Picture Gallery in Transformation

SINCE 12.11.2015

Picture Gallery in Transformation is a long-term exhibition featuring works from the MASP collection. The artworks are displayed on crystal easels — glass panels attached to concrete blocks — lined up inside the ample, unpartitioned exhibition room on the museum’s second floor. The gallery’s open, fluid and permeable space offers multiple possibilities of access and interpretation, overriding hierarchies and predetermined routes. By removing the artworks from the walls and placing them on easels, the museum gives visitors the opportunity to walk around them as if strolling in a forest of artworks that seem to be suspended in mid-air. 

The crystal easels, conceived by Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), who also designed MASP’s building, were introduced in 1968, when the museum opened on Avenida Paulista, one of São Paulo’s main avenues. Replaced in 1996 by conventional room partitions, the devices were brought back in 2015. Since then, the exhibition has been in constant transformation, as indicated by the title. Works come and go according to loans, acquisitions and rotating displays. Captions are placed on the back of the easels, in line with Bardi’s original proposition that the initial encounter between visitor and artwork should be direct and free from contextualization and information about authorship, title and date. 

Today, the works are organized chronologically starting with the most recent in the first rows and the oldest in the last. However, the rigid chronology is sometimes interrupted by contemporary artists, such as Carla Zaccagnini, Sofia Borges, Dora Longo Bahia and Waltercio Caldas, which allows for frictions between the different historical periods, or the articulation of thematic dialogues, such as in the row devoted to landscapes. 

One of MASP’s main acquisition criteria focuses on works that have featured in the museum’s exhibitions; therefore, there is a strong presence of pieces exhibited during the cycles devoted to Afro-Atlantic Histories in 2018, Women's Histories, Feminist Histories in 2019, and Brazilian Histories in 2021-22. In this context, the first row is entirely dedicated to works by Black artists, while the second row is dedicated to works by women artists, which also advances MASP's mission to be a diverse, inclusive and plural museum. The iconic poster by the Guerrilla Girls, made in 2017, and shown here, is a critique of the small presence of women in the collection display— 6% at the time and currently more than 20%. There is still much to be done.