The first biennial founded outside Venice opened in São Paulo Brazil in 1951, providing a fulcrum between “dependency” and “developmentalism” (to use economic terms). In terms of art history, it presents a useful anomaly in which an international style (“concrete abstraction,” a European import) was used simultaneously to eradicate local difference and to declare a cosmopolitan, up-to-date Brasilidade (Brazilianness). More crucially, I argue that the São Paulo Bienal was the precondition for the newly rigorous conceptualism that followed, as Brazilian artists in the late ′60s rejected “Concretismo” to craft a new world picture, radically transforming margin and center through the profoundly theoretical practice of antropofagia — cultural cannibalism.

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