“Critical Lounge Area”, by Marta Mestre

In the 2012 edition of PIPA, we invited three art critics – experts in Brazilian contemporary art, to write a review about the finalists exhibition of that year, with works by Marcius Galan, Matheus Rocha Pitta, Rodrigo Braga and Thiago Rocha Pitta.

This proposal had the goal of stimulating critical discussion inside the exhibition’s space and bringing the audience closer to a more qualified and dense discussion.

One of the invited critics, Marta Mestre, Portuguese curator and art critic who is currently assistent curator at the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro, made a proposition that went beyond the text.

Her project went through understanding how criticism can be “performanced.” With the collaboration of artist and educator Virginia Mota, she proposed a series of actions to activate the PIPA 2012’s interactive “lounge area” (view images below/ For more information about the ‘Critical Lounge Area’ at PIPA 2012 exhibition, click here).

“Critical Lounge Area”

Marta Mestre

In the same way that aesthetic experience is no longer art’s nor the museum’s monopoly, critic also ceased to occupy the traditional territories of press or essay. Today, it is exercised in several supports, loses ground in newspapers and gains it in social networks and becomes a “market product” that integrates the so called “experience economy”.

Criticism is also no longer this “outside” look at an “inside”, nor the combat of freedom against the institution. In fact, there is no longer the “wild criticism” of which Marguerite Duras spoke about.

It was with this background that I found that Pipa Prize’s invitation to criticism and to the critics (new element compared to the previous editions), would have to rethink their deceased models and operate in a new context, where museums are increasingly spaces of dissent and the focus moves from creation of works-objects or exhibitions, to a greater emphasis on spaces for dialogues based on pedagogical critic formats.

“Critical Lounge Area” was a project of constituting a space of listening and an interface within MAM, specifically related to PIPA 2012 edition, but potentially being part of a critical museum.

The start point was the “Lounge Area” from Pipa’s previous editions, an extended space to the museum visit, which followed a model seen in many museums, with confortable bean bag chairs and post its to leave notes about art or anything else. The project was to reflect how this space could “become critical”.

Simple and specific activations were created in the space’s visual layout (carpet, wall colors, furniture’s layout, and also more conceptual activations, such as the off montage with archival footage of the Jury meetings in the announcement video of the four finalists, the creation of a “Criteria Book”, or the insertion of a “critical” bibliography for public consultation (for example: yearbooks of the best wines and fastest horses, “The Prince” by Machiavelli, or bestsellers such as “How to become a contemporary artist”).

In addition to that, every week a question such as “What would you give as a prize if it wasn’t monetary?” was launched. The mediators’ action consisted in approaching these activations to the audience throughout debates and talks. A Facebook page was created to serve as a critical counterpoint to the PIPA’s category of voting on Facebook – one of the most controversial aspects of the prize – and questions were sent to other critics about prizes and institutions; they were published periodically on the website under the title *”Critical Reflections – questions to art critics”. The “Critical Lounge Area” recorded the flow of visitors and released a selection of these impressions. Thus, the “empty” state of the beginning of the activities was filled with a quantity of Babel-like comments, discussions, drawings, statements and voting.

Trying to answer on the autonomy of a criticism from within the institution, I believe we can look at MAM-Rio’s own history. I would highlight two moments: Antonio Manuel entering the museum naked after having enrolled his body as a work of art and having been rejected by the jury of the Modern Art Salon in 1970, and the samba dancers of Mangueira wearing Helio Oiticica’s parangolés * barred from entering at the museum’s door.

The bipolar criticism that was made between an inside and an outside, today gives place to critic in a porous and unstable field whose most relevant data is the public’s new speech capacity.

We also no longer believe, like Adorno, that salvation lies in defending high culture and vanguard art against mass culture.

“Critical Lounge Area” intended to contribute to a museum critical thinking and to defend political spaces, and political forms that still exist in debate, in argumentation, in imagination, and in the silences as well, giving visibility (no winners or losers) to the museum’s contradictions and the ability to talk with people who frequent it.

This is a free translation. For the original text in Portuguese click here.

“Critical Lounge Area” is a project by Marta Mestre, with collaboration of artist Virgínia Mota.
Mediators: Jean D. Soares, Nadja Dulci, Chimenia Sczesny and Higgor Vieira.

Translation note:

Hélio Oiticica ( July 26, 1937 – March 22, 1980) was a Brazilian visual artist, best known for his participation in the Concrete group, for his innovative use of paint, and for what he later termed “eco-friendly art”, which included Picasso and Penetrables, like the famous Tropicalia.

He also created works called Parangolés which consisted layers of fabric, plastic and matting intended to be worn like costumes but experienced as mobile sculptures. The first parangolés experiences were made together with dancers from the Mangueira Samba school, where Oiticica was also a participant.

Mangueira is considered as Brazil’s most popular samba school due to its old tradition, a very strong support community and the most successful samba hall. It is the oldest among the existing Rio samba schools.


* Read “Critical reflections – ……….. answers Marta Mestre”:

Critical reflections | Agustín Perez Rúbio answers Marta Mestre
Critical Reflections | Luiz Camillo Osorio answers Marta Mestre
Critical reflections | Rita Natálio answers Marta Mestre

Read the reviews written by the other 2 invited critics about the PIPA 2012 exhibition:

Cezar Bartholomeu’s review
Santiago Navarro’s review


More information on the Critical Lounge Area – PIPA 2012 exhibition

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