This exhibition is the first to be held in Spain on the fascinating figure of Lina Bo Bardi (Rome, 1914 - São Paulo, 1992). Trained as an architect in Italy in the 1930s, she moved to Brazil in 1946 with her husband, the critic and art collector Pietro Maria Bardi, as part of the massive wave of post-war emigration from Europe. Bo Bardi was soon captivated by her adopted country and through her multi-faceted, dynamic approach – as an architect, museographer, designer, writer, cultural activist and creator of exhibitions – she participated in the renewal of the arts in Brazil, working at the very heart of the complex relations between modernity and tradition, avant-garde creation and popular customs, the individuality of the modern artist and the collective work of the community.
The exhibition's subtitle is part of the phrase "Tupí or not Tupí, that is the question" which appears in the Cannibalist Manifesto by Oswald de Andrade (1928), and is a classic example of the appropriation of the famous quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The so-called Brazilian "Cannibalism" of the 1920s, which can be considered the most original aesthetic-ideological revolution within the Latin American avant-gardes, aspired to the consumption, absorption, assimilation and rethinking of European culture. As such, artists in Brazil aimed to undertake a process of cultural digestion that would bring into being a national identity and a modern but at the same time authentically Brazilian language.
Aware that Cannibalism lay at the base of the Tropicalist movement of the 1960s (with which she herself partly sympathised), Lina Bo Bardi embodied a type of reverse Cannibalism. For the arquitect, the Old World from which she came also had to be transformed through the gaze of the New World in which she lived in order to give rise to a new society: a type of "aristocracy of the people" (in her own words), a new people who would be a mixture of the European, the Amerindian, the black and the indigenous peoples of the north-east of the country: a world filled with dreams for a better future.
The exhibition is conceived as the continuation of the one that the Fundación Juan March devoted to Tarsila do Amaral (2009), which focused on Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s. Lina Bo Bardi shared Tarsila do Amaral's social concerns and strove to find solutions to them, moving onto action through the architecture, objects and collective acts which articulate her work. The aim of Lina Bo Bardi: tupí or not tupí. Brazil, 1946-1992 is to present this arquitect from the three most important geographical points of her activity (São Paulo, Salvador and north-east Brazil) and through her work and that of some of her contemporaries to "recount" the artistic and cultural scene in Brazil in the second half of the 20th century.