Fire Destroys Brazilian Artist Helio Oiticicas Works

Fire Destroys Brazilian Artist Helio Oiticicas Works

On October 16, a fire destroyed 90 percent of the estate of Brazilian neoconcretist Helio Oiticica (1937–1980), housed at the artist’s brother César Oiticica's residence in Brazil. The fire consumed an estimated $200 million worth of artwork in the form of 2,000 individual pieces. The artist's works were originally moved to Cesar’s house as a result of disagreements over money and the adequacy of the storage facilities at the Centro Municipal de Arte Hélio Oiticica.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Cesar’s house was equipped with humidity and temperature controls for the works, as well as working fire alarms and other safety systems. The fire took around three hours to be brought under control. The Brazilian tourism minister has called for an investigation into the causes of the fire and to see whether any works can be recovered.

The works lost in the fire were uninsured, reportedly due to financial issues, and included the artist’s archive of materials, which included drawings, notes, documentaries, and books. Key pieces such as Bólides, Parangolés, and works from the Oiticica’s 2007 exhibitions at the Tate and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston were destroyed. The fire also claimed pictures and film negatives by Brazilian photographer José Oiticica, Helio and César’s father.

Cesar spoke about the fire, saying, “It was the greatest tragedy that could happen to the Brazilian culture. Without doubt, the only victim of this tragedy was the Brazilian culture.”

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