Café Mundo presents an extensive selection of visual-art pieces around this theme that include wide range of artistic languages and concepts - from early 20th-century paintings depicting the coffee-growing cycle in the state of São Paulo to a contemporary installation specially made for the exhibit. Rather than track coffee's role in Brazilian art history, pieces have been selected from coffee's classic iconography, although visitors will be seeing some that have not yet been extensively discussed.

So the exhibition asks us all to appreciate differences in perspectives artists have used in this respect over the past two centuries.

Although the visual arts permeate the entire exhibition, there is a room for paintings containing six of Antônio Ferrigno's works belonging to the collection at USP's Museu Paulista; two by Aldir Mendes de Souza; a Candido Portinari drawing from the FAAP collection, and a Manabu Mabe from Santander Brasil’s collection. The paintings contrast with contemporary visual pieces such as Katia Fieira's artist's book from FAAP's collection; Mulambö's painting on a sack of coffee from the collection of Rio's Museo de Arte (MAR), and a Naiana Magalhães video.

An exclusive room holds an installation that Raquel Fayad made especially for the exhibition.



Salerno, Italy, 1863
— Salerno, Italy, 1940

Painter, came to Brazil in 1893. Born on the Amalfi Coast, he upheld a naturalist tradition of representation that takes on a realistic tone in his oeuvre. In addition to southern Italy's traditional landscape paintings, Ferrigno was eager to portray ordinary people. In São Paulo, he soon caught the eye of other Italian painters and members of the coffee elite who commissioned paintings of their rural properties to be shown at major fairs around the world. Café Mundo gathered his most important series on this subject, including six that didactically illustrate the process of growing and exporting coffee. Made in 1903 at the Santa Gertrudes plantation, these paintings constituted a milestone for São Paulo's coffee exporting campaigns, while also providing unique historical documentation of trade that led to São Paulo's position in the domestic and worldwide economic scenarios.


Aldir Mendes
de Souza

São Paulo/SP, 1941
— São Paulo/SP, 2007

Divided his time between painting and practicing medicine. Starting as a self-taught artist, he then went on to paint throughout his life. In the 1970s, he even used X-ray images in his art, thus combining both of his activities. His painting developed from using color with sparse volumes to chromatic investigation related to the creation of fields of perspective. Coffee plantations were constant subjects right from his earliest days. After these paintings, Mendes de Souza dropped figuration. The exhibit features two paintings from the 1970s that focus on the geometric play of perspective associated with colorism – and the coffee plantation as subject from which more meanings would arise. In both, Mendes de Souza is depicting the plantation in rigorously formal schemes, which goes against the conception of a landscape that is artificial and industrial rather than natural, one in which there is apparently no country-city contrast. The mechanical relationship between geometric image and handcrafted painting is the core of these paintings.

To read more about Mendes de Souza see



São Paulo/SP, 1976

Visual artist, has the city as one of her investigative axes. She uses drawing, collage and even montage on paper or books, in which vertical volume determines a relationship with the constructive grandeur that characterizes urban settings. The exhibition includes her artists' book Viagem pitoresca ao Boulevard Cor de Café [picturesque journey to coffee colored boulevard] which is shown open vertically to enable visitors to peruse Fiera's lines. The book takes a leisurely and unpretentious look at overlapped situations – street corners, cafes, people chatting, shapes of windows and friezes – taking a stroll that seems accidental but is deliberate. The piece's title refers to the most widely known painting of Jean-Baptiste Debret, one of the leading artists in the French Artistic Mission that founded Brazil's Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in the early 19th century. Debret's illustrations of everyday life in Rio de Janeiro were part of a visual production that left its mark on Brazil's iconography of the period. Katia Fiera takes the opposite approach: as a Brazilian, she illustrates Debret's Paris, highlighting how the city's street corners, cafes and people change as scenes shift towards its periphery. Unlike Debret, the gaze expressed in his book is affective rather than exotic. Katia is not pursuing the narrative clarity of images, but she does bring out the overlayings that are characteristic of urban social experience.

