Known for its beach culture and body-conscious aesthetics, Rio de Janeiro tends to be typified by sun, sea and sex appeal, yet just under the surface lies an underground art scene populated by a complex network of incredible artists. To get to know this culture-rich side of Rio, the independent art galleries are a good place to start.
This small yet fascinating studio is the workshop and gallery of Pedro Grapiuna, a former actor, set designer and surrealist painter who made the move into the world of sculptures. His time is devoted to repurposing recycled metal into fantastic works of art that resemble insects, flowers, women, and other images, reflecting the artist’s early years in his home state, Bahia. He uses any piece of scrap metal including bike chains, car engines, doors locks, tools and hinges.
Casually settled on one of Ipanema’s trendiest streets, Homegrown Galeria is a place where the phrase ‘urban-chic’ could well have been created. Stocked with the kind of limited edition trainers and tees that will make you reconsider any budget, the rear of the store becomes an artistic space for monthly exhibitions of local and national artists. Exhibitions showcase contemporary art from the Carioca urban art scene with artists from different creative segments such as illustrations, photographers, designers, street and tattoo artists.
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Set inside a 1930s building with all wooden floors and high ceilings, Cavalo uses the traditional settings to juxtapose its exhibitions of contemporary art. A fairly recent gallery to the art scene in Rio with the grand opening just back in 2016, it showcases mostly Brazilian artists but is slowly building up a portfolio of international masters too. The whole gallery exudes personality and warmth and it seems hopeful that it will achieve its aim of providing a united gallery scene in Rio, something that the city surprisingly lacks.
Despina manages projects from Largo das Artes, a cultural and artistic space in Rio’s centro. Some of the projects form a residency programme that allows space for artists to explore their creativity. The results are contemporary pieces of art that represent collaboration of artists from all over the world. Within its space, resident artists can exhibit their works, increasing their visibility as well as contributing to the development of the local art scene.
A hub for all lines of photography, Ateliê Oriente is both a school and a gallery that brings together all its top photographers’ works in an open exhibition of contemporary photography. The photography ranges from a snapshot of the photographer’s mind to drawing inspiration from Rio’s stunning landscapes. There are also courses, seminars, speeches, workshops, debates and various temporary exhibitions that rotate throughout the year.
The former mansion dating back to 1925 was left in a state of ruins, until the current owners pulled up their sleeves and got down to the mammoth task of restoring it to the elegant yet boho bed and breakfast that it is today. The five-bedroom guesthouse is uniquely decorated with the works of five Brazilian modern artists; Di Cavalcanti, Oswald de Andrade, Alfredo Volpi, Tarsila do Amaral, and Arthur Bispo do Rosario. Next door as an extension of Hospedagem e Arte Modernistas is Anexo Galeria do Arte, an open exhibit that displays national and foreign artists through a huge diversity of media such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, photos and urban art.
Near Centro, worlds away from the tall buildings and beauty-culture of Rio’s beachfront, lies Santa Teresa, a neighbourhood that sums up ‘boho-chic’ in a single glance. It’s this hippie and creative vibe that make it a hub among the artist community and places like CasAlegre Art Vila give the opportunity to showcase some of this fine art. The building is a former colonial mansion with a chilled out cafe in the outdoor courtyard for its guests that stay in one of the eight cozy rooms here. There is also a large exhibition space for local artists to display their works with no restrictions, meaning all manners of artistic expression and styles are to be found.