São Paulo walks: Downtown murals

Explore São Paulo's history, with a walk downtown taking in mosaics and murals

André Deak, Arte Fora do Museu, press image
Cavalcanti's Alegoria das Artes mural
Alegoria das Artes

São Paulo is hardly a pedestrians' paradise. But while a casual stroll through this hectic city can sometimes feel more like an adventure sport, there are rewards to be stumbled across. In São Paulo's historic centre, we set out on a walking tour taking in some of the city’s most important murals alongside the journalist and entrepreneur Felipe Lavignatti, founder of the interactive site Arte Fora do Museu ('art outside the museum') – arteforadomuseu.com.br – a digital project mapping the city's cultural treasures.

We plunge back in time as we come face to face with the largest work ever made by the Brazilian artist Emiliano Di Cavalcanti, the Alegoria das Artes (‘Allegory of the Arts’), at Rua Nestor Pestana 125. Completed in 1950 and standing 48 metres tall and 8 metres wide, Di Cavalcanti's immense mosaic, depicting Zeus's muses, covers one part of the façade of the Teatro Cultura Artística, still part-clad in scaffolding as the theatre is rebuilt following a devastating fire in 2008.

Di Cavalcanti died in 1976, just a few months after Steve Jobs created the first Apple, and there's no way the artist could have possibly imagined us here and now, viewing his work both live and via 3G, on the screen of a smartphone via the Arte Fora do Museu app. 

André Deak/ Arte Fora Do Museu
 Di Cavalcanti mural on the façade of the former headquarters of the Estado de S.Paulo

We move on to Rua da Consolação to gaze at another mosaic mural (above), this one 60 years old, on the façade of the former headquarters of the Estado de S.Paulo, portraying the newspaper’s production process back in the day.

Back on Rua da Consolação, opposite the Mário de Andrade library, we're in pole position to see the coloured mural by Japanese-born artist Tomie Ohtake (Rua Coronel Xavier de Toledo 161).

Further on, past the small blue blocks painted by Bramonte Buffoni on the façade of the Galeria Nova Barão mall (Rua Barão de Itapetininga 37), we stop at an abstract mosaic by one of Brazil's best-known artists, Cândido Portinari, in the entrance hall of the Edifício e Galeria Califórnia (Rua Barão de Itapetininga 255).

Fast forward a few decades, and we round up our tour with a pop piece by Claudio Tozzi. On the upper corner of a high-rise (Avenida Ipiranga 600) you'll spot a zebra – Tozzi's protest against art as a product of mass consumption.

Downtown murals map

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This feature was published in March 2013

More São Paulo walks

By Márcio Cruz


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