To read more about Katia Fiera, see



Brodowski/SP, 1903
—Rio de Janeiro/RJ, 1962

One of Brazil's most influential modernist painters. He was known for his paintings on social themes and large-scale works for public buildings, decisively influenced by Mexican modernism and its muralist tradition. The late 1930s were special for Portinari's development as he moved from easel painting to panels or walls. His Cafezal [coffee plantation] (1938) - shown at this exhibition- was from that period. A few years earlier, Portinari had finished painting Café (1934), now at Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. The critic Mário Pedrosa saw it as marker for Portinari's painting on canvas; its formal cohesion and logical structure was to resonate in other Portinari paintings such as O lavrador de café [coffee worker] (1934). The latter rid the bourgeois portrait of its sense of emptiness and lent the genre composition with social meaning. The drawing Cafezal [coffee plantation] is an enlarged and amended extract from his 1934 painting Café [coffee] that led to his first mural commission for a building named for Gustavo Capanema, aka the Ministry of Education and Culture building, a keystone of Rio de Janeiro's modern Brazilian architecture heritage. Portinari painted the country's agrarian economic cycles on the walls of this building while handling the dilemmas of upscaling from easel painting and the mural's social aspects. The drawing is a study for this mural, which coincides with a crucial transition in Portinari's artistic journey, and for his political and public trajectory too. Once again, there is a coffee plantation worker, but this time none of the 'easel stigma' previously associated with Portinari.

To read more about Portinari see



Kumamoto, Japão, 1924
—São Paulo/SP, 1997

Mabe was perhaps the most widely known Japanese-Brazilian painter after his abstract paintings brought him success in the 1960s. Mabe and Tomie Ohtake were Brazil's leading exponents of lyrical abstraction and gestural painting. In this exhibition, a large figurative painting reveals aspects of Mabe's life and trajectory before his abstract compositions earned acclaim. Mabe came from Japan with his family at the age of ten and he lived on a coffee plantation until moving to São Paulo in 1957. The painting Colheita de café [coffee harvest] (1953) dates back to the period when Mabe was working on the plantation. Even at that time, he kept in touch with other Japanese-Brazilian artists in São Paulo, stayed abreast of news and showed work at exhibitions. He had not yet reached the full development his abstract painting would attain, but he ventured into modernist forms, particularly fauvism and cubism. Colheita de café [coffee harvest] not only speaks to the influence of Brazilian modernism but may also relate to the monumental aspect of modernist painting, which reached its high point with Portinari in the 1940s. However, the painting's multiple references range from the everyday lives of Japanese people who emigrated to Brazil to a synthesis of modernist language and its approach to social issues.

To read more about Mabe, see and



Fortaleza/CE, 1986

Multimedia artist, has been developing work around the subject of time, not dong so abstractly but as historical perception and concrete experience. His videos address these issues in terms of both form and overlapping historical layers. Drawing her past – distant or immediate – from the contemporary, she re-signifies meanings that apparently seek to fade away. The exhibition includes her video Café colonial, which shows simplicity while handling important themes. The title refers to the country's history and, at the same time, to the idea of ??abundance present in breakfast on Brazilian rural properties. Milk and coffee mixing on the skin immediately recalls discourses around miscegenation, the erasure of toiling enslaved peoples and the eugenic policy of 'bleaching' or 'whitening' Brazil's demographics – which spilled over into coffee plantations and immigration. Despite its reflections in this respect, the video seems to be more observational and less alternate meanings, even pictorial ones. But its elements and our own understanding of identity will not let it be interpreted naively.

To read more about Magalhães, see



Atibaia/SP, 1968

Fayad is an artist and museum manager. Having graduated in visual arts, she is working on paintings and multimedia installations, delimiting her field of action based on affective relationships and the synesthesia of memory. Campo amor [love field] is one of her main pieces that exemplifies her process of transforming subjective experience into content. Tons of coffee are spread over the floor to create the sensory experience of a terreiro (yard hosting ceremony and worship in Candomblé religion ). For other coffee-related pieces, Fayad gathers serviettes or napkins that have been soaked in dregs left in cups; they are dried, spread out and arranged to comprise paintings that dialogue with the spontaneity of forms in a pictorial reconstitution of the act of drinking coffee. For Café Mundo, Fayad conceived her Flor do desejo [flower of desire] installation, which will fill a room with thousands coffee cups in piles. Empty cups reconstitute the sensation of making coffee; its absence refers to a moment of meeting and movement that are not constituted but remain as live potency. Clinking sounds come from the heaps of cups; they recall their purpose, but also kinesthetically trigger yearning for the drink that is so bound up with our everyday lives. At the same time, the white cups allude to the characteristic color of the coffee flowers that precede beans and have a peculiar aroma detected most only by those whose memories goes back to coffee plantations.

