It's housed in a renovated and adapted building that's situated next to an only-somewhat sketchy park. The renovation perfectly combines the classic architecture of the facade with a contemporary layout. The building is practially sliced in half by a huge atrium that runs through the entire height of the museum. This not only allows the curators to separate collections, but it also adds much natural light and visual interest to the space.
The Pinacoteca acquires only Brazilian art, and for me this made it the perfect entree into the culture, mindset and history of the Brazilian people. The first floor holds the temporary exhibits. When I was there, I saw a colorful exhibit on the history of native handcrafts (from utensils to toys to carnival masks) and a show of the emblem alphabet of Rubem Valentim, from Luz. This was cool, as Valentim created this graphic alphabet to give a voice to indigenous tribes and the disenfranchised of the cities.
On other floors are the permanent galleries, which trace art from Brazil's colonization through to the present. A thoughtful visitor can learn a lot about Brazilian iconography and history while moving through these rooms. Some of my favorite artists, painting mostly realistic landscapes, were Rebolo (1903-80), Almeida Junior (1850-1899), and the still lifes of Pedro Alexandrino (1856-1942).
The contemporary art and sculptures are showed on the ground floor. It was clear that they were finishing the renovations on this part, as well as continuing to develop their collection here. Even so, this was the most interesting part, as it was quite fanciful. There is also a nice cafe where you can get coffee, sandwiches and desserts at the bar and then bring it to your table. It's not too big so it doesn't get noisy. I even sat there and read for a while.
Being at the pinacoteca gave me a case of saudade. It was amazing. Walking through the museum, I began to feel that wistful sadness creep over me, a sense of regret mingled with hope, as if I was looking at my history and understanding the good and bad times that brought me to where I was in that moment. I could comprehend (without being able to explain) how Brazilians could be joyful about life and living even in the face of their nation's difficulties.
I do not know if everyone who visits the Pinacoteca do Estado will have the same visceral connection to the art that I did. But, I highly recommend you all go just in case you do.
New York, New York
August 10, 2002
From journal Sao Paulo, Solo