One hundred years of Brazil’s 1922 Modern Art Week

Designed to break the status quo and reject traditionalism, the 1922 festival sparked arguably the most significant art movement in Brazil's history, echoes of which can still be seen today

modern art week 1922 2022 brazil
Artwork in front of São Paulo’s Municipal Theater, inspired by Tarsila do Amaral, celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the Modern Art Week. Photo: Emerson Santos/Fotoarena/Folhapress

Back in 1922, Brazil was essentially a rural country, with just under 32 million inhabitants spread across its massive territory. That year, the hope was to recover from a severe economic crisis by boosting the coffee industry. Prohibition had taken hold in the U.S., and Brazil believed it could sell its caffeinated beverage up north, in the absence of alcohol.

Dominating the production of the country’s largest commodity, coffee barons in the state of São Paulo essentially controlled Brazilian politics alongside major dairy farm owners from Minas Gerais. Representatives from these two groups took it in turns to serve...

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