Walter Zanini at Videobrasil Video Library during the 14th Festival (2003)
Walter Zanini at the 14th Festival exhibition (2003)
Walter Zanini: 1925 – 2013
The historian, art critic and curator Walter Zanini, born in São Paulo in 1925, passed away in the city today. The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo from 1963 to 1978, he effected significant changes to the museum’s profile, such as creating the Jovem Arte Contemporânea (Young Contemporary Art) program, which replaced the annually-held shows Jovem Desenho Nacional and Jovem Gravura Nacional (Young National Drawing and Engraving, respectively). Zanini also curated the 16th and 17th editions of the São Paulo Biennial.
“This is the regrettable loss of a key figure to the building of the contemporary Brazilian art scene, with his seminal video art work and his generous, precise curating in the 1981 and 1983 biennials,” said curator Eduardo de Jesus. Alongside Solange Farkas, de Jesus is devising actions dedicated to Zanini as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the International Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil.
Zanini was already poised to be a highlight in the historical section of the 2013 edition of the Festival, seeing as not only did he help create the Brazilian video art scene, he was also a prominent voice in designing curated programs for Videobrasil and building its collection. With his passing, the program should also take on the shape of a tribute.
"Walter Zanini was a key figure in disseminating and legitimizing video art in Brazil; he stirred up a crucial agitation around the image of the movement. During his stint as the MAC curator, he showed video equipment to young artists who later came to produce Brazil’s first-ever video art pieces. Due to this role, his death is a loss not only to Brazilian art but to art in general. He provided a decisive stimulus to a scenario that is now influential on a worldwide level,” says curator Solange Farkas. Zanini bold-spiritedly held the shows Prospectiva 74 and Poéticas Visuais 1977, which stemmed from his relationships with artists and institutions in Brazil and overseas, by encouraging experimental productions, especially those relating to video art and postal art.
"One of Zanini’s trademarks as the MAC director was definitely his promoting of conceptual art and other non-objectual genres, which turned the institution into a hub that irradiated and received those trends at the international level,” stated the critic Annateresa Fabris in a piece of research on the curator. The work also notes that Zanini’s solid background in art history made him one of the first Brazilian professionals to boast a specific profile, and translated into a systematic effort to organize and make available works and documents that are now housed by the MAC, the São Paulo Biennial Foundation, and the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. The curator’s prominence is also remembered by Hans Ulrich Obrist, who dedicated pages of his A brief history of curating to him.