Histórias da infância [Histories of Childhood] features multiple and diverse representations of childhood from different periods, territories and schools, from the art of Africa and Asia to that of Brazil, Cusco and Europe, including sacred, baroque, academic, modern, contemporary and the so-called popular art, as well as drawings made by children.
The exhibition is part of a project by MASP to juxtapose different collections, disregarding hierarchies and territories that would otherwise segregate them. In this sense, the histories in Histórias da infância are also decolonizing histories and take on a political meaning — there is an understanding that the histories that we can tell are not only those of dominant classes, or of European culture and its visual conventions. Thus, Histórias da infância is part of a larger program of exhibitions concerning different (multiple, diverse and plural)histories, beyond the traditional narratives — Histórias da loucura [Histories of Madness] and Histórias feministas [Feminist Histories] (begun in 2015), Histórias da sexualidade[Histories of Sexuality] (in 2017) and Histórias da escravidão [Histories of Slavery] (in 2018). They are other histories, which include groups, voices and images that were repressed or marginalized, in which children and their way of seeing the world are inserted. Here, not by chance, the average height of the works on display was lowered about 30 cm in relation to the conventional eye level in museums, seeking a relationship closer to the gaze and body of the child.
Histórias da infância is organized around permeable thematic clusters. On the first sublevel, we find the themes of nativity and motherhood; on the first floor, there are individual and family portraits, pictures of the world of education and games, of artist-children, of angel-children and, finally, of death. Iconic works in MASP’s collection — likeThe Schoolboy, by Van Gogh, Pink and Blue, by Renoir, Portrait of Auguste Gabriel Godefroy,by Chardin, and Criança morta [Dead Child] by Portinari — appear in new, transversal and contemporary contexts, in juxtaposition to works from all eras. The exhibition design with hanging panels that do not form closed rooms allows for anarticulation between the various clusters and artworks. The exhibition establishes links withPlaygrounds 2016 — being held on the second sublevel and in the street-level plaza under the building’s clear span — dialoguing with it through reference to playfulness, and though a program of drawing workshops, begun in January 2016 and extending until the end of the exhibition. During the curatorial process, MASP’s Mediation Department also developed an experimental project by gathering histories about some artworks in the museum’s collection told by children from two schools in São Paulo, Escola Municipal de Ensino Fundamental Desembargador Amorim Lima and Colégio São Domingos, with a view toward a future audio guide for the collection (the audio files are available at bit.ly/maspmuseu). In this way, the exhibition acknowledges and includes the histories told by the children themselves: presented on equal standing with the other works, are drawings in the museum’s collection made by children in the 1970s, the 2000s, and most recently in 2016. There is much to learn from these drawings, exchanges and histories.