Walter Zanini (1925-2013), art historian, university professor, critic and curator was responsible for structuring the then recently created Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo (MAC USP) in 1963. When he directed the Museum, from 1963 to 1978, he organized exhibitions and conducted research that emphasized the participation of Brazilian modern artists; with the direct and permanent participation of artists transformed the Museum in a territory of freedom and experimentation amidst a military dictatorship. He developed activities involving cinema, music, architecture and video, always understanding the museum as a multimedia and dialogical space. Solidarity, cooperation and collectivity were some of the principles that guided and were decisive for the construction of this ‘Zanini’s MAC’, as MAC USP in this phase is called.
Simultaneously to the expansion of international collections, there is the organization of exhibitions whose basic structure is the network. At this point, different lists of artists and addresses circulate worldwide and open-calls for international exhibitions spread around the world, despite the market and the dictatorial censorship. This strategy is fundamental for the organization of exhibitions and the expansion of the Museum’s contemporary art collection. The exhibitions Prospectiva’74 andPoéticas Visuais (1977), as well as other initiatives, gather a network of artists connected by means of postal art, which brings to MAC USP what will result in the most important public collection of international conceptual art in the Southern Cone. The negotiations to build MAC USP’s own building at the University of São Paulo campus, Zanini’s permanent effort throughout his administration, gain strength with Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s project (1975) that, nevertheless, was not accomplished. Zanini puts his efforts on buying a portable video device and artists were able to work with it, and the Museum emerged as an operational space and the emerging Brazilian video art is presented at the 8th Jovem Arte Contemporânea (1974).
In its 50th anniversary, MAC USP looks back to its origins and recognizes in the legacy left by curator-constructor Walter Zanini a model to be followed in the present and in the future.