In 1957 the major art promoters in São Paulo noticed that important figurative artists had been excluded from the biennial, which was more focused on Concrete art. As a result, the industrialist Isaí Leirner (who was, at the time, the director of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo) sponsored an alternative exhibition of works by twelve São Paulo artists. This first exhibition—which was later called the Prêmio Leirner (Leirner Prize)—was held in the lobby of the building where the newspaper Folha de São Paulo had its offices. Leirner eventually created a space specifically for this purpose, known as Galeria de Arte das Folhas (which was open from 1958 to 1962), where exhibitions were presented and debates and lectures were organized to discuss a wide range of trends and styles other than those endorsed by the organizers of the Bienal de São Paulo. Leirner and the other businessmen who were involved in the gallery often bought the works exhibited there, which they then donated to various museums, thus contributing to the institutional recognition of participating artists. During its four-year lifespan, the gallery introduced many emerging artists, such as Franz Weissmann, Regina Silveira, Maria Helena Andrés, Mário Silésio, Di Cavalcanti, Willys de Castro, and Hermelindo Fiaminghi, among others. [Regarding the complete catalogue, see, in the ICAA digital archive: “Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea, 1960” (1232976).]
The painter, musician, and art professor Oswald de Andrade Filho (1914–72) grew up in the modernist circles in which his famous father Oswald de Andrade moved. Candido Portinari, Anita Malfatti, and Lasar Segall were his painting instructors. In the 1930s he was involved in the Clube dos Artistas Modernos and the Teatro da Experiência directed by Flávio de Carvalho. In the 1950s he joined the Grupo Guanabara, whose members included the Japanese-born painters who lived in Brazil, Manabu Mabe (1924–1997) and Tikashi Fukushima (1920–2001). He was the editor of the newspaper A Gazeta and published a series of children’s books. He contributed to the small exhibition of works by five artists who had won the Prêmio Leirner de Arte Contemporânea (Leirner Prize for Contemporary Art) together with the artist and theorist Waldemar Cordeiro (1925–1973), the intellectual Wolfgang Pfeiffer (1912–2003), and the Concrete poet Décio Pignatari (1927–2012). This document includes a brief biography of the artist Murillo Penteado and a list of the works that were shown on that occasion.
Penteado’s paintings are a good example of what the Prêmio Leirner was all about, which was to recognize works by figurative artists who did not catch the eye of the organizers of the biennial, who were much more interested in Concrete art. Murillo Penteado (born 1928), who was not very well known in São Paulo, and had worked in Paris, took part in two important events in 1949: the Salão Paulista de Belas Artes and the Salão Nacional.
[For complementary reading, see the following articles in the ICAA digital archive: “Quando ouço falar em cultura, puxo o meu revolver” by Oswald de Andrade Filho (1110460); “O outro cavalo de Troia” by Lourival Gomes Machado (1110724); and “Vanguarda e Raul Porto” by Décio Pignatari (1233071).]