The Urban Arts phenomenon might have landed in Rio de Janeiro a bit behind the pack, but as the seventh shop-cum-gallery to emerge from the original concept of São Paulo artist André Diniz, there is little doubt that the healthy state of the street art scene here makes this a perfect match. To that end, gallery boss Paula Multedo has created a small (60m2) space in Gávea in which to showcase the cream of the country's emerging artists and where, just as important as the bi-monthly exhibitions, the poster shares centre stage, with vinyl-esque racks stuffed full of limited edition creations.
Paulistano Diniz came up with the concept during a five-year design course in New York. "He felt there was a lack of galleries showing young artists that more established galleries wouldn't go near because of their lack of experience", says Multedo. "The first artist we are showing here, for example, has only been painting for two years, but it was obvious that he is incredibly talented, but it could be kids, people who just paint as a hobby."
That artist, João Paulo Batista, will feature on the walls for the first two months of Urban Arts Rio, after which Multedo is keen to shine some light on the scene's lesser-known female artists. "Right now, 60 percent of our artists are from São Paulo, but this space will be directed toward creative cariocas, and I especially want to focus on women artists. The industry is full of male figures, but I want to champion women like Mariana Liberali, who is just one part of a great movement that we want to represent."
The direct access to a creative strata of Brazil that previously couldn't find a willing place in which to show their work catches the wave of 'democratization' of the country's culture that the opening of new museums and art education facilities such as MAR and Casa Daros have begun. One poster in the store, for example, was taken by a 16 year-old boy on his iPhone, but has been reproduced in a limited run and exhibited to the public in a way never previously possible in Rio. For part-time artists unsure or unaware of how to turn a hobby into something more sustainable, the Urban Arts concept is undoubtedly an interesting tool.
As well as their artists, careful attention has been given to the customers and exploding the myth that galleries are usually austere, intimidating and, more often than not, prohibitively expensive to the vast majority of the public. "For me, I like the fact that you can come into our gallery without fear. The most you could pay for an original work is R$4,000 which is, of course, a lot of money, but not completely impossible. Here, you don't have to be afraid of loving something in case you cannot afford it, and that is part of our identity."
Paula herself will be very much behind the scenes but is, at the same time, determined to leave her own mark on the exhibitions and pocket events that her space will be hosting over the coming years. "I love art, and I love the creative process, but I don't paint. My mum was an artist and that was what I grew up around, but later on I got involved in the other side of the craft, from making videos to putting on events and arranging interviews. That is what I am building on here, where the gallery adapts a little to the tone of each exhibition. I guess it's just a different type of creativity."