Bispo do Rosario – I came: apparition, impregnation and impact

Arthur Bispo do Rosário, Wall at the back of my house, s/d.


Reverberations regarding the exhibition of his works in São Paulo

“Arthur Bispo do Rosário…carrying all the stigmas of social marginalization still in force in our society – black, poor, crazy, asylum in an asylum – manages, in his genius, to subvert the excluding logic by proposing, from his work, the re-signification of the universe, to be gathered and presented on the day of judgment. His mission came to an end at the age of 80, on July 5, 1989, the day of his death.”[I]

It is on display at Itaú Cultural, occupying 3 floors until October 2, something less than half of the collection of more than 800 works that, he, Artur, did not consider “art”.

The exhibited production allows us to get to know something of the many facets of a black man born around 1910, in Japaratuba, Sergipe, a region populated by former slaves, people from the Quilombola region, with a strong presence of Christian festivals, in which embroidery was widely practiced.

At the age of 14, he joined the Brazilian Navy where he stayed until 1931.[ii] traveling along the Brazilian coast. Arrived at First Signalman. In the Navy[iii] he expanded his skills as an embroiderer and seamstress, acquired cartographic knowledge and learned the use of instruments such as compasses and other nautical artifacts.

A considerable part of the work on display brings elements reminiscent of this phase of his life through the representation of various types of ships and boats, maps, lists of countries with their flags, capitals and other information, embroidered on jackets and banners, as well as lists of names of sailors and functions.

The drive to catalog and systematize the world pervades his work. Their magnificent robes were meant to be worn. They are masterpieces whose embroidery features countless elements whose symbology, drawings and texts would allow the author, on the day of final judgment, to represent the world to the creator. This was the mission assigned to him by the voices in a dream on the eve of Christmas 1938 and which he recorded on the first of the mantles (named by the curators “Eu Vim” and which can be seen in the exhibition and in the figure below).

This dream took him to the Monastery of São Bento, in Botafogo (RJ) where he revealed it to the friars informing that he had come to judge the living and the dead.[iv] The friars called the police who admitted him as an indigent, to the Hospital de Alienados, in Praia Vermelha (RJ), diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Since then, he would alternate stays outside and inside various asylum institutions in which he would carry out most of the work that would survive him. After a long period outside the institutions, in 1964, he returned to Colônia Juliano Moreira with a truckload of objects and remained there until the end of his days in 1989.

It was certainly favored by the wave of adoption of labor therapy and art therapy in asylum institutions led by Nise da Silveira, who was honored by the attribution of her name to a wing of Colônia Juliano Moreira. Even so, Nise and Artur were never in direct contact, even though they were contemporaries in asylum institutions in RJ.

These new practices allowed Artur to conquer spaces, instruments and autonomy with which he enriched a work in which he sought to record the world in order to fulfill his mission. Arthur hardly named the objects he created, and there is little information about their dating.

The work highlights characteristics that are strongly present in contemporary society. Among them, a sense of accumulation and repetition when, for example, he creates objects and panels that organize similar pieces such as combs, mugs, cutlery, shoes, among many others. A special case of these repetitions are the innumerable labels on which the number and description border, (eg: 691. Aluminum plates) in which he represents the world with the meticulousness of systems analysts, a professional activity that would spread in consonance with the evolution of computers.

There are lists of names followed by the respective titles of people on the crews he was part of. Those who wanted to know his work were asked what color they saw in his aura, registering their names followed by the declaration of the color. There is an extraordinary collection of sashes and scepters of Misses from Brazilian states and from countries that competed in beauty pageants. On the tracks edge information about these places. The scepters are coated with blue thread obtained by dismantling the uniforms.

The objects coated with blue threads (abbreviated by the curators as ORFAs) will constitute one of the striking features in their vast production of pieces representing everything in the world: boats, compasses, tables, kitchens, carts, carousels, over 800 objects built with art , elegance, skill, recycling materials that made Bispo a recycler of the first magnitude long before society recognized this activity as essential.

The obsession with identifying, classifying, categorizing, producing in series that characterizes the dominant culture in society is humanly present in his work, however completely stripped of its mercantile character. “It's not for sale” as he says in the film “O Prisoner of the Passage”. His activity product is zero exchange value, totally use value. It is remarkable the absence of commercial intention inside the subject who, on the day of final judgment, wanted to give an account, in the best way he could, of the world he had received. Perhaps, not by chance, this work was carried out in an environment confined by walls erected to segregate, within them, individuals who did not internalize or adjust to this obsessively dominant mercantile culture.

The material available on Artur Bispo do Rosario tells us about an individual respected by the other institutionalized people, the “sheriff” of his pavilion, an assistant to the medical team in dealing with inmates and a trustee to the point of having spaces where he stored materials and carried out work. , an affectionate person who in her last years dedicated several of her objects to the intern Rosangela Maria[v] at a time when the institution was open to less violent practices.

Arthur Bispo do Rosário dressed in the “Mantle of Presentation” that he would wear on Judgment Day [vi]

“With the death of Arthur Bispo do Rosário in 1989, Colônia Juliano Moreira is faced with the challenge of deciding the fate of the works produced by him during the 49 years he was hospitalized intermittently. The set of his creations was housed by the then Nise da Silveira Museum. In light of its new mission, in 2000, 11 years after Bispo's death, the institution changed its name to Museu Bispo do Rosario, now honoring the main artist in its collection”.[vii]

Like a stone thrown into a lake, the energy of Artur Bispo do Rosário's work continues to reverberate in people and in the arts. The exhibition also features works by members of Ateliê Gaia,[viii] in addition to numerous other contemporary artists.

At a time when the government is attacking the SUS and causing setbacks in mental health policies[ix] Artur Bispo do Rosário's work, carried out at a time when asylum institutions were opening up to new practices, is spiritual nourishment in the fight for a society without walls.

* Robert Regensteiner is a professor, writer, and consultant in Management & Information Technology.



Exhibition “Bispo do Rosario – I came: appearance, impregnation and impact” held in partnership between Itaú Cultural in São Paulo and the Museu Bispo do Rosario in Rio de Janeiro, curated by Diana Kolker and Ricardo Resende.

Visitation until 2/10/2022 (Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 20pm; Sundays and holidays 11am to 19pm).



[I] In


[iii] “Bishop's behavior, which did not correspond to the Navy's regulations, was marked by alternating between “exemplary” and “breaking the law”, which led to his being excluded in 1931. A few years later, in 1934, he worked as a tram washer for Viação Excelsior (a company created by Light, at the time responsible for electricity in Rio de Janeiro). However, due to an accident at work, Bispo do Rosário left the company and, represented by Humberto Leone, filed a lawsuit against Light. Humberto would become his boss some time later. For Bispo, Leone's family represented the "Holy Family", to whom he swore allegiance in exchange for safety, shelter and food." In:

[iv] Cf film “Hugo Denizart: The Prisoner of the Passage”, minute 5:00 onwards in

[v] In the excellent documentary Arthur Bispo's Sacred Rosary, produced by the Inclusion program of the Federal Senate, ( at around 12 minutes, the psychologist and psychoanalyst Rosangela Maria Magalhães, who did an internship at the Colony, testifies to the affection he dedicated to her, in addition to a precious testimony about the person. In the Itaú cultural exhibition, several objects that he produced and dedicated to her are presented. This documentary is valuable for also interviewing Luciane Hidalgo, author of the book lord of the labyrinth in which he publishes his research on Bispo and which served as the basis for the film of the same name in which director Geraldo Motta Filho states that MoMA in New York considers Artur Bispo do Rosário and Marcel Duchamp to be considered the two greatest plastic artists of the century XX. In addition, it brings images of the Colony in the time when it was a closed asylum and after its opening, transformed into a Museum that houses the technical reserve where the works of the Bishop are kept. The interview with the director of the museum, Wilson Lazaro, shows in detail various aspects of the works, tools and similarities with other artists (including Duchamp's wheel and Oiticica's parangolés).



[viii] “Ateliê Gaia is a collective made up of people who have worked at the mental health service at Colônia Juliano Moreira. From the group, works by Arlindo Oliveira and Patrícia Ruth, who lived with Bispo, are shown, among others.”


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