From the Terreiro to the Museum: the Mario Barata Afro-Brazilian Art collection

Discover the new acquisitions of the National Museum of Fine Arts that accentuate the presence of African and Afro-religious origins in the institution's museum collection.

Ferro de assentamento do orixá OssãeMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

In 2023, the National Museum of Fine Arts received, as a donation, the Afro-Brazilian Art collection from journalist, museologist and art historian Mario Barata.

This collection emphasizes the African and Afro-religious matrix art that has been produced in the country beyond the European and Western canons.

Máscara Gueledé by Grupo Cultural YorubáMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

The acquisition comes into dialogue with other MNBA collections such as Popular Art and African Art, both acquired in 1963, which show the diversity of artistic forms and subjects possible in a space that holds the Artistic Heritage representative of Brazilian society.

De acordo com a museóloga Eloisa Ramos é 

“ it is necessary to trace the biographies of the collector, the collection and the exhibitions created from it, to understand the displacements of these objects that ended up gathered according to a defined logic and the collector's motivations, forming a separate world, through which he seeks his insertion in public life through his museumization”.

In this sense, what should be highlighted about Mário Barata’s professional performance?

Mário BarataMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

The trajectory of professor Mario Barata

From journalist to museologist

Mario Barata

Born in 1921, son of Pará journalist Hamilton Barata and Portuguese seamstress Maria Augusta Barata. At sixteen he began working at his father's newspaper O Homem Livre.

He later entered the Museology course at the National Historical Museum, graduating in 1940. He was one of the founders of the International Council of Museums in 1946.

Capa do livro "Azulejos no Brasil" de Mario Barata (1955) by Mário BarataMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

Mario Barata had extensive intellectual production and as an art and rare book collector. He researched tiles, sacred art, Afro-Brazilian art, visual arts, architecture and urbanism.

Capa do livro "Ensaios de numismática e ourivesaria" de Mario Barata, From the collection of: Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
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Capa do livro "Concepção atual da natureza da escultura" de Mario Barata, 1952, From the collection of: Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
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Capa do livro "Escola Politécnica do Largo de São Francisco: berco da engenharia brasileira" de Mario Barata, 1973, From the collection of: Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
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Capa do livro "Presença de Assis Chateaubriand na vida brasileira" de Mario Barata, 1970, From the collection of: Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
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Capa do livro "Igreja da Ordem 3ª da Penitencia do Rio de Janeiro" de Mario Barata, 1975, From the collection of: Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
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Books by Mario Barata in the bibliographic collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts

Publicação "Arte Negra" (1941) by Mário BarataMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

Having followed the persecution of Afro-Brazilian cult objects carried out in the first half of the 20th century, journalist Barata writes, at the age of twenty,

the Arte Negra report in Revista da Semana, published in May 1941.

In this report he states:

 “The artistic production of Africans and their direct descendants in Brazil has always been curious and worthy of study.”

In this sense, researchers Roberto Conduru and Eloisa Sousa point out that Mario Barata was one of the first authors to classify Afro-Brazilian objects as Art.

In the words of Mario Barata, in 1941:

“In Brazil, as we said above, Black art appears above all in their religion. In Africa, however, it is one of the richest and most fertile in the universe. It is  that in our land black people could not and did not need to fully expand their artistic capacity except in one sector, which was precisely that of religion, which not only did not disappear but also had an even greater social function in the new homeland”.

Publicação "Arte Negra" (1941) by Mário BarataMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

In a period in which there was still police persecution of Candomblé terreiros and, on the other hand, the view of these objects only from a cultural and ethnographic point of view Barata was one of the first to glimpse the artistic trace in these same objects.

Ferro de Assentamento do orixá OssãeMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

Clues about the formation of a collection

In 1957, in the article “Sculpture of Afro-Brazilian Origin”, Mario Barata is categorical:

“The black man created in Africa and part of Oceania one of the most impressive human plastic works”.

Ferro de Assentamento do orixá OssãeMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

"The terrain is much broader, including metals, in which African technique has been so well preserved, metals in which either the decorative feeling or plastic appears in all its power."

Ferro de assentamento do orixá OssãeMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

A research agenda

In the same article again, the museologist calls for a research agenda that inventories objects of African origin present in Brazilian collections.

Ferro de assentamento do orixá OssãeMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

Barata, after his first article on Afro-Brazilian art, already an intellectual and museologist with an established career, launches a call to researchers who, when finding pieces of black origin,

must make an effort to find documents or information that details the time of its creation, the technique, the location, showing the importance it gave to the idea of consolidating collections of Afro-Brazilian art.

The opportunity we referred to at the beginning of this work, with perhaps unproductive optimism, is to create a photographic register: - a 'corpus sculptorom' – published in a book, with the pieces existing in private or public collections from all over the country and

with those of family properties, Candomblés, brotherhoods, etc., in certain Brazilian cities. This survey of the collection of pieces of clearly African origin is the first step to be taken, in fact almost 50 years late."

"These pieces must be classified by origin, function, local data and compared with those of a similar style from Africa, existing in museums and publications in other countries.” 

Atabaque “Rumpi”Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

In the 1940s and 1950s Barata embarked on a search for religious objects in the Praça Cairu market, in the lower city of Salvador.

About the market he stated: “There are 6 or 8 stalls specialized in selling pieces linked to religious tradition”.

ExuMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

In the early 1950s, he found an iron exu ccosting 120 cruzeiros. About the artwork he stated:

It is in the wrought iron exuses that the “geometrizing” tradition of Black art was best preserved”.

In this the formal tendencies of much of Black art are evident. Furthermore, its seats and weapons show the plastic strength of the artist who created it.”

Making art like this in 1950 shows the vigor that the artistic expression of Black Bahians still has.”

ExuMuseu Nacional de Belas Artes

Could this be the remaining exu in his collection?

Atabaque “Rumpi”Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

 “Ainda resta uma oportunidade de conhecer a criação plástica do negro no Brasil e de estudar-lhe as transformações depois de seu contato com a cultura do branco.”



It was with a sense of urgency, fearing the disappearance of artistic objects that Barata started a collection whose fragments can produce new testimonies and dialogues about Afro-Brazilian art.

Referências:
BARATA, Mário. A Arte Negra. Reportagem. Revista da Semana, 17 de maio de 1941, nº 20.
BARATA, Mario. A escultura de origem negra no Brasil In: Araújo, Emanuel (org.) A Mão Afro Brasileira, Significado da Contribuição Artística e Histórica, 1988 (1957).
CONDURU, Roberto. Esse troço é Arte? Religiões afro-brasileiras, cultura, material e crítica In: Modos. Revista de História da Arte. Campinas, v. 3, n. 3, pg. 98-114, set. 2019.
NASCIMENTO, Abdias. Cultura e Estética no Museu de Arte Negra. Revista Galeria de Arte Moderna. RJ 1968, n.14, p.21-22.
SOUSA, Eloisa Ramos. A coleção de (artes) Africana Savino em busca de sua musealização: considerações sobre a cultura material negra em museus. Tese de Doutorado em Museologia UNIRIO/ MAST, 2022.

Credits: Story

From the Terreiro to the Museum: the Mario Barata Afro-Brazilian Art collection

Curated
Ana Teles da Siva

Specially designed for Google Arts & Culture, 2023



CNPQ Scientific Initiation Scholars:
Ana Gabriella dos Santos Lima
Vitória de Souza Cabral


Scholarship Support CNPQ Technician:
Cristiane da Conceição Carvalho


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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