Cultural agenda



Considerations on the role of modernists in the creation of cultural programs and institutions

The Cultural Agenda created in the last hundred years in the city of São Paulo arouses admiration and surprise: how was it possible for us to live without any of that? Thus, it is understandable why our elites, whether socio-economic or artistic, faced tedious weeks on a ship to go to Europe.

Everything that came after is a consequence of the same impulse for renewal that generated the Modern Art Week of 1922. One hundred years ago, in 1922, the Centenary of Independence was celebrated with great pomp and tradition, including a Universal Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro. January. For this reason, the Week would be conceived as a counter-commemoration, with no respect for conventions and aimed at avant-garde scandal. And that, in the noble space of the Municipal Theater.

This year marks the publication of the Ulysses, by James Joyce and The Wasteland, by TS Eliot. Marcel Proust died in Paris and Lima Barreto in Rio.

The same year also saw the creation, beginning the following year, of studies in Brazilian literature at the French University. France brought a pavilion called Petit Trianon, a copy of the one by Marie Antoinette in Versailles, later donated to the Brazilian Academy of Letters – where it is still today.

Other notable events of that year are the rise of tenentism with the episode of “Os 18 do Forte”, the foundation of the Brazilian Communist Party and the first Feminist Congress in Brazil, led by Bertha Lutz.


Bertha Lutz

A word about the renowned scientist. Graduated from the Sorbonne, she would be a biologist at the National Museum and head of its Department of Botany. Her whole life she fought for women's rights, starting with voting. She was the Brazilian delegate to the San Francisco Conference, in the United States, which created the United Nations (UN) in 1945, after World War II. The objective was to promote peace between nations, avoiding new wars.

Bertha Lutz's performance is illuminated by the documentary Bertha Lutz – The woman in the UN Charter (2020, dir. Guto Barra and Tatiana Issa). Based on archival research, it shows how, among 850 delegates of which only 8 were women – or, amazingly, a representation of 1% –, it was Bertha Lutz’s personal mission to convince the other delegates that the word “woman” ” should be made explicit every time human rights are discussed in the Charter. And this because, she said, if it is not made explicit, such rights will be monopolized by men and women excluded, as usual. She created an issue and was even the object of attacks from another female delegate, who said she considered such feminist nitpicking “vulgar”. Finally, she managed to get her point across, and there it is, in the Charter, the words “men and women” each time.

But the outcome for history holds interesting lessons. Bertha Lutz's mission was erased from the records of both the UN and the Itamaraty, and her feat was attributed to all the female delegates, without her name being mentioned. Not even a portrait of her appears among the thousands that hang on the walls of the UN headquarters, while in Itamaraty nobody remembers her. The documentary shows how at the Conference the advanced ideas came from poor countries. Once imposed, such ideas began to be attributed to the American and English, among the 8.

Seeing is believing: on the UN website, there is a photo of the Charter flanked by Eleanor Roosevelt. Whoever sees it, deduces that she was the main factor in the elaboration of the document. Except that she wasn't there... The many merits of the first lady are not disputed, but this one, that is, the inclusion of women in the Charter, does not belong to her, since she was not even a delegate, nor did she attend.

The documentary shows something we are used to: machismo and imperialism go hand in hand, even if this implies falsifying history, with the aim of dispossessing women and the poorest countries. Justice is demanded for Bertha Lutz, who would die in 1976 at the age of 84, but still had the strength to, a year earlier, lead the Brazilian delegation to the first Women's Congress convened by the UN, in Mexico.


the modernists

After the initial start given by the Semana de Arte Moderna in 1922, other initiatives and achievements followed, expanding the reach of the new ideas and arousing the ire of the past. Oswald de Andrade promotes the Week in Paris, giving a lecture at the Sorbonne and publishing an article in Revue de l'Amérique Latine, in 1923. The same Sorbonne inaugurates the courses in Brazilian literature, formally created the previous year.

A historical landmark would be the occupation by the modernists of the Annual Salon of the School of Fine Arts, bastion of aesthetic traditionalism, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1931. Under the aegis of Lúcio Costa, when he rose to the direction of the School, the reaction that followed would soon bring about its overthrow.

The artists who prayed for the new booklet persisted in asserting their drive for sociability, taking care to open two associations in the same year, 1932: CAM and SPAM.

The first, the Clube dos Artistas Modernos, was led by Flávio de Carvalho together with Antonio Gomide, Carlos Prado and Di Cavalcanti, all front-line modernists. The project included theater, hall for exhibitions, recitals, concerts, popular music, etc. the staging of The Dead God's Ballet by Flávio de Carvalho, would result in police intervention and the end of CAM in 1934.

The SPAM, or Sociedade Pró-Arte Moderna, was initially successful, due to the same combination that had proven effective during the Week: the support of an enlightened elite, including patrons and wealthy people. It held two resounding Carnival balls, with sets by Lasar Segall and pantomime by Mário de Andrade. It found itself under attack by those who accused it of subverting the traditional values ​​of the Brazilian family, and soon closed its doors.

Hence the Salões de Maio, in three successive years: 1936, 1937 and 1938. In them it was clear how much modernism had attracted new fans, multiplying the artists on display.

In 1934, the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters was founded, with the objective of being the theoretical head of the University of São Paulo. For this purpose, French masters were brought from Europe for the human sciences, Germans for the natural sciences, Italians for the physical and mathematical sciences.

Soon there was rapprochement between the modernists and the new Faculty, verifiable in numerous passages. Oswald de Andrade applied for a teaching post. Mário would enter into friendly debates through the newspapers with Roger Bastide, with whom he exchanged a lot of correspondence. He would finance expeditions by Claude and Dina Lévi-Strauss to indigenous territories, entrusting her with courses in Ethnology at the Department of Culture.

Still in 1935 (and until 1938) the extraordinary event took place, which was the appointment of the great modernist, leader and theorist of the movement to direct the first Department of Culture in the country, created by the Municipality of São Paulo.

The new Department had the objective of promoting the cultural panorama, aiming to democratize it and fill gaps. He instituted playgrounds; the Municipal Library and other libraries; theater division; music division, with the discotheque, symphony orchestra, chamber ensemble, ballet; the Historical Heritage; the Society of Ethnography and Folklore, etc.

Leaving the merely parochial scope, Mário created a Folklore Research Mission that toured the Northeast. The Mission would collect photos and footage, taking written notes, as well as recording dramatic dances and other musical events. He brought a huge collection of popular art objects. Deposited at the Discotheque, the estate would wait 70 years to be organized by the musicologist from the Institute of Brazilian Studies (IEB-USP) Flávia Camargo Toni, who promoted an exhibition, publishing a catalog book and a CD with the recordings.

Mario too would soon fall, ousted by politics. But today each state and each municipality has a Secretariat for Culture, modeled after Mário de Andrade's Department, and at the federal level the country has a Ministry for Culture. However, the first step fell to the modernists.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (Senac\Gold over Blue).


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives