By Nathan M. Walters, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The idea of street art generally means just that, art that uses public structures as a canvas for different media. However, there are innovative spaces in Rio that have been bringing some of the the most exciting street artists into the gallery environment, displaying what was once solely public art, for sale.
Because some pieces of art on the street are so nice, people want to take them home and enjoy them, or hold on to them in the hope they appreciate in value.
Theft of street art pieces is increasingly common, even though most work on the street is not easily removed. Banksy (the famous British street artist) pieces go missing regularly, there are recent rumors of walls being removed in São Paulo.
Fortunately, many graffiti and street artists from Rio are taking their street style to canvas, sculpture, and photography. Some of Rio’s most well-known artists are now working with galleries producing pieces that are attracting a large number of private collectors.
Galeria Movimento Arte Contemporânea is one of the first and still the most notable galleries in Rio focusing on contemporary art and street art exhibitions. Since 2006, the gallery, owned by a patron of the street art community, Ricardo Kimaid Jr., has worked with some of Rio’s most talented and well-respected street artists, including various members of Rio’s Fleshbeck Crew.
Kimaid notes “the enormous creative potential” of the street art genre. For him, Galleria Movimento works on the “highlighting the idea that street art is a harmonious dialogue, complemented with other artistic forms.”
The most recent exhibiton at Movimento (running through May 2nd) by famed Rio street artist Toz (titled Toz: O Vendedor de Alegria “Seller of Joy”) displays Movimento’s willingness to work with local street artist in a variety of media. The collection not only includes paintings of the vibrant, playful images for which Toz has long been recognized, but also sculpture pieces and an installation that brings the characters and environment of a Toz painting to life.
Private collectors are becoming increasingly interested in the work of street artists. With big name artists selling for large amounts (Banksy pieces have sold for hundreds of thousands in recent years), there is a rush to buy pieces.
Along with the financial motive, Kimaid looks at the success of artists like Toz as a good example for younger artist. “We like to be involved in the community by bringing culture to places where there is none,” states Kimaid. “With successful artists in the gallery more doors open allowing us to do more work in the community.”
Kimaid maintains a great reputation in the street art community, known for managing the gallery in ways that both encourages the creativity of the street artists while respecting the professional side of the genre.
Mateu Velasco, a well-known street painter in Rio who has done exhibitions at Movimento in the past, states, “I like to work with them because they are one of the few galleries in Rio that works with street art in a professional way, making the link with other types of contemporary art.”
As the recognition of street art moves into a new phase it is more common that artists look for different ways to present their work. Places like Galeria Movimento and people like Kimaid are further legitimizing the work of artists that in the not too distant past may have been disregarded as a fad.
The long-term effect the trend for gallery sales will have on public work has yet to be seen, though for the moment at least, there is an alternative to stealing public walls.