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Commemorative Postal Issue Modern Art Week Centenary

About the Souvenir Sheet

The souvenir sheet is formed by four postage stamps that represent the four artistic pillars that were present in the Modern Art Week: literature, painting, music and architecture. Carybé influenced the pillar of Literature, in his illustrations made for the book Macunaíma. With a hint of irreverence, the main character is lying on Mário de Andrade’s glasses. In the pillar of Painting, the postage stamp was inspired by the work “À Sombra”, by Zina Aita, where the workers are motorcycle delivery men, characters in Brazilian daily lives in large urban centers. In Music, an allusion is made to “Trenzinho do Caipira” (Countrymen Little Train), a composition by Villa-Lobos, where a train travels on the keys of a piano, puffing music notes smoke and passing through a countryside inspired by the colors of Anita Malfatti’s works. In Architecture, the MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art) is highlighted, in whose collection there are several works by the Modernists, and in the background the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, stage of this important event. In the right center of the souvenir sheet there is a already grown tree in reference to the one created by Di Cavalcanti for the event poster. Illustrations inspired by the works of Tarsila do Amaral are elements of connection between the postage stamps and giving motion to the entire composition. The background of the souvenir sheet, in silver, shows a mosaic with different patterns that refer to the mix of Brazilian culture: Yoruba patterns, Ipanema sidewalk, São Paulo sidewalks, Marajoara ceramics, the tiles of the São Luís mansions and the tiles of Cândido Portinari. Finally, there is a QR Code, which leads to a special website created by the Brazilian Institute of Museums (IBRAM), where it is possible to get more information about the 1922 Modern Art Week, find out more works and walk through the history of this very important Movement in the national cultural scene.

Modern Art Week Centenary

The Modern Art Week was an event organized by different artists between February 11 and 18, 1922, taking place at the Municipal Theater of São Paulo. It had the participation of several names that later became known as great exponents of Brazilian modernism, such as Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Anita Malfati, Di Cavalcanti and Heitor Villa-Lobos.

For a long time, historiography interpreted the week of 1922 as the great turning point of Brazilian arts, a unique and innovative project that sought to use European avant-garde techniques to build a genuinely national art. The modernists of São Paulo were, therefore, the first ones concerned with seeking the deep roots of Brazil and the construction of nationality, linking to this the search for elements of art and popular culture. For the first time, there would have been space to think about Brazil based on indigenous and African cultural elements and popular strata that were previously excluded and underrepresented.

This year the Modern Art Week completes its first centenary. Because of this date, the most diverse institutions have discussed the topic in multiple ways. The event, which, at that time, had the participation of a few artists and had little repercussion, and having suffered even severe criticism from contemporaries, ended up being reconstructed, throughout the 20th century, in various social and political circles, as an extremely important movement. Thus, the Modern Art Week was later interpreted as a movement of national relevance, mingling with the emergence of Brazilian Modernism.

However, current studies have demonstrated the limits of this established interpretation of the São Paulo event. First of all, it must be borne in mind that the week of 1922 cannot be considered the great spark of modern art in Brazil, nor São Paulo its epicenter. Even before the 1920s, several modern trends and themes later explored by the modernists found expressions in various regions of the country. In addition, modernism after 1922 continued as a multiple process, encompassing cities in other geographic points in Brazil. Therefore, one can think of modernism as a long-lasting artistic expression, between 1890 and 1945, in which the week of modern art was only a fragment. Regarding the issue of representation of popular cultures, several artists today have pointed out the lack of representation and participation of black and indigenous artists in the event, and there are current expressions that try to reflect on this issue.

Nevertheless, its legacy is undeniable. In a way, it can be said that the Modern Art Week forged an idea of national culture, later understood and used as the pillars of what is now understood by “Brazilianness”. More than an idea or a concept of culture, perhaps the greatest legacy, and perhaps because of its longevity, is that, as a result of it, institutions were created and gave it support. In the eyes of current interpretations, it can be considered as a successful process of ideological construction, elaborated from an intellectual bourgeoisie. In the years that followed, the conceptions of the Modernists of the Week regarding national culture were imposed. Today, at a certain distance, and contemplated by the emergence of other critical voices and other places beyond the central-south axis, many solid ideas built in 1922 seem to be dismantled into thin air.

In the last 100 years, substantial studies and debates have been undertaken, giving rise to the celebration of its legacy. An undeniable legacy of an interpretation that for decades was responsible for the formation of a project, not only of modernity, but, above all, of culture, today its limits are also put to the test.

To this end, the Instituto Brasileiro de Museus and the Correios, joined together to chorus the debates around this important milestone of national culture, with debates and a block of postage stamps that we hope are part of an undoubtedly important moment for Brazilian culture.

This issue addresses the historical event from the considerations of the artistic and historiographical environment about the meanings of this modernist encounter. Therefore, art was developed to extend the meanings of the Week to the present, taking into account, including the criticisms made today about the modernist look at the construction of the Brazilian nation. Thus, the idea is to be able to provoke reflection, through the art of stamps, on modernism as a long and plural process, which goes beyond the 1922 Week, but which was also limited by the conjuncture of the time and the social position of its builders.

The general concept of the design of these stamps was that of Anthropophagy, as conceived by Oswald de Andrade and also used by other modernists. But, instead of swallowing the foreign to create genuinely national art, the art of the stamps of the Week of 22 seeks to “anthropophagize” the modernists, giving space for the representation of the Brazilian popular classes, for other expressions of modernism after 1922, in addition to try to bring an updated view of the meanings of a Brazil marked by diversities and inequalities.

Brazilian Institute of Museums – IBRAM and Correios Brasil

Technical Details

Stamp issue N. 2

Art: Juliana Souza and Paulo Baptista

Print system: offset, UV varnish and spot color

Paper: gummed chalky paper

Souvenir sheet with 4 stamps

Facial value: 2nd class rate for domestic mail (each stamp)

Issue: 12,000 souvenir sheets

Design area: 33 x 33mm

Stamp dimensions: 38 x 38mm

Souvenir sheet dimensions: 230 x 240mm

Perforation: 11.5 x 11.5

Date of issue: April 28th, 2022

Place of issue: São Paulo/SP

Printing: Brazilian Mint

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