Brazilian Art History and Market Through the Work of Adriana Varejão

This essay considers the intersections between the Brazilian past – starting from its colonisation by the Portuguese in 1500 – and the art of Adriana Varejao, illustrating the parallels between the Brazilian cultural, social and political context and her oeuvre. Because there is no way of talking about Adriana Varejão’s work without a perspective on Brazilian history, this paper gives an overview of that background, pointing out its three key moments: Baroque, Week of Modern Art and Neo-Concrete. After becoming an independent republic in 1822, Brazil continued under European cultural supremacy, resulting in a lack of national identity that endures today.

Varejão started her extensive research on decolonisation matters in the early 1990s before this term became common amongst global art market participants. Her dense body of work fills gaps in a country still building its cultural heritage. Additionally, the global market has received her production in a manner that proves the correlation between her sales and Brazil’s economic performance. Her international career grew quickly but also felt the impact of difficult political times and recession in Brazil. Nonetheless, the paper finishes with optimism as the country’s economy recovers speedily after the COVID-19 pandemic, encountering a global moment that is enthusiastic about art that revisits history from the perspective of colonised peoples.