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Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue)

Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue)
signed, titled and dated ‘B. Milhazes ‘“Avenida Brasil” 2003/2004’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
117 ¾ x 156in. (299.1 x 396.2cm.)
Executed in 2003-2004
Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo.
The David Teiger Collection, New Jersey (acquired from the above in 2004).
Their sale, Sotheby’s New York, 14 November 2018, lot 11T.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
São Paulo, Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo, 26 Bienal de São Paolo, 2004 (illustrated in colour, p. 298).
Paris, Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Beatriz Milhazes, 2009.
Miami, Pérez Art Museum, Beatriz Milhazes: Jardim Botânico, 2014-2015, p. 185, pl. 29 (installation view illustrated in colour, p. 9; illustrated in colour, pp. 108 and 109).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. Cancellation under the EU Consumer Rights Directive may apply to this lot. Please see here for further information. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Formerly part of the prestigious David Teiger Collection, where it remained for over a decade, Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue) is a monumental example of Beatriz Milhazes’ extraordinary painterly language. Spanning nearly four metres in width and three in height, it offers a kaleidoscopic explosion of colour and form: stripes, spirographs and swirling floral motifs unfurl across the canvas in opulent splendour, rendered in vibrant hues of green, red, lilac and turquoise. The painting stems from a pivotal moment in Milhazes’ career, during which she represented Brazil at both the 2003 Venice Biennale and the 2004 São Paolo Bienal. Avenida Brasil was included in the latter, and has since been prominently exhibited—notably in major solo shows at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris and Perez Art Museum, Miami. Milhazes draws upon the landscape and culture of her native Rio de Janeiro—the work’s title alludes to one of the city’s major expressways—in tandem with the history of European abstraction. Here, the influence of artists such as Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Sonia Delaunay and Bridget Riley joins hands with carnivalesque colours and rhythms, creating a vision of thrilling optical magic.

Milhazes studied at Rio’s Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage during the early 1980s. It was an exciting time to be a student, defined by the Geração Oitenta (‘80s Generation’) movement which proposed a return to the visceral pleasures of painting. The re-emergence of vivid colours and intuitive compositions—a trend paralleled in both European and North American Neo-Expressionism—had an important impact upon her artistic development. The city of Rio, moreover, provided Milhazes with vital sources of inspiration: from the botanic gardens that lay just outside her studio window—a setting that accounts for the proliferation of flowers and vines in her work—as well as the city’s Baroque architecture, vibrant fabric designs and bright blue coastline. It was the exuberance of the annual Rio Carnival, however, that truly ignited her visual imagination: ‘Its wildness and freedom – it’s fascinating!’, she has explained. ‘... I’m actually a conceptual carnavalesca’ (B. Milhazes, quoted in D. Ebony, ‘Conceptual Carnavalesca’, Art in America, March 2015, p. 132).

At the same time, the present work bears witness to Milhazes’ international outlook. On her first trip to Europe in 1985, she encountered important examples of Fauvism, Op Art and other abstract idioms that would come to inform her practice. The present work’s central striped segment invites particular comparison with the work of Riley: an artist whose meticulous approach to colour and form has much in common with Milhazes’ own. Indeed, for all their visual pyrotechnics, works such as the present are in fact the product of a complex, precise process in which the artist mentally maps out the distribution of motifs across the picture plane. Typically working in total silence, she then paints her intricate forms onto sheets of plastic before transposing them to canvas paint-side-down—a method that yields a saturated, print-like finish. Her compositions build piece by piece in this gradual, organic manner, requiring constant evaluation yet also demanding a submission to chance. In the present work, the result is one of hypnotic intensity, where—like the Avenida Brasil itself—order and freedom combine.

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