Congresso Internacional Extraordinário dos Críticos de Arte, 1959
Cuqui Jerez and Michelle Sommer
In Brazil, in 1959, the International Congress of Art Critics was held, a symposium where artists, architects, art and architectural historians such as Mário Pedrosa, Meyer Schapiro, Giulio Carlo Argan, Bruno Zevi, Jorge Romero Brest, Tomás Maldonado, Frederick Kiesler and Eero Saarinen, to name but a few, were brought together to debate the role of modernity in a new world surfacing in the post-war period. Under the theme “New City: Synthesis of the Arts”, the congress took place, for the first time in Latin America, over nine days and in three different cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. While modern urbanism was debated as the search for the integration of the arts and the production of a collective artwork, the inception of Brasilia also materialised as a real-life test of these very same debates. Over fifty thousand people worked around the clock to build that which Mário Pedrosa would enthusiastically define as adventure and hope: Brasilia, a State capital and strictly modern major city.
The congress, with more than 22 participating countries, debated the project’s social and urban model across seven sessions: the new city, urbanism, technology and expression, architecture, plastic arts, industrial arts and, finally, art and education. The minutes from the congress form a historical and relevant document for understanding the central place of modernity in its vocation to participate and give shape to the challenges in this new world.
This new reading of the debates and seminars that took place in the congress , understood as a performative exercise of a past utopian episode that still has huge potency and resonates in a present time in which art criticism and history have been displaced from their central role and public influence. Furthermore, the reading seeks to present Mário Pedrosa’s thinking as a living agent and to reconstruct the affective, living, ethical and cosmopolitan connection, which is composed as a preface to the exhibition opening.
The event will be video streamed inside the framework of “Dialogues”, by the museum network L’Internationale, a public programme which bookmarks 27 April as the date for the opening of different exhibitions and activities, conceived by the member museums in the network, comprising: Moderna galerija (MG+MSUM, Ljubljana, Slovenia); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS, Madrid, Spain); Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA, Barcelona, Spain); Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA, Antwerp, Belgium); SALT (Istanbuk and Ankara, Turkey) and Van Abbemuseum (VAM, Eindhoven, the Netherlands). The activity is organised by the Museo Reina Sofía within the framework of the project “The Uses of Art”, by the European museum confederation L’Internationale.