of the Body” is presented, including works in which the sexualized body goes to the street to claim attention for the SIDA victims and supports the civil rights of the homosexual community.
The main exhibition included more than 300 works organized in eight
themes: some like “Naked Bodies” were very descriptive
Among the surprises of the exhibition we can find the large format painting “Himeneu Travestido Assistindo a uma Dança em Honra a Príapo”, (1634-1638), by Nicolás Poussin, that belongs to the MASP collection, which, when recently restored, discovered an image of the erect fallus in the sculpture, right in the center of the composition, representing Priapo, the greek god of fertility, around which those invited to a wedding meet in adoration.The mission sometimes takes to the omission. A theme such as violation, which expresses an antagonic relation between power and sex, is absent. Among the collection works of the MASP we find “Lucrecia’s Suicide”, attributed to the Guido Reni studio (1625-1640), most probably used as a starting point. Not to forget that, in the context of a society immersed in a cultural war where the conservative power intents to restore tabues against sexuality, a celebration of the sexuality with all its nuances and complexities imposes. This mission is met by these Histories.