Nelson Leirner


Nelson Leirner (Brazil)


“Remembering Agnaldo Faria’s words, there’s a clear relation between Nelson Leirner’s work and the work of Marcel Duchamp, especially with the readymade family, inaugurated in 1913 with “Bicycle Wheel” (a work that the artist revisited on several occasions), but are also visible the similarities and proximity with the works of Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Ilya Kabakov.

He’s the author of a multifaceted work, even polymorphic: drawings, objects, multiples, stamps, outdoors, performances and happenings that, in none of its facets, loose critical density. 

From aspects and elements of daily life, relations and interpersonal beliefs or questions of economic or geopolitical order, Nelson Leirner makes a scathing critique of contemporary society(ies) and the current art world.

His work, many of the times trangressive and almost always well-humored, makes use of the appropriation, exploration and reuse of iconographic elements.

The caravels, allegory of the occupation (territorial and economical), symbolically constructed with Coke cans, were made by a craftsman from Maricá, a little coastal town. The artist claims not only the fun and inventiveness of this kind of craftsmanship but also the perversity of the principle of exploration of others’ labor and the production of calculated poverty and violence. Flaws that are present also in the relationships established between Portugal and Brazil, whether commercial, political or social, in their mutual “discoveries”.”

Andreia Poças, February of 2013


Nelson Leirner was born in São Paulo, in 1932. He studied textile engineering at the Lowell Technological Institute, in Massachussetts, USA, between 1947 and 1952. His first solo exhibition took place in 1961. In 1963, 1965 and 1967 he participated, respectively, in the 7th, 8th and 9th editions of São Paulo’s Biennial. He was invited, in 1969 and 1971 to participate in the São Paulo Biennial, but he refused both times. In 1975 he started giving lessons at Faculdade Armando Álvares Penteado, in São Paulo. He was part of the collective show “Modernidade: arte brasileira do século XX” (Modernity: brasilian art of the 20th Century), of the Museum of Modern Art of Paris, in 1987. He represented Brasil in the 48th Venice Biennial, in 1999. In 2007, the ABCA (Brazilian Association of Art Critic) awarded him with “Trajectória de um Artista” (lhioihsdoher). In 2011, he was

honored for his 80 years with the retrospective “Nelson Leirner 2011-1961 = 50 anos”, in Fiesp/Sesi-SP. He received the award “Governador do Estado de São Paulo” for plastic arts.


Support: Galeria Graça Brandão