In this statement, Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi (née, Achillina Bo, 1914-1992) discusses the period she spent in northeastern Brazil (1959-1964) creating cultural incentives in that region. She also explains how all the practical and intellectual work she had done starting in the fifties was undermined by the military coup in 1964, which would usher in a period of military rule that lasted until 1985. The text explains the guidelines for the exhibition Bahia organized by Lina and Martim Gonçalves. That show, held in São Paulo from September 21 to December 31, 1959, was the first major exhibition of popular and folk art from northeastern Brazil. For information on Civilização do Nordeste, the inaugural exhibition of the Museu de Arte Popular do Unhão in 1963 [see ICAA digital archive (1111193)]. Texts by Bo Bardi and other authors that intend to provide a reading of “that real Brazil” were started in 1980, but abandoned the following year. It was with the Instituto Lina Bo Bardi that that editorial project, coordinated by architecture historian Marcelo Suzuki, was finally able to reach fruition. Bo Bardi did significant work in the areas of popular and folk arts, crafts, and pre-crafts from the northeast. The texts in the aforementioned volume include: “Exposição Bahia” (1959) by Jorge Amado; “Arte dos pobres apavora os generais” [The Art of the Poor Terrifies the Brazilian Generals ] (1965) by Italian architect Bruno Zevi; “O artesanato no Ceará” (1963) by Lívio Xavier; and writings by Flavio Motta (1970), Abelardo Hora (1963), Celso Furtado (1967), Glauber Rocha (1964), Paulo Gil Soares (1964) and Ariano Suassuna (1963). Pertinent as well is Bo Bardi’s text “Arte popular” (1110862).
The architect lived in Salvador, Bahia from 1959 to 1964, the period she directed the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia (MAMB). Her work as the head of programming and education at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) and, later, as the director of MAMB, demonstrate a commitment to exhibitions on art history. She was also responsible for organizing exhibitions of contemporary artists, from Brazil and beyond, who made use of a range of techniques, and for efforts that placed emphasis on popular and folk culture from “northeastern” Brazil. Bo Bardi advocated courses in art, music, cinema, and theater, and workshops in industrial design and crafts. Her work energized the art scene from this region of Brazil and allowed local artists to come into contact with major figures in contemporary art. The year 1963 witnessed the opening of the Museu de Arte Popular—built at the Solar do Unhão (Salvador, 1963) at Bo Bardi’s instance—which featured pieces from different regions of the country. At the opening show, the architect would further develop themes suggested at the Bahía exhibition held years earlier as part of the V São Paulo Biennial (1959). In her view, that show should have been called Civilização do Nordeste since the term civilization is understood as “comprehensive human life” (110868).