In a Frenzy: a panorama of the MAM Rio collections was not conceived around any specific topics or issues. Its name is a tribute to Brazilian artist Tunga. In his series of Desenhos em polvorosa [Drawings in a Frenzy], there is an untitled work showing intertwining bodies that are so tangled together it is impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. This drawing of Tunga’s could be taken as a kind of symbol-cum-image for this exhibition, which is designed to show visitors from this city, Brazil, and around the world the combined caliber of the three major collections held by MAM Rio.
The MAM Rio, Gilberto Chateaubriand, and Joaquim Paiva collections together contain over 16,000 works, including drawings, prints, photographs, paintings, sculptures, videos, installations, objects, performances, books by artists, and interventions. Individually, they all have particular features that make them special, but when exhibited alongside one another they manifest their heightened potential. By combining different works from the three collections, different overviews of Brazilian and international art from the late 19th century to the current day can be produced. But overviews inevitably contain simplifications and gaps, given that the 2,500m2 available for this exhibition could not possibly display all the works held by the museum.
Rather than drawing on these collections to offer an illustrative panorama of broader theoretical or verbal issues formulated by art historians, based on anthropological, philosophical, political, or any other theories, it was by researching the works they contain and their own histories that the criteria for this exhibition ultimately took shape.
Thanks to the historical periods represented in many of the works from these three collections, the curators were able to interrelate Brazilian art with that of other countries inside the exhibition space. One key realization was that the many photographs from late 19th century Brazilian exoticism and 20th century photojournalism – amply represented in these collections – were taken to provide supporting visual content for stories published in the press, silently portraying the country’s history. Displayed in showcases, these photographs reveal the different ethnic groups from which the present-day multicultural profile of Brazilian society derives, as well as the social gulf that still divides us. Irrespective of their artistic value, these are visual captions that lend meaning to the set of works exhibited here thanks to their provisional visual affinities, both syntactic (structural, compositional, chromatic) and semantic (thematic, historical, iconic).
The work of curating this exhibition was therefore a free exercise that the visitors will also do, investigating as many potential different routes and interrelations as possible. Routes that sometimes converge and sometimes diverge, but are never mutually exclusive. In this exhibition there is no right way through, since it is not organized in chronological order, although at some points it does not completely disregard this criterion.
In a Frenzy: a panorama of the MAM Rio collections is first and foremost a celebration of the MAM Rio collections and an opportunity for them to be experienced by the public.