Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Pavilhão da Bienal de Arte is a vast rectangular building with glass windows and sky-high ceilings. It opened in 1957 to house the São Paulo Bienal de Arte, one of the world’s largest and most important art biennials. Held in even-numbered years, during the months of October and November, this event reunites more than 12,000 works by national and international artists.
There are usually plenty of misses along with the hits, but since it is free (and arguing about the quality of the art in a bar afterwards is a spirited Paulistano ritual) you can wander around to your heart’s content, focusing on the provocative stuff and ignoring the drivel. Many other events take place at the Pavilhão, among them the Bienal de Arquitetura (held in even-numbered years) and Brazil ’s twice-yearly biggest fashion event, São Paulo Fashion Week.
On the third floor is a small branch of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC) (Pavilhão da Bienal, 3rd Fl., Ibirapuera, tel. 11/5573-5255, www.mac.usp.br , 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Sun., free). Although its permanent collection is modest, interesting temporary exhibitions of contemporary art are held here. To view the much more impressive main collection—considered one of Brazil’s finest collections of contemporary art—you’ll have to visit the MAC at the University of São Paulo (USP, Rua da Reitoria 160, Cidade Universitaria, tel. 11/3091-3039, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun., free). Plans are in the works to reunite the entire MAC collection within the park’s Detran building, hopefully by 2009.