By Maria Lopez Conde, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After almost six years of renovations, Casa Daros, a new cultural space for Latin American art in Botafogo, opened its doors last Saturday, March 23rd. Housed in a beautifully restored 12,000-square meter neoclassical building, Casa Daros brings together nearly 1,200 works from 117 Latin American artists, part of the Daros Latinamerica Collection in Zurich.
Created by philanthropic international art collector, Ruth Schmidheiny, Daros has been acquiring works selected by its artistic director and curator, Hans-Michael Herzog, since its inception thirteen years ago. Today, it is considered one of the world’s largest private, contemporary Latin American art collections.
“We wanted to create a collection of contemporary art from all Latin American countries,” Herzog explained at a press conference four days before the art center’s opening. “In Europe, there was zero interest because people there knew nothing about Latin American Art; Latin American literature, yes, but contemporary, art, no,” he added. “We started to acquire, which was so easy because the field was so very rich.”
Originally set to open in 2008, the cultural center’s renovation works were both labor-intensive and expensive. The historic mansion built in 1866, which served as an orphanage and a school in the past, was bought from Santa Casa da Misericórdia, a charitable organization, for R$16 million in 2006. The restoration of the cultural heritage site that began in 2007 has cost R$67 million to date, financed entirely by Schmidheiny, according to Isabella Nunes, director of Casa Daros.
Besides reuniting the works of major Latin American artists, the space’s devotion to becoming more than just another museum is embodied by the decision to call it Casa Daros (Daros House).
The idea is to provide a “welcoming home,” as Herzog described, so that art connoisseurs, students and artists can converge at workshops, educational activities, as well as at an extensive contemporary art library with over 5,000 titles.
The two-story mansion also features a shop and a sleek, stylish café, Mira!, created by the trio behind Botafogo hot spot restaurants, Miam Miam and Oui Oui.
The inaugural exhibition gracing the grandiose halls of the new space is “Cantos Cuentos Colombianos” (Colombian Songs Stories), an overlook of the contemporary art scene in Colombia.
On display in Zurich for the first time in 2004, “Cantos Cuentos Colombianos” reunites the works of ten artists from the neighboring South American nation. Through installations, pictures, film and objects, these artists explore the difficult social and political reality of Colombia in the 1990s.
According to curator Herzog, Colombian works were selected to inaugurate the space because “contemporary Colombian art is practically unknown in Brazil.” The team behind Casa Daros is hoping it can become a place where Brazilians can get to know Latin American art and where artists communicate with their audiences.
“Casa Daros is a big opportunity for Latin America to converse with the world and discuss education through art,” said Eugenio Figueroa, Daros’s art education director. “Latin America is not a monolithic body, it’s a diverse space filled with particularities and we want to highlight the artist conversing with his or her production.”
The inauguration of Casa Daros comes at a time of urban transformation and revitalization of art centers in Rio de Janeiro. Last month, the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) opened in the port zone, greatly expanding the city’s cultural options.
Cantos Cuentos Colombianos
Dates: March 23 – September 18, 2013
Times: Wednesday-Saturdays 12PM-8PM, Sun 12PM-6PM
Venue: Casa Daros
Address: Rua General Severiano, 159 – Botafogo – RJ
Tickets: FREE – after April 14th, R$12