The São Paulo Bienal which has been running in Parque do Ibirapuera will finish on 19 December 2004. Therefore if you haven’t been yet make sure you make plans to go. The bienal, which presents contemporary artwork every two years, is one of the oldest and largest shows of its kind. More than 100 artists from 62 countries are displaying their work. The São Paulo show is one of the most important venues for cutting edge art, which organizers compared to the better-known Venice Bienal. Organizers said they are trying to emphasize art that is outside the mainstream.

Curator Alfons Hug said he chose this year’s theme of No Man’s Land,” to counteract a predominance of what he calls “sociological discussions” in international art exhibits. “The no man’s land is a space for art itself. It’s a space outside the world of economics and politics,” he said.

Calling it “a return to art,” he said he hoped the show would “value the autonomy of art and of its aesthetic principles.” In contrast to the 2002 biennale, which focused on the energy and grit of metropolises, this show will have “more poetry, subtlety and extremely sublime works,” Hug said.

The show also tries to make contemporary art more accessible to the public. For the first time, the show will be free of charge, each artist will have a text introducing his or her work, and 400 guides will be available to help explain the pieces. “We have taken care like never before to help people understand the show,” Hug said. “We have to do away with this prejudice that contemporary art is something out of reach. That isn’t the case. Even a young person can appreciate it as he learns from it.”

Indeed, there are a number of eye-catching works. “Gimme Gummi,” by Austrian artist Leo Schatzl, consists of a candy-apple red Volkswagen Beetle strung up to a metal frame with elastic cords so visitors can literally go for a spin in the car. Spectators can also see haunting photographs captured by U.S. artist Alex Soth on a road trip along the Mississippi River, a life-sized stuffed elephant being attacked by a fake tiger in a piece by Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, and paintings by Brazilian Beatriz Milhazes, whose flower-like structures and concentric circles burst with color and energy.

This year, organizers are expecting more than 1 million visitors to wander the 25,000 square meter, specially-built Ciccillo Matarazzo, Pavilhão da Bienal, portão 3, Parque do Ibirapuera. The event runs from September 25 to December 19, 2004. From Monday to Thursday, 9.00 am to 10.00 pm – people who get in at 10.00 pm can only stay until 11.00 pm (the Bienal recommends at least 2 hours to visit the exhibition). Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, 9.00 am to 11.00 pm. The event is free. For more details see the website http://bienalSã

Carlos A. DeJuana, Senior Correspondent, Reuters provided text used for this article

At first sight, São Paulo looks like a modern city. There are pavements, small sky-scrapers, houses and apartments, shopping malls, fast food, traffic jams and, for the most part, running water and constant electricity. In reality, like its flashier neighbour Rio, it’s a wild-west outpost in disguise, a frontier town reminiscent of those lawless western settlements. How do we know this? People get shot here all the time; and if they aren’t killed, they’re robbed.

Although Rio grabs the headlines (viz. the recent stabbing death of a Japanese tourist on Copacabana beach), São Paulo’s statistics make equally gruesome reading. Already this year there have been 3,396 murders, according to the State Secretary for Security – which, quite frankly, is a misnomer. In London, by contrast, there have been three.

Most people don’t even report muggings. My husband’s wallet was wrenched out of his pocket by a three-member gang during a recent Sunday afternoon family stroll through a crafts market. We told a nearby policeman. His response: normal. And he speaks the horrible truth. One out of every 50 people in the city is likely to be the victim of a crime this year.

The closest I have come so far, touch wood, is 15 feet. A man got out of the car next to mine at a traffic light. I saw the enormous Dirty Harry weapon he was holding and decided to break a different law. It was 6.30pm at an intersection on a street where every other shop sells blindado” cars, a word that sent me to the dictionary. It means armoured.

Cars are prime targets. Robbers approach, gun in hand, even on major thoroughfares, in broad daylight. I know four people who have been assaulted that way. Not surprisingly the blindado market is growing, despite the fact that it doubles the cost of a vehicle. Already there are more than 20,000 armoured cars in Brazil with about 400 new ones hitting the roads each month. One psychology website recently recommended that urban stress could be reduced by forking over the blindado dosh.

If you can’t afford armoured plating, however, there are do’s and don’t to remember. Always keep the windows up, even in nice weather, and doors locked (cars here tend to do that automatically after 50 yards); and, at night, don’t be afraid to run a red. Taxis, visitors will be glad to know, seem to fare better than private cars but always hide your laptop.

So, you might ask, isn’t everyone terrified to set foot outside? In a word, no. Most Paulistanos are already part of the statistics or seem sanguine about future developments. The city does not feel haunted because those not committing the crimes, and they are in the majority thank goodness, are just too nice to be that paranoid.

Those who have a lot to lose, however, take serious precautions. Posh houses have very high walls and swanky apartment buildings multiple layers of security. Nearly $3 billion was spent on personal security in Brazil in 2003. It is now an industry that employs half a million people.

I know where some of those dollars are going. Last year my school’s Parent/Teacher Association newsletter asked parents, in a perfectly matter-of-fact way, to tell their children’s bodyguards not to crowd the pavement. Nearby residents were feeling intimidated. I can understand why: these guys are enormous, wear black suits and are probably packing. Their charges generally come up to their kneecaps. This year a bunch of high profile child kidnappings elsewhere in the city prompted the school to build a fortress-like wall around the entrance.

So we adapt, which is both good and bad. Those who can, protect themselves and those who can’t try to minimize the potential damage. This, however, lets the security forces off the hook, and the underlying causes – the widening gap between the rich 10% and the rest, high unemployment, poor public education, judicial impunity etc. – go untreated. At times, one could wish for a little more Brazilian paranoia.

In truth, there are some moves to sort out the mess. The government realizes that having three separate police forces that barely talk to each other isn’t smart (very few crimes are solved), and is trying to introduce information sharing. But it’s hard to break the habit of two generations, let alone integrate completely different staffing systems, pay scales and pensions. I am not holding my breath.

In some poor suburbs where migrant population growth has turned vacant land into high density slums, bar closing hours have changed and increased street lighting has gone into known hot spots. As a result, there are fewer murders. And taking a 10 year perspective, things are getting better. Murders used to top 6,000 a year in São Paulo in the 1990s.

For those of us just passing through, we remove the rings from our crossed fingers and live in hope. The Wild West didn’t stay wild forever and São Paulo, which is celebrating its 450th birthday this year, will have to grow up one day – won’t it?

Of course, for the inhabitants held hostage and robbed last week by armed gangs in a couple of posh apartment buildings, this won’t happen soon enough. In Portuguese the word for gang is quadrilha. I first thought it sounded like a dance Darcy might invite Miss Elisabeth Bennet to try; yet another example of a misleading first impression.

Multi-talented Irish musician Liam O’Connor is back in Brazil for the second time in two years to perform his rare mixture of Brazilian and Celtic music at a number of locations around the country. An extremely versatile musician, