Sex is an integral part of our lives. Without it, we would not even exist.
Therefore, sexuality has been occupying a central place in the collective imaginary and the artistic production since forever. The exhibition Histories of Sexuality presents an encompassing and diverse approach of these productions. Our aim is to stimulate a debate—urgent nowadays—by crossing different temporalities, geographies, and media. Recent episodes in Brazil and the world have brought forth issues related to sexuality and the limits between individual rights and freedom of speech, through public clashes, protests, and violent manifestations on social media. The MASP, a diverse, inclusive, and plural museum, bears as its mission to establish, in a critical and creative way, dialogues between the past and the present, cultures and territories, through the visual arts. This is the meaning of the program of exhibitions, seminars, courses, workshops, and publications surrounding several histories—those of childhood, of sexuality, of madness, of women, of the Afro-Atlantic, as well as the feminist ones, among many others.
Conceived in 2015, this exhibition is the offspring of a long and intense work, being preceded by two international seminars held in September 2016 and May 2017. It is part of the MASP’s full year dedicated to the histories of sexuality, which in 2017 included the solo exhibitions of Teresinha Soares, Wanda Pimentel, Miguel Rio Branco, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Tracey Moffatt, Pedro Correia de Araújo, Guerrilla Girls, and Tunga. There are more than 300 works by126 artists gathered around nine thematic, non-chronological themes— Naked bodies, Totemisms, Religiosities, Gender performativities, Sexual games, Sexual markets, Languages, and Voyeurisms on the first-floor gallery, and Activisms and politics of the body on the first basement floor. The display also includes a video room in the second basement floor, as part of the voyeurisms branch. Some works of artists central to our collection—such as Edgar Degas, Maria Auxiliadora da Silva, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Suzanne Valadon, and Victor Meirelles— are now exhibited in new contexts, finding other possibilities of reading and understanding. Along with them, a selection of works of different formats, periods, and territories compose truly multiple histories, defying the hierarchies and boundaries between typologies and categories of traditional art history—from Pre-Columbian to modern art, from the so-called popular art to contemporary art, from sacred art to conceptual art, including art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas in paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, photocopies, videos, documents, publications, and others.
In these histories, there are no absolute or definitive truths. The boundaries of what is morally acceptable shift from time to time. Classical sculptures, now icons of art history, not seldom had their genitals covered. Customs also vary between different cultures and civilizations.
In several European countries and indigenous tribes, nudity exposed in public spaces is something natural; polygamy is accepted in some Islamic countries; prostitution is a legal practice in some states, while condemned in others; there are countries where abortion is free, and others where it is forbidden. Even the concept of child has changed over time, just as its understanding in terms of age.
The only absolute principle, which we cannot relinquish, is the respect for the other, for difference, and for artistic freedom. Consequently, it is necessary to reaffirm the need and the space for dialogue, allowing it to create conditions for all of us—each one of us with our own beliefs, practices, political and sexual orientations—to live together in harmony.
Histories of Sexuality was curated by Adriano Pedrosa, artist director at MASP; Camila Bechelany, assistant curator; Lilia Schwarcz, adjunct curator od histories; and Pablo León de la Barra, adjunct curator of latin american art at MASP.