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Culture / Travel

Beautiful Brazil

A Dallas Art Guru’s Guide to the Wonders and Food of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

BY // 09.04.15

Justine Ludwig, the Dallas Contemporary‘s director of exhibitions/senior curator, recently jetted to Brazil for a week to admire art galleries and sample local cuisine. She kept a diary for us and, in this Jet-Set Dispatch, recounts the highlights of her trips to both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, shares her traveling essentials and dishes on where to find the best Caipirinha.

In your suitcase.
It is winter in Brazil now, so temperatures can range from chilly to quite hot. I packed culottes, which easily go from day to night. My Danbury Stetson hat kept the sun off my head during the day and kept me warm in the evening. I also brought a colorful Dupatta from FabIndia that functions both as a scarf and a shawl. Constants that I pack on all my travels include stylish but comfortable flats, Everlane silk shirts, Illesteva sunglasses and my Burberry trench.

Carry-on must-haves.
Oxalis Apothecary’s Feel Good Potion, Bach Rescue Cream, warm socks and good books. I am currently reading Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty and poetry by Gabriela Jauregui.

Allyson Vieira at Mendes Wood DM
Allyson Vieira at Mendes Wood DM in São Paulo

Living quarters.
I stayed at the Tivoli hotel in São Paulo’s Jardins neighborhood. The hotel is centrally located, with minimalist rooms and a great continental breakfast. It was the perfect place to use as a base for exploring the city.

Eating.
La Central in São Paulo is a fun, hip taqueria in the iconic Copan building — a perfect place to go after checking out Pivô. I also enjoyed a great night of drinking wine and talking into the wee hours with friends at The Ritz, a cute and stylish restaurant in the Jardins neighborhood. While in Rio, I had a standout meal at Nova Capela, where I enjoyed hearty, no-nonsense food in a lively atmosphere. They are known for their goat with broccoli rice and codfish balls. I also strongly suggest their Caipirinha. Temporada, a pop-up restaurant right on Arpoador beach, was a major highlight of the trip. The fresh fish and cocktails were divine and the view is otherworldly beautiful.

Shopping.
Oscar Freire Street
is the ideal shopping area for the fashion conscious. This beautiful tree-lined street is home to boutiques of renowned international and local designers. Galeria Vermelho, an arts hub in São Paulo, has a bookshop that commissions artist books and carries rare tomes. For book lovers like myself, it is not to be missed.

Lina Bo Bardi SESC Pompeia
Lina Bo Bardi SESC Pompeia in São Paulo

Sightseeing.
As a curator, I primarily travel to see art. Brazil has a vibrant arts scene. It was a privilege to visit institutions and spend time in artist studios. Highlights in São Paulo included Pivô, a contemporary art institution housed in the Copan Building designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, which hosts exhibitions, residencies and a wide variety of public programs. Galeria Luisa Strina, the oldest gallery in São Paulo, had an absolutely knockout exhibition by Laura Lima and boasts a serious and varied artist roster. Mendes Wood DM, a five-year-old contemporary gallery, has a stunning exhibition space where they show a range of exciting international and Brazilian artists.

In Rio, I had a great time exploring Casa França-Brasil, an exhibition space in a beautiful Neoclassical building in the heart of the downtown area showcasing politically and socially driven art. A Gentil Carioca, a gallery founded in 2003 by three artists (Marcio Botner, Laura Lima and Ernesto Neto) had a gorgeous, understated exhibition by João Modé.

Copacabana Beach
Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Favorite moments.
Preview of Nuno Ramo’s exhibition at Pinacoteca in São Paulo with the artist. Visiting Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompeia, an amazing piece of architecture and a vibrant community center that includes an exhibition space, computer lab, pool and even a dentist’s office. I love her architecture, and it was a privilege to see this building in person. I also had a standout studio visit with Daniel Steegmann Mangrané in Rio. For the past few years I have been following his enigmatic explorations of nature, and it was a joy to hear about his upcoming projects and watch his video works in the environment in which they materialized.

Would you go back?
Yes, I am already planning a trip back. I barely scratched the surface — there is so much more I look forward to experiencing. The art scene is exciting and dynamic, and I hope to establish long-lasting relationships with artists and institutions in the country.

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