share on facebook
The Bienal Archive

The Historical Archives of Contemporary Art were created between the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Bienal, in early 1955. Conceived by Wanda Svevo, then Secretary-General for the Bienal at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM-SP), the archives met the national need for a center of reference in contemporary art. Consisting of material gathered during the organization of the exhibitions or sent back by artists from other countries after the event, the documentation served as a research source.

In 1962, with the creation of the Bienal de São Paulo Foundation—the organization of the biennials was no longer under the charge of the Museum of Modern Art—, the Archives assumed a pivotal role at the new institution, with the mission of safeguarding the patrimony created by each edition of the Bienal. As a tribute to its creator, the collection was renamed the Wanda Svevo Historical Archives in 1963.

Over the years, given the role played by the Bienal, the Bienal Archive—as it is commonly known—earned recognition as one of the most important documental archives on modern and contemporary art in Latin America. In 1993, in virtue of the inestimable value, the Archive received cultural heritage listing by Condephaat, the local artistic, archeological and touristic heritage protection board. In addition to documents generated during the production of each edition of the Bienal, the archive contains catalogues, books, magazines, posters, clippings, artists' files, videos, photographs and reference material on Brazilian and foreign art, mostly dating from between 1948 and the present day.

The consolidation of the Bienal Archive was grounded upon the conviction that the memory of each Bienal is also the memory of contemporary art in Brazil and abroad, which means that not only does the collected content trace a history of the institution and of 20th-century art in general, but also documents its social function in promoting art and related education and research.

The curatorial work on the exhibition 30 × Bienal, the aim of which is to reflect on the transformations that have occurred in Brazilian art since the first Bienal, began at the Archive. A thorough listing of all the Brazilian artists who exhibited at these thirty editions, along with iconographical and bibliographical research, provided the bedrock for the selection of the artists and works featured in the exhibition.

The research conducted by the Bienal Educational Department (Educativo Bienal) for the "Art in Time” seminar—which surveys the educational projects that have accompanied the Bienal—revealed the Archive’s sheer potential as a source of information and knowledge about the Bienal’s role in shaping an audience apt to understand and produce art. If the Bienal, one of the biggest and longest-standing international art exhibitions, has been the stage of major transformations in Brazilian art over the last sixty years, the Archive is where this same history is kept alive and well.