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“Color is the force of nature”

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In 1985, 25-year-old Beatriz Milhajes left her native Brazil for a three-month trip through Europe. He first saw a Matisse, in Madrid he visited the Reina Sofia and the Prado. There he was influenced by the paintings of Velázquez. He made me mute. Till then I had contacts with artists whom I admired and their work was through books. Seeing the paintings in person changed my life,” he says. Today, at the age of 61, this Brazilian artist breaks auction records and is one of the most sought-after living artists according to Special Media. artnet. People haven’t stopped talking about it in recent months: in September 2020, Louis Vuitton introduced its limited edition Artycapucines bag; The MASP of So Paulo has dedicated a great retrospective to him and Taschen just published Management Which reviews his dazzling career.

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Artycapucines bag that she made for Louis Vuitton in 2020. Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

But his first profession was not art, but journalism, which he studied in Rio de Janeiro. He later attended the School of Visual Arts in Parque Lague. “As soon as I entered there, I understood that this was my place, the path I wanted to follow,” he insists. They found another way to communicate; Through colors instead of words. Critics have dubbed his style a ‘tropical abstraction’. The color combination, he acknowledges, is the essence of his work. «My work raises many questions about color. Create a conceptual system that speaks simultaneously of rigor, beauty and joy. Painting is a medium, but color is a force of nature.

In 1989 he developed a technique he called “monotransfer” and became his personal identity: he paints sheets of plastic with acrylics and passes them onto canvas, without brush marks, overlays of a polished finish and make combinations. «This discovery offers me the possibility of being loyal to colors. It has allowed me to create my own language,” he explains. In addition, fabric, lace and embroidery are mixed with painting in some of his works: “I am an artist committed to the practice of artisans, fashion From everything to the decorative arts, I need manual work.”

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‘Poppy’ (2007-2008) Photo: Courtesy of James Cohn Gallery

His compatriot Tarsilia do Amaral, with his bright vocals and naive air, has been a benchmark, admits Milhajes: «Brazilian art has always been women first footing. Tarsilia is probably the best known, but there is also Anita Malfatti, Ligia Clark, Ligia Papi, Maria Martins, Eoin Saldanha … in the international arena it’s so different, I understood it when I started my career abroad , first in New York, then in Europe and, more recently, in Asia. I think things are starting to change and I hope they develop in a positive way. He outlined, he decided to forge his own path, away from trends and typecasts. “Became an example of what I believe: it is possible to be a successful Latin American woman in the world of contemporary art.”

This reputation is confirmed by major exhibitions such as those dedicated to him by the Cartier Foundation in Paris in 2009, his participation in the Venice Biennale in 2003 or the record for a work of Brazilian art that he beat by selling at Sotheby’s in 2012. 2.1 million dollars mew limo, which made him the most sought-after living artist in his country. He affirms that now the international art market is changing with the Latin American landscape, which until a few years ago was forgotten: «The economy is, of course, the strongest reason. Collectors such as Patricia Phelps de Cisneros are an example of what has happened in the United States, where programs have been developed that support important collectors like her to specialize in Latin American, African or Asian art. In other words, in art that is not American or European. What has really changed is not to put artists from emerging countries in separate boxes. Milhazes claims to be part of that global scene without a label. “There is still a lot to do, but I am an example of this change,” she admits, “as a Latin American female artist, I can say that if we talk about institutions, collections, auctions and critics Speaking of I am an international artist. Art history is now considering that there is life in the tropics. And smart life!