The São Paulo Museum of Art (in Portuguese, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, or MASP) is an art museum located on Paulista Avenue in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. It is well known for its headquarters, a 1968 concrete and glass structure designed by Lina Bo Bardi, whose main body is supported by two lateral beams over a 74 meters freestanding space, considered a landmark of the city and a main symbol of modern Brazilian architecture.
At the end of the 1940s, Brazilian economy was passing through large structural changes, consolidating the transition from an era dependent on coffee cycle to one of growing industrialization. The state of São Paulo specifically was attracting many industries and workers from many regions of the country and the World, and the city of São Paulo, in particular, had established itself as the most important industrial hub in the country. Regarding the artistic life, however, São Paulo's most notable reference was still the Week of Modern Art of 1922. Despite the importance this event had enjoyed in the 1920s, Modernism wouldn't draw much attention of city dwellers and institutions in the following decades. There was only one art museum in São Paulo, the Pinacoteca do Estado, solely devoted to Academic art, besides a commercial gallery.
The first steps (1947-1957)
The museum was inaugurated and opened to public visitation on October 2, 1947, displaying the first acquisitions, amongst which canvases by Picasso and Rembrandt. In these first years of activity, the museum was located on the first floor of the Diarios Associados headquarters. Lina Bo Bardi was in charge of adapting the building to the needs of the museum, dividing it into four distinct areas: art gallery, a didactic exposition room about history of art, temporary exhibition room and an auditorium.
MASP was the first Brazilian institution interested in acquiring works of modern art. The museum would quickly become a meeting point for artists, students and intellectuals, attracted not only by its holdings, but also because of the workshops and courses about history of art, temporary exhibitions of national and foreigner artists, and the educative program, open to receive manifestations of multiple fields of art, such as theater, cinema and music.
Consolidation of the museum
The collection's rising amount and importance soon required the construction of a building to headquarter the museum. With that purpose, the São Paulo City Hall donated a plot of ground, previously occupied by the Belvedere Trianon – a traditional meeting point of the Paulistano wealthy, which had been demolished in 1951 - to host the first edition of São Paulo Art Biennial. The ground on Paulista Avenue had been donated to the City Hall with the condition that the view to the downtown area and the valley of the Nove de Julho Avenue be preserved.
The formation of the collection
The main body of the collection was gathered between 1947 and 1960. Pietro Maria Bardi, formerly owner of commercial galleries in Milan and Rome, was in charge of searching and selecting the works which should be acquired, while Chateaubriand had to look for donors and patrons who shared his dream of endowing the country with a museum of international standard.
Although many spontaneous donations had been registered, Chateaubriand gained reputation for using bold methods of persuasion. Endorsed by the influence of his Diários Associados Press, he negotiated with announcers his gathering of funds. After that, he rewarded the donors with the title of patrons, celebrating each new acquisition with banquets, speeches and even student parades in the streets of São Paulo, as happened at the arrival of Van Gogh's The Student.