The Alternative Art Trail in Centro

By Felicity Clarke, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The travel guide books are all great at highlighting the big, the bold and the beautiful. When it comes to the Rio´s museum and art galleries, this means safe bet entries include the Museum of Modern Art, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi.

Untitled by Maria Neponuceno at A Gentil Carioca, photo by Felicity Clarke

Untitled by Maria Neponuceno at A Gentil Carioca, photo by Felicity Clarke.

But just as there’s the Sambadrome and the intimate Boteco Samba Bars Samba Boutiques), the Odeon Petrobras and the small indie cinemas like Cine Santa, there´s the big boy mainstream art galleries and the unique, quirky little spaces that offer an alternative, independent take on art in Rio.

Although there are galleries all over the city, much like the mega cultural centers there´s a concentration of small art galleries in Centro.

Starting in Saara, the web of frenzied shopping streets spreading out from Praça Tiradentes, A Gentil Carioca, is one of the most exciting and forward-thinking art spaces in the city. A doorway tucked between the umbrella and baseball cap wholesalers on Rua Gonçalves Ledo leads up to an airy white space that looks out onto the street below.

Recent openings have included solo shows of playful, large-scale organism-inspired sculptures by Maria Nepomuceno and delicate, clean pastel canvases by Carlos Contente.

There is also the large outdoor wall that is a constant public exhibition space with the full wall becoming a new work of art every four months. This space drew much attention last July and August when artists Tiago and Gabriel Primo attached furniture to the wall and lived there for two months, scaling the wall up and down between the beds, hammocks and tables. The forthcoming Abre Alas exhibition, an annual showcase of exciting emerging artists, opens on January 23rd.

Exhibition space at Centro Maria Teresa Vieira, photo by Felicity Clarke

Exhibition space at Centro Maria Teresa Vieira, photo by Felicity Clarke.

Around the Praça Tiradentes corner on Rua de Carioca is another cultural hot spot, but blink and you´ll miss it. The Centro de Artes Maria Teresa Viera is a shabby, seemingly abandoned shopfront on the outside and a warm contemporary art space, studio and education center on the inside.

Founded twenty years ago by prolific Carioca artist and influential art educator Maria Teresa Viera, the center specializes in supporting artists through studios and courses as well as exhibitions. The comfortable space also hosts multi-platform events including poetry, music and performance. A 20 year anniversary exhibition of the center featuring a wide range of contemporary Brazilian artists opens on January 13th.

Moving over to one of the most historic parts of town, on the narrow cobbled lanes off Praça XV there are a cluster of private art galleries contributing to the cultured atmosphere of the area. With a slick, commercial gloss that´s absent from A Gentil Carioca and Maria Teresa Vieira, these cater more urgently to the art buyer yet still show intriguing works by established artists.

LGC Contemporary Art on Rua do Rosário is currently using it’s cool, cozy two-story space to show a collective show of artists with broadly varying styles from Alexandra Vogler’s textured mixed media canvases with an underlying darkness to Claudia Jaguaribe’s dramatic sultry photography.

Around the corner, two stark sculptures sit perfectly in the leafy cobbled area. The works are by José Resende and are the initiative of the Galeria Paulo Fernandes, a small square space that presents contemporary exhibitions set against the building’s exposed 18th century walls.

On a trail in between the galleries mentioned are more little spaces with fascinating visual treats hiding within them. Don’t ditch the guide book culture suggestions, they’re well worth the visit, but for a more intimate, alternative art adventure in the city, keep your eyes open, buzz on the doors and check out the small spaces bursting with aesthetic wonder.

A Gentil Carioca, Rua Gonçalves Ledo, 17. Tel: 2222 1651. Open Tue to Fri 12 – 6pm, Sat 12 – 5pm.

Centro de Artes Maria Teresa Vieira, Rua de Carioca, 85. Tel: 2262 0137. Open Tue to Fri 11am – 8pm, Sat 11am – 3pm.

LGC Contemporary Art, Rua do Rosário, 38. Tel: 2263 7353. Open Tue to Sat 12 – 5pm.

Galeria Paulo Fernandes, Rua do Rosário, 38. Tel: 2233 1537. Open Tue to Sat 12 – 5pm.

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