Away Game: That New Brazil

·3-min read
Check out the new Sao Paulo (Check out the new Sao Paulo)
Check out the new Sao Paulo (Check out the new Sao Paulo)

Looking out from the rooftop of the Copan, the iconic undulating building designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1951, the megalopolis of São Paulo unfolds seemingly into eternity. Helicopters buzz overhead like titan beetles — the preferred mode of transport for wealthy Paulistas; the city boasts more of them than anywhere else in the world — and what was once Atlantic forest is now a jungle of concrete edifices.

Since 2017, the city has poured around £1.4m into street art projects, turning it into an open-air gallery. Large murals scale skyscrapers; some highlight issues such as racial injustice and the Covid-19 crisis, reflecting the zeitgeist as the country gears up for the 2 October presidential election. Many of the city’s art collections are housed in architectural gems. The lower floors of the Copan are occupied by Pivô, a non-profit art space, where an exhibition of Brazilian contemporary artist Ana Vaz has just opened. The Museu Afro Brasil is a Niemeyer building, too, while the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) and SESC Pompéia are the creations of the Italian-born Brazilian modernist Lina Bo Bardi.

Now, a new addition to the city’s skyline has risen: a tower by French Pritzker Prizewinner Jean Nouvel. Encased in a patchwork of trellising embellished with verdant foliage, the building is part of the Cidade Matarazzo project, which has seen the transformation of a former maternity hospital into a multifaceted arts and culture cen tre. At its heart is the Rosewood São Paulo hotel, the group’s first property in Latin America, featuring 160 guest rooms and 100 residencies, with interiors by Philippe Starck and landscapes by Louis Benech.

‘Alexandre wanted the place to reflect the power of Brazilian art,’ Starck says, referring to Alexandre Allard, the French entrepreneur — renowned for his involvement in the revival of the House of Balmain — who acquired the site in 2011. ‘While I was working on the maternity ward, he was scouting for artists and craftsmen, and he brought back extraordinary materials. We used nuvolato marble for the bathrooms, and sucupira and cumaru wood for the walls of the rooms. So structurally this place is a work of art, and a support for Brazilian art.’

In total, 450 artworks by 57 Brazilian artists were commissioned. Stand-out pieces include hand-painted tiles inspired by the country’s flora and fauna by Sandra Cinto, which adorn the rooftop pool and bar area; a Regina Silveira tapestry emblazoned with insects and plants that traverses the lobby floor to the elegant Le Jardin restaurant; and botanical illustrations by Walmor Correa that pepper the walls of the elevators. The Rabo di Galo jazz bar is particularly striking with its elaborately decorated ceiling by Rodrigo de Azevedo Saad.

After the sun sets, art intertwines with nightlife across São Paulo at parties such as Tesãozinho Inicial, Batekoo and Chernobyl. ‘What is most exciting about São Paulo right now is that Black and LGBTQ+ people are organising their own parties and not just lining the pockets of other people,’ says Igi Ayedun, the founder of HOA, the first Blackowned gallery in Brazil. ‘When you are going into these spaces, you are supporting marginalised people at the same time as having fun. It is a revolution that is shaping night culture. And it is only just beginning.’

Rooms at Rosewood São Paulo from £477 per night (