Between 2016 and 2020, the museu do louvre pau-brazyl, an artistic-curatorial project, held a trilogy of exhibitions at the Louvre building, located at 192 São Luís Avenue, República, São Paulo.
When conceiving of the “Louvre” in the late 1940s, João Artacho Jurado—entrepreneur and designer of all the buildings developed by Monções constructors, which he was a partner of alongside his brother, Aurélio Jurado Artacho—provided the building with a unique narrative, the symbolic weight of its name spanning all 9 apartment blocks.
The front four blocks were named Velázquez, Renoir, Rembrandt, and Da Vinci, and each foyer was decorated with two reproductions of works by its respective artist. The remaining five blocks located at the building’s rear feature neither namesake identifications nor engravings; but, through archival research of the condominium’s floor plans and from an advertisement for the sale of apartments in a newspaper from the time, it was possible to recover a neglected painter: the Brazilian Pedro Américo. Intentional or not, these choices opened space for us to create new stories, imagining a history of art and a history of colonization present in this musée trouvé. These are the two main flows that power the drive of the louvre within the Louvre.
The curatorial work over these years functioned like a scanner in the building, recognizing and revealing its different layers. The first edition, 9 do 9 [9 of 9] (2016), departed from the avenue-boulevard into the building, establishing the fiction franchise with a group exhibition set amidst the palatial corridors of the mezzanine, public spaces during business hours. The second edition, Desdito [Disavowed] (2017), featuring a solo show by Lais Myrrha, extended across the back-facing apartment blocks to touch on the erasure of the Brazilian artist, the building’s service areas and basements, and Brazilian history.
The trilogy came to a close with the 3o ato: o verso [3rd act: the verso], a group exhibition show held in April 2019, during which the curatorial gesture was to invert the Louvre’s façade. Its back areas, alongside those of the Copan and São Luiz Plaza buildings, form a coliseum around a vacant lot in the middle of the triangle formed between São Luís and Ipiranga Avenues and Consolação Street.
The stage, this lot, belongs to the University of São Paulo, acquired in 2011 under the management of João Grandino Rodas with the intention of transferring part of USP’s administrative bodies from its Butantã campus. The purchase took place within a context in which the Rector faced criticism related to the mismanagement and waste of funds, contested by successive student occupations of the Rectory building. This public asset had previously served as a parking lot, and in 2013 the university began construction on it for the relocation of its office of general counsel. Several basements and the entire structure had already been completed, when, in 2014, the work was interrupted, and the building’s foundation completely buried. The lot, one of the last remaining in this region of the city, has since been listed for sale.
Our original intention was for the interventions and works of art to be temporarily located on the lot, opening up this public good to society. For over a year we maintained contact with the university, which, after this epic effort to obtain authorization, ultimately prohibited the use of the space. And so, this empty stage—blocked off, closed-in—came to be a fundamental element of this edition of the project. Rather than a limitation, the restriction enabled this act to spill over with works of art that occupied the cracks, the surfaces (solid façades, walls, sidewalks, windows) and the air—all possible spaces found within the three-dimensionality formed by the triangular block.
In addition to inverting the relationship between the building’s front and its back, creating a new perspective onto the Louvre, the 3rd act: the verso uses this empty stage to give the gestures, sounds, lights, and movements of this arena theater a scenic character, in which the thousands of residents at their windows are both audience and actors, sharing the 9 days with these artistic propositions.
The exhibition ended with a message from the university: the construction at the lot’s entrance of a brick wall topped with barbed wire that replaced the existing, fragile aluminium siding on the day after the end of the 3rd act.