Research Project at the Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo (MAC USP)

Art and Facts: The Image, Sound and Rhythm of Global Culture

By Christiane Wagner

The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the country’s largest art museums. It belongs to the University of São Paulo and other schools and faculties that conduct a joint activity research program in Aesthetics, Art History, and its interfaces. The most significant schools and faculties of the University of São Paulo for that research program are the School of Communications and Arts; the School of Arts, Science and Humanities; the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism; and the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Science.

As a visiting research professor at the Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo (MAC USP), I’m working on the research “Relations between Music and Visual Arts in the Contemporaneity” and “Heritage Interpretation: Museum, Culture, and Society.” For this purpose, my research project titled “Art and Facts: Image, Sound, and Rhythm of Global Culture. Aesthetics of Everyday Life” is in development (2020-2021).


Beyond the importance of the medium, form, and context from which art takes its characteristics, this research considers the significance of the influence of socio-cultural and market factors upon contemporary art. Actually, there are different forms of visual expression and perceptions toward everyday aesthetics as a result of the media and environment. The images being produced relate to the cultural changes and their time-space significance. Hence, this research is not only about the image itself and its description but rather its effects on culture, in which reciprocity is also involved. For example, a variety of visual narratives are discussed in terms of their visual significance as well as their synchronization with sounds in daily interactions. Accordingly, this study examines the digital technologies, motion pictures, visual and sound recordings, broadcasting industries, and their social impacts. This study focuses upon the myriad meanings of art to develop an awareness of their effects on culture and the dynamics of their communication.

Among the most important modern and contemporary artists and composers, this research focuses on Robert Rauschenberg’s artworks, in which the pieces highlight the influence of music by John Cage and David Tudor on the artist. In this sense, this research aims to analyze Tribute 21 (1994), a series of 21 artworks Rauschenberg produced and donated to 21 museums across the world, including MAC USP (Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo) in 1994. Tribute 21 is a series of offset lithographs printed at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), New York, and published by Felissimo, Tokyo. It celebrates themes that significantly influence the media on global and everyday social interactions, whether in economics, politics, science, or culture, and the diversity of these fields in the 21st century. Among these prints, John Cage stands out for his influence as a composer. Finally, the focus of the research is on the rhythm of the metropole and its aesthetic, political, and cultural dynamics in constant transformation, in the framework of the relationship between architecture, moving image, and sound.

Keywords: art, society, representations, mass media, reality, and transformation.

For more information about my research and publications, click here!

The Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo (MAC USP)

The creation of the Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo (MAC USP) goes back to 1963 with the donation of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) of São Paulo, made by Ciccillo Matarazzo (1892–1977) to the University of São Paulo (USP). The MAC USP’s origin is directly linked to the MAM SP and, therefore, to the Bienal of São Paulo (1951). The Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1949, can be seen as one of the evident signs of the desire for cultural updating of São Paulo’s elites. In a context of industrial expansion that focuses on the city’s monopolization, private patronage, especially Ciccillo Matarazzo, plays a decisive role in creating various cultural institutions in the period.

Installed in an architectural complex created in the 1950s by architect Oscar Niemeyer and his team, MAC USP has a collection of about 10 thousand works, including paintings, prints, three-dimensional photographs, conceptual art, objects, and installations. It is considered a reference center of modern and contemporary art, Brazilian and international, keeping at the disposal of students, specialists, and the general public a library and an important documental archive.

The collection consists, among other names, of works by Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Malfatti, and Lygia Clark. In the latest decades, the MAC USP continued to expand its modern and contemporary collections with the acquisition of works by Henry Moore, Cildo Meireles, Joseph Beuys, Leda Catunda, and several other Brazilian and international artists. The MAC USP Art Collection online is under development and in constant update. For more information, visit the institution’s website and the collection—artworks are currently available online.

Development of São Paulo City

Here are some family memories!

I’m proud of my father Reinhard Rudolf Wagner, also of my grandfathers Rudi Wagner and Miro Kugler for their contribution to the architecture and industrial design of São Paulo among many other Germans as well as the Austrians and the Italians who came to work in Brazil during the industrial and technological development under President Kubitschek. Since the1960s, the transformation of the São Paulo city and many other Brazilian towns is more characterized by linear time for society’s development. Ideas allied only to space do not correspond to the results expected from developing a continually growing city and its transformation and evolution.

Shortly after the Second World War, when the industrial and technological development began, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig arrived, who created the expression “Brasilien: Ein Land der Zukunft” (Brazil, country of the future), which was initially the title of his essay. Stefan Zweig was dazzled by the landscape and the rhythm of life in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and motivated the new European immigrants to develop and live in Brazil. Even now remain the expression and the expectations of this future of such a multi-cultural people.

Thus, my grandfather was also working to build the head office of the São Paulo State Government amid his other projects for the city! He worked for 30 years as an engineer and architect for Ciccillo Matarazzo and Matarazzo Industries.

© Family photos.

This building is the head office of the São Paulo State Government and, nowadays, is the governor’s official residence. The initial project was designed in 1938 by Italian architect Marcello Piacentini. The main objective was to house the University Conde Francisco Matarazzo and the Italian Matarazzo family, for whom my grandfather and other German architects and engineers worked. The initial project presented abstract lines, and at the beginning of the work, it was redesigned in 1954 to have an Italian style with neoclassical influence.

Since April 19, 1964, it was named Palácio dos Bandeirantes and also became the governor’s official residence and museum. A commission was created for the acquisition of works of art that currently make up the Artistic-Cultural Collection of the Governmental Palaces in São Paulo city.

More details, photos and projects coming soon!

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