flood of Feb 2015

Letter Five: Three São Paulo Museums and a Flood

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Feb 6 – Mar 25 2015 Brazil and Chile

 Feb 25, 2015: I have often found it most interesting and informative to explore a new place free of appointments and guides; whether in mountain or city, that leaves me open to the unexpected, to personal discovery. The most insignificant person, or remote corner can be a more  open doorway to an inner sanctum than an accredited official or guide.

The Asociación  Paulista de Medicina offices are at Brigadeiro 278, 8th floor, in a modern office building. There is strict security. Yet my CA driving license and avuncular ‘Walking White Man’ appearance were adequate documentation. The guard asks:  Why am I there? Not confessing the truth (no clear idea), I decide it is to visit the Association Library and Museum, listed in the extensive São Paulo Visitor’s Guide. The guard speaks at some length with the Museum Receptionist. I am issued a visitor tag and assigned a pleasant guide; perhaps she is also my keeper– to keep me from being lost– or making trouble. After all  I am just a self identified  Tom-Rick-or-Enrique.

The museum receptionist is formal and pleasant, indicating I’m free to roam the place, in company of my keeper. There are med students reading medical journals; mostly those familiar to us in US.   2015-02-25 11.49.092015-02-25 11.57.422015-02-25 11.59.252015-02-25 11.58.522015-02-25 11.48.43

After wandering through and taking photos, I venture to ask some questions of a young man i see  cloistered in a small office. He is a pre-med student, working there as a library docent. After a few minutes, he dismisses my guide, and spends the next two hours taking me through the other sections of the Association offices.

These include: one devoted to the history of medicine, a museum of painting related to medicine; the inner sanctum of the library filled with fine old books; and an exposition of about 100 paintings by internationally known portrait artist, Adelino Angelo, with a section titled ‘Faces of Misery’– from Europe and South America.

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Though he is not there, the museum has a curator and mentor. So I log the museum secretary on to the SSVMS site and web page with Bob La Perrierre’s fine on-line tour of our museum.  Outside, dark thunder clouds loom and began to speak and leak. I thank everyone, ask that they visit me or SSVMS whenever possible, and leave for my next stop.

São Paulo claims at least ten formal cultural centers like that of the Medical Association, 23 formal museums, 20 schools of art, and 10 active ateliers. There is also the Museu do Futebol, a national shrine of sorts, but at this time a place of mourning over Brazil’s failure to win the last World Cup. Even so, The Futebol Museum is more than a celebration of male sweat and hormones; it is a celebration of Brazil. I had visited it earlier.Two major museums looked attractive: The Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Av Paulista 1578; and the Pinacoteca de SP, Praza de Luz  2,  (Plaza of Light) in the big park by that  name, across the street from a beautiful restored building, the Luz Metro Station. 

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Plaça de Luz Metro Station
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Plaça de Luz  park


The MASP  owns more than 50,000 classical works of art. It is featuring an exposition that takes the visitor through the 18th and 19th century of art in Brazil and elsewhere: Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Gaughan, Matisse, Renoir, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Picasso, Hals,My iPad shuddered as I clicked on ‘photos’.

I am here for about 4 hours, while the sky darkens.  Now I want to visit the Museu Pinacoteca.  It is housed in a huge, block structured building next to yet another large park and plaza the looks off into the distance toward… What? More high-rise buildings. There are parks at every turn in this contorted city.  The Pinacoteca  sits atop, and covers, a large plaza which serves as a  place for artisans to show their wares, for a weekly farmers market, and a shelter, especially in heat or rain..

The major part of the Pinoteca is on the second floor. Oldsters are admitted free; it was not crowded and I stay for 5 hours while outside the storm rages. At about hour 3 I am the only person on a guided tour provided by the museum; perhaps others, wiser than I,  fled the storm. It was an unforgettable private introduction to both the history and the art of Brazil. early paintings by Europeans (Rodin visited and left some of his bronzes); the colonial period as seem by monarchists; the coup and independence; a gradual growth of national painters and sculptors.  Obviously a huge collection but here  are two I thought particularly relevant to Brazil:

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Tiradentes a dentist who supported the revolution against the monarchy of Dom Pedro II and was drawn and quartered.

One is by French painter who had never been to Brazil. if you enlarge it, ( click) you will note all indigenous are European. The other is by a Brazilian painter, who depicts Tiradentes (teeth puller), a dentist who supported the revolt against the monarchy and was drawn and quartered. The painting is so gory it was never exhibited until recently.

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original french painter’s depiction of indigenous people– who look European!

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While I am drinking in this dose of art and history, lightning and thunder continue. I finally have to leave. The Luz Metro stop is about 300 yards across a wide empty street. I cross during  a slight lull and take the metro. It is very extensive, elegant, nicely maintained for the most part, with escalators and electric walkways moving passengers three or four levels underground at times from one line to another.

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It is still raining heavily when the train reaches my station, a few big blocks from my hotel. I wait about 20 minutes, but finally just go, arriving completely soaked. I strip and dry myself gratefully, and turn on the TV.

There is  live coverage of extensive flooding, cars piled up by the roiling brown water, metro stations closed with people walking the rails to escape, fallen trees, and a man electrocuted  when he tried to leave his flooded car as a wire carrying 15000 volts fell. I stored my museum photos and pulled out my still shuddering iPad to record a news broadcast.

This storm dropped more water in less time than any on record. It seems clear that reports of people fleeing SP because of the drought were premature; but some actually are leaving because of flooding. I  hope to leave tomorrow, despite weather and an independent trucker strike.  It involves huge theft of money from the State owned oil monopoly PetroBras, and a government decision to replace those losses by raising only the cost of diesel! Will the president survive? If so, won’t she be powerless? The greve, (strike or grievance), is  blocking freeways without warning. Can I make it to the airport tomorrow?