Created in 1951, for nearly seven decades the Bienal Internacional de São Paulo has played an essential role in the cultural and art scene in Brazil. It has brought together millions of people involved in the production of national and international contemporary art, connecting them to a normally little accessible world.
Its performance has therefore set benchmarks in regard to the perennial goals of cultural policy. It has enlarged access, shared stimulating experiences, contributed to enlarging the repertoire of many people, energized the art world, jolted comfort zones, sparked debate, and opened the doors of perception.
Now, in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century, the Bienal is proposing new challenges: to reinvent itself; resignify itself. In a context ruled by acceleration and excess, in which people are bombarded daily by a whirlwind of images and information, the Bienal is going against the grain of this trend. In 2018, its thousands of visitors will have a new and potentially transformative experience. The artists are beginning to take on a more central role in relation to the space and general experience of this edition of the Bienal, in which the task of conceiving the exhibition will be shared by the curator with seven artists. The main priorities are focus and attention. Without scattering. Without fragmentation. But with the same intensity as always. Reinventing oneself is an act of courage. Abandoning traditional concepts that were once revolutionary, sailing against the tide, running opposite to the spirit of the time to valorize the territory of art…
It is not easy. But it is necessary to dare to try. I congratulate the organization of the 33rd edition of the Bienal for, once again, investing in difference. “Art is the experimental exercise of freedom,” as stated in an article by the great art critic Mário Pedrosa (1900–1981), whose work has inspired the title of this edition of the Bienal: Afinidades afetivas [Affective Affinities]. It is in art that we find the full space of freedom, in which constitutional principles of a vital character become objective, concrete, real. Art is also economy and development. We have intensely emphasized this dimension at the Ministry of Culture. It bears repeating, as not everyone is aware of this. The cultural and creative activities are vocations of this country and contribute much toward the generation of income, jobs, inclusion and happiness. And they are already responsible for 2.64% of the Brazilian gross domestic product (GDP), for about 1 million direct jobs, for 200,000 companies and institutions, and for the generation of more than R$10.5 billion in direct taxes.
In this context, I invite everyone participating in this edition of the Bienal to reflect on a simple message: culture generates the future. This is the moment to give culture the place it deserves; to see cultural policy as a means for bringing about the development that we desire for our society.
A development that not only generates and distributes wealth, but which also transforms, stimulates, reinvents and potentializes individuals and the country as a whole – which is precisely what art does, with its symbolic and economic dimensions. And the Bienal de São Paulo contributes much toward this. To everyone, an excellent Bienal.
Sérgio Sá Leitão
Minister of Culture