The 6th edition of the Mercosur Biennial, 2007, in Porto Alegre

No. 140 – December 2006

“La Tercera Orilla del Río” (“The Third Shore of the River“) is the title of the 6th edition of the Mercosur Biennial that will be held in Porto Alegre between September 1 and November 17, 2007. The general curator is Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, along with a curatorial team made up of 7 members, including Inés Katzenstein from MALBA (Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art). In the Tributes Section there will be three Monographic Exhibitions, one of them dedicated to a complete revision of Jorge Macchi’s production. 

The Spaniard Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, curator of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas in Austin, has just been appointed general curator of the 6th edition of the Mercosur Biennial, which will take place from September 1 to November 17, 2007 in Porto Alegre. The title of the Biennial, La Tercera Orilla del Río was taken from Guimaraes Rosa’s story -which has the same name- as a metaphor to leave out binomials such as figuration-abstraction or local-international. In line with this year’s edition of the São Paulo Biennial, Pérez-Barreiro decided to eliminate national representations in hopes of setting regional borders aside and, in this way, globalize the biennial by extending the call for entries beyond the countries that make up the Mercosur. This is an idea that was taken from the recent institutional change at the Blanton Museum, where the collection was no longer classified as Latin American Art, but instead as a collection of modern and contemporary art. 

In the present edition of the Mercosur Biennial there will be more space to see the artworks thanks to the fact that the number of artists has been reduced to a maximum of 60.

Pérez-Barreriro will work with a team of co-curators and they all will be in charge of the different thematic modules.The Mercosur will be taken as the starting point for the five axes of the exhibition: 1) Monographic Exhibitions, 2) Conversations, 3) Zona Franca, 4) Tres Fronteras, and 5) Pedagogical Program, each of which will be under responsibility of one or more of the invited curators.

For the “Monographic Exhibitions” section, the general curator (Pérez-Barreiro) has selected 3 artists who represent different moments in the history of Latin American Art. These are Jorge Macchi (1963, Argentina), the Brazilian-Swedish artist Öyvind Fahlström (São Paulo 1929-Stockholm 1976,) who was active in the pop movement of the 1960s, and the Uruguayan artist Francisco Matto (Montevideo 1911- 1995), one of the members of the Torres García Workshop and representative of Constructive Universalism. Each monographic exhibition will have its own catalog. 

In the section “Conversations”, curated by the Uruguayan Alejandro Cesarco (artist and independent curator), eight artists residing in the Mercosur will be invited, who will then invite two other artists from anywhere in the world to participate in the same conversation. The main idea is to explore cultural geography through specific relationships between different works of art. 

In Zona Franca, a curatorial team whose members are Moacir dos Anjos (Director of the Museum of Modern Art of Recife), Inés Katzenstein (curator of MALBA, Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art), and Luis Enrique Pérez Oramas (curator at MoMA, New York), will be in charge of choosing 6 contemporary art projects each. This section is based solely on criteria of quality and relevance.

Tres Fronteras is an international artist-in-residence program located in the triple-frontier zone of the Mercosur region. It will be managed by the Paraguayan Ticio Escobar (Director of the Museo del Barro, Asunción). Four artists will be invited to reside in Foz do Iguaçu, in the border region between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

The Uruguayan artist living in New York, Luis Camnitzer, will be the curator of the “Pedagogical Project”, and will follow the proposals of the Brazilian Paulo Freire on pedagogical models designed by artists aimed at developing the creative capacity of the audience. 

According to Pérez-Barreiro, in the path of appraising cultural geography, created through the expression of the artist, going beyond the limits of geopolitical borders has proven to be a necessary step. In the proposal shaped by the image of La Tercer Orilla del Río, “all the curators have a direct relationship with Mercosur countries and, at the same time, some kind of international action or experience. But they all represent different voices and this Biennial accepts and promotes freedom of expression”. With the freedom to give curators new roles, as in the case of the pedagogical curator (the artist Luis Camnitzer), Pérez-Barreiro works with art as a central element of a dialogue capable of generating independent perspectives.

The choice of Jorge Macchi in a Monographic Exhibition

According to Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, the choice of the Argentine Jorge Macchi in one of the three monographic exhibitions of the Mercosur Biennial is due to the fact that “he is one of the most relevant and recognized contemporary artists of the present time. The monographic exhibition will provide the first overview of his career in the American continent. Macchi’s work is characterized by its subtle meditations on the poetic opportunities of everyday life. Macchi works with everyday objects in a variety of mediums, including installations, videos, collages and photographs. His oeuvre represents the concept of La tercera orilla through the alternative generated by the encounter between conceptual art and emotion”. In Macchi’s exhibition, the itinerary plan includes a first stop at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin once the Biennial in Porto Alegre comes to an end. Afterwards, the exhibition will travel throughout North America. 


Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro – General curator of the 6th Mercosur Biennial 2007. 

He is a 36 years old Spanish national and lives in Austin, Texas. He has a PhD in Art History and Theory and is curator of Latin American art at the University of Texas Blanton Art Museum in Austin. He was the Director of Visual Arts of the Americas Society in New York for three years, until 2002, and also curator of the Latin American Art Collection of the University of Essex between 1993 and 1998. He has curated and produced numerous exhibitions of Latin American art in Europe and the United States, including exhibitions of Lygia Clark, Geraldo de Barros, Rivane Neuenschwander and Iran do Espírito Santo. He is currently preparing The Geometry of Hope: Latin American Geometrical Abstraction from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection for the Blanton Museum of Art and the Grey Art Gallery in New York. He has lectured on Latin American art at various institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University, the Guggenheim Museum, Oxford University and the Iberê Camargo Foundation.