To read more about Fayad, see



Saquarema/RJ, 1995

Mulambö is a visual artist who works with different materials and languages, from mural painting to digital art. His production is marked by his longing to see his native community, to which he returned after his university education. To produce art that ordinary people could appreciate, he started to make paintings and collages from materials found in the city, using cardboard, walls and even surfboards as his supports. He is both the youngest artist showing in the exhibition and the one who makes the most forceful political gesture. It directly points to the ambiguous nature of the situation for a black worker who is also a contemporary artist. Ironically, Arte preta tipo exportação [export-type black art] features the profile of a black man under the word produzir (produce). He painted the silhouette on jute, the same material used to make sacks in which coffee and other agricultural products are shipped. The piece reconnects the contemporary to the wretched history of toil, enslavement and other ills that coffee plantations bequeathed as one of its sequels for society today.

To read more about Mulambö, see


Ismael Ivo

São Paulo/SP, 1955 – São Paulo/SP, 2021

Ralf Schmerberg

Ludwigsburgo, Alemanha, 1965 -

O vídeo traz a impactante performance I Had Too Much Coffee (em tradução literal, “bebi café demais”), do coreógrafo e dançarino Ismael Ivo, realizada em Berlim, em 2002. Vestido de branco, entre louças também brancas, Ivo começa fazendo gestos de servir café nas xícaras. Aos poucos, a dança ganha um caráter mais agressivo. O movimento se intensifica e a ação se transforma numa catarse em que o café se derrama manchando roupas, xícaras e paredes. O vídeo nos leva a questionar o sentido de servidão do homem negro e sua relação estabelecida com o café. É uma versão estendida e inédita, produzida especialmente para Café Mundo. Em breve estará também no site.


Texto do diretor Ralf Schmerberg:

I Had Too Much Coffee (Tomei café demais) é um vídeo que fiz em 2002 com o coreógrafo e dançarino Ismael Ivo. A ideia era criar uma imagem que brincasse com o consumo de café no mundo.

A obra de Ismael Ivo como dançarino e coreógrafo sempre me inspirou. Conheci Ismael no Rio de Janeiro, em 2000, quando ele visitou o set onde eu estava granvando uma sequência de meu filme POEM com a grande bailarina e coreógrafa Marcia Haydée. Márcia e Ismael eram velhos conhecidos, e nos divertimos muito juntos. Quando ele foi embora, eu já sonhava em trabalhar com ele em algum projeto cinematográfico.

I Had Too Much Coffee era a ideia certa para chamar Ismael, que vivia mais tempo em Berlim na época. Ele imediatamente concordou em fazer o vídeo, e produzimos tudo em poucos dias. Montei um set no estúdio e o convidei para improvisar com as xícaras e o café. Conhecendo Ismael, sabia que não precisava pensar na direção. Bastava oferecer a ele uma atmosfera em que pudesse mergulhar.

Ele estava cheio de ideias e a coisa toda simplesmente fluiu. Foi um momento de muita diversão e risadas. Eu diria que foi um dia mágico – de fazer várias formas de arte se fundirem umas nas outras.

O coreógrafo e dançarino Ismael Ivo descreveu uma trajetória brilhante, de suma importância na dança. Nos 33 anos em que viveu na Europa, trabalhou com importantes diretores e coreógrafos, ajudou a fundar o festival internacional de dança ImPus Tanz, em Viena, dirigiu a seção de dança da Bienal de Veneza e foi o primeiro negro e estrangeiro a chegar a ser diretor do Teatro Nacional Alemão, em Weimar. Em 2017, ele retornou ao Brasil para assumir a direção do Balé da Cidade de São Paulo. Faleceu no dia 8 de abril de 2021, aos 66 anos, vítima de complicações da Covid-19.