Hans Ulrich Obrist
The EDP Foundation recognises the Portuguese visual artist Artur Barrio with the 2016 EDP Foundation Art Grand Prize, a unanimous decision among the international jury. “Attitude is a key concept in Artur Barrio’s work. The implication of that word – which he has transformed countless times in his works, situations and performances – is a notion of what is personal, of the individual reaction to circumstances, to our times”, emphasises Chus Martinez, curator and director of the Institute of Art at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel, and one of the members of the jury.
The DNA of Artur Barrio’s work includes the use of ephemeral and unexpected materials such as coffee, blood and meat, creating experiences that involve the public and provoke extreme reactions. An example of the artist’s power to transform the spectator into witness was his intervention entitled Trouxas Ensanguentadas (Bloody Bundles), which became a reference for contemporary art in Brazil and the struggle against the repression of the Brazilian dictatorship. The intervention involved bags filled with organic material and excrement, creating the impression of bloody bodies. Among other moments, Barrio produced this intervention during the group exhibition Do Corpo à Terra (From Body to Earth), at the Belo Horizonte Municipal Park (Minas Gerais), in 1970, throwing 14 bundles into the Arrudas River.
“Attitudes are also the production of a humble exile, a way to react to history’s impatience, to produce thought through a gesture of retreat, scepticism, critical disconnection. This is one of the most remarkable contributions of Artur Barrio’s work. Regardless of how far he has been away from us, away from ‘home’, his work was there to engage us, to enrich and liberate the very notion of home and identity. Therefore, Artur Barrio, has always had one ‘foot’ in the future”, Chus Martinez adds.
Along with receiving the 2016 EDP Foundation Art Grand Prize, Artur Barrio will be honoured through a retrospective and/or anthological exhibition, with the publication of a catalogue that represents an important historiographic and bibliographical reference, and will also be awarded a cash prize of 50 thousand euros.
From 1945, the year of his birth, until 1955, the year in which he moved permanently to Brazil, he took in his Portuguese roots in the city of Porto. Artur Alípio Barrio de Sousa Lopes was the young man who, at the age of 22, challenged the world with actions, appeals, interferences, repeated synonyms of the doubts he cast about what art was, after all, in the early 60s.
At Rio de Janeiro’s National School of Fine Arts, his notebooks from 1969 pointed to a tendency to distance himself from the traditional, which he had worked with until then. He started by creating his Situações, and not a moment too soon – at 24; these were raw works, made from rubbish, organic materials (toilet paper, human detritus, decomposing meat, etc.) and other unconventional objects, and they were placed in urban settings for whoever happened upon them.
In a statement against categorising in art and the Brazilian social and political situation, in 1970 Barrio threw 14 bloody sacks with meat, bones and blood at river Arrudas during the collective exhibition Do Corpo à Terra. This was one of the many examples which made it ever more difficult to insert them in a category.
In 1974, he visited Portugal and witnessed the Carnation Revolution. He created situations such as 4 Movimentos e 4 Pedras and the sculpture Metal/Sebo Frio/Calor. Also around that time, he staged performances, made sculptures, books and artist notebooks, and he exhibited the works in this series at the 17th International Biennale of São Paulo. The decade of 2000 brought him back to Porto, where he held a solo exhibition entitled Regist(R)os, at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2001m he was the single Brazil representative at the 54th Venice Biennale.
Over 40 years dedicated to the art of appropriation and psychological involvement: a career devoted to artistic practice, recognised in 2011 with the Velázquez Visual Arts Award and the 2016 EDP Foundation/Art Grand Prize.