Straddling the line between one-off artworks and mass-market reproductions, fine art prints have long been a way for art-lovers to acquire original works at a reasonable price. And from the bold, rugged traces of wood- and linoleum cuts to the fine engravings of metal-cut prints or the immaculate colour blocks of screenprints, if you can’t find a print you love, you probably just need to look a bit harder.
So where to start? You can shuffle through piles of prints at any of the galleries featured below (we particularly recommend Choque Cultural, Gravura Brasileira, Graphias and Galeria de Gravura), or simply browse their online shops. Prices for a fine art print start at around R$180, which will buy you one of the rustic and beautiful images made by the cordel maestro J. Borges, probably the best-known artist working in the Brazilian folk-art style.
At the other end of the scale from Borges, Galeria de Gravura has a Salvador Dalí priced at R$10,000, and São Paulo artist Cláudio Mubarac’s delicate metal-cut prints go for thousands, too. Metal-cut printing is one of the most technically demanding ways to produce prints: everything depends on the humidity of the paper, the viscosity of the ink, the finely hewn images – and on the printmaker's patience to watch it go wrong, and start all over again.
Read on for our pick of São Paulo's galleries for seeing as well as buying prints, and watch out for major annual print-oriented events like SP Estampa, whose 2013 dates have yet to be announced, and Galeria Vermelho’s Tijuana print fair, held towards the end of the year (10-11 November, in 2012). Or jump straight to our image gallery featuring prints to suit all price ranges, by fifteen of the finest Brazilian printmakers around.
The main printmaking techniques
- Lithograph (litogravura) Printing from a limestone matrix, or a treated zinc plate
- Metal-cut (gravura em metal) Printing from engraved metal plates
- Monotype (monotipia) Printing from an image painted directly onto a flat surface.
- Screenprint (serigrafia) Prints made by pushing ink through a screen onto paper
- Woodcut (xilogravura) Printing from carved wooden blocks.
Rua João Moura 997, Pinheiros (3061 4051/choquecultural.com.br).
One of the city’s most consistently interesting galleries, Choque Cultural is best known for its urban art – it’s a major player in São Paulo’s street-art scene. What fewer people know is that Choque started out as a publisher of prints, back in 2003, before opening the rickety Pinheiros house that now serves as its home, and its passion for prints is still one of its main pulling points. Head over for one of the gallery’s regular exhibitions, spread over three creaky floors, then duck into the back-room shop, where you can flip through boxes of artworks and pick up a print for a song.
Gravura Brasileira, Rua Dr Franco da Rocha 61, Perdizes (3624 0301/gravurabrasileira.com)
Located in Perdizes just behind Parque da Água Branca, this specialist print gallery keeps a beautifully curated set of exhibitions ticking over in its series of spaces, and even pasted on the walls of its long outdoor garden passageway. It also keeps an archive of hundreds of prints organised into large folders and drawers. The gallery is the driving force behind SP Estampa, an annual event that pulls together print exhibitions in dozens of galleries and artists’ ateliers, and also includes talks, courses and workshops. Look out for co-owner Eduardo Besen and assistant Nina Kreis, the latter also an artist who produces the most delicate of metal-cut prints: what they don’t know about printmaking probably isn’t worth knowing.
Rua Joaquim Távora 1605, Vila Mariana (5539 1358/graphias.com.br)
This Vila Mariana gallery, run by the artist and teacher Salete Mulin with her partner, Mauro Vaz, keeps a top-quality selection of art prints by some of Brazil’s finest contemporary printmakers. A look through the works in its acervo (archive) or even a browse on the gallery’s website is a like a crash course in the styles and techniques that can be used in print, from Augusto Sampaio’s blocky two-tone shapes on kraft paper to the exquisitely achieved forms and volumes in Gilda Gouvea’s metal-cut prints, and the maestro Marcelo Grassmann’s very strange, gripping lithographs. As well as providing endless inspiration with its collection of more than a thousand prints and its frequent exhibitions, the gallery possesses screen-printing equipment and three printing presses, and runs courses in woodcut, lino-cut and lithography.
Galeria de Gravura
Avenida Paulista 2073, cj. 2123 (2829 4890/galeriadegravura.com.br)
This mainly online gallery has a huge archive of works by Brazilian artists including the cordel king J. Borges and Bahian printmaker Carybé, plus concretist works by Eduardo Sued, and moody Di Cavalcantis. Buy online, or make an appointment to view prints at the office.
Rua Virgílio de Carvalho Pinto 426, Pinheiros (3062 9446/galeriavirgilio.com.br)
Specialising in young Brazilian artists, the 10-year-old Galeria Virgílio has a trio of outstanding printmakers on its books: Fernando Vilela, creating dark, abstract shapes in a mix of techniques, Rosana Paulino, who uses the rarely-spotted monotype method, amongst others, and Rafael Pagatini, who makes fine, almost photographic woodcuts.
Rua Minas Gerais 350, Higienópolis (3138 1520/galeriavermelho.com.br)
Representing some of the city’s most interesting artists in its large, many-faceted gallery at the top of Avenida Paulista, Vermelho also runs Tijuana, a shop space inside the gallery that specialises in art objects, including limited-edition art books and prints. Tijuana also puts on an annual print fair, taking place at the gallery from 9-10 November this year.
Mônica FilgueIras & Eduardo Machado
Rua Bela Cintra 1533, Jardim Paulista (3081 9492)
This compact Jardins gallery does a fine line in prints, including curvaceous works by the doughty Tomie Ohtake, exquisite colour blocks by Alfredo Volpi, and a series of Campbell's Xuxu soup prints by the street artist Ozi. Look out for prints by the Argentinian artist León Ferrari, who was exiled in São Paulo from 1976-1984, and 1960s-1970s pop-art works by Claudio Tozzi.
Praça Benedicto Calixto 103, Pinheiros (3086 0784/arterix.com.br)
Set right on Praça Benedicto Calixto, the square that hosts the delightful Saturday flea market, Arterix has mutated from an art-and-design shop to purely an ‘art shop’, as it calls itself. As part of its mission to democratise the process of art viewing and buying, Arterix has made prints a speciality, from classics like Carlos Cruz-Diez and Marilu Beer to young guns like Kika Levy, Cris Rocha and Nina Kreis.
Largo General Osório 66, Centro (3335 4990/pinacoteca.org.br)
If you were in any doubt about the role of printmaking in the story of Brazilian art, take a memo: São Paulo’s powerhouse public gallery, the Pinacoteca do Estado, has an entire floor dedicated to it in the form of the Gabinete de Gravura Guita e José Mindlin, at the Estação Pinacoteca just a few hundred metres away from the Pinacoteca itself. There's always something inky going on, and at the moment, it’s ‘Gravura Brasileira no Acervo’. Running until 27 January 2013, the exhibition unites 105 prints from the 3,000-piece archive, and journeys from 1910 to 2010 via works by Fayga Ostrower, Ivan Serpa, Lasar Segall and Lívio Abramo, amongst others.
Museu Lasar Segall
Rua Berta 111, Vila Mariana (5574 7322/museusegall.org.br)
The main collection at this fine museum, home to the works of the eponymous Lithuanian-born artist (1891-1957), contains a set of Segall’s stormy prints as well as drawings, paintings and sculptures, and usually also has a handful of prints on sale. Of equal interest for print-lovers are the excellent courses that run here twice yearly. The courses in woodcut, metal-cut and lithographic printing are essentially free, costing only a R$120 registration fee plus the cost of your materials.