About The Adolpho Leirner Collection

The son of Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in Brazil in the 1930s, Adolpho Leirner was born in 1935 in São Paulo. In 1953 he went to England to study textile engineering and design. During his four-year stay, he became acquainted with the legacy of the international Constructivist movements of the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, he developed a passion for architecture and design. Over a period of 50 years, Leirner assembled an incomparable collection of Brazilian Constructive art, driven by both a passion for art as well as a sense of social responsibility. In a well-publicized statement about the meaning and purpose of collecting taken from his book, Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, he describes his motto: “To collect is to nurture a love affair, a passion; it is to uncover findings in a game of search and find, all of which are part of my life.” At the same time, he underscores the ethical responsibility that comes with collecting: “Collectors understand they gather their collections not only for private fruition but for the benefit of society, and for this reason they keep and preserve them.”

Read below to learn about key moments in the history of the Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Upon his return to Brazil in the late 1950s, Leirner focused his attention on Brazilian decorative and contemporary art. In 1961 he bought the first work of what would later constitute his unique collection: the 1958 painting Em vermelho by Milton Dacosta (1915–1988).


Instinctively drawn to Brazilian Constructivism, Leirner noticed the movement’s disappearance from the public’s attention in the 1960s, as figure-based trends such as Pop Art flourished. At that point, Leirner decided to concentrate his collecting efforts on Brazilian Geometric Abstraction. Largely through his direct contact with living artists and influential dealers, he was able to systematically gather exemplary works of these key movements in his country.


Between 2005 and 2007, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston acquired the Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art. The acquisition was celebrated with the exhibition Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection (2007), the first comprehensive presentation of the Collection in the United States.


In conjunction with the 2007 exhibition, the MFAH organized a major colloquium, “Concretismo and Neoconcretismo: Fifty Years Later.” The publication that followed the colloquium, Building on a Construct (2009), assessed the state of research on Concrete and Neoconcrete tendencies in postwar Brazilian art.


The opening of the Kinder Building in 2020 marked the first permanent installation of Latin American art at the MFAH. The inaugural exhibition, Constructed Dialogues, features a selection of works from the Leirner Collection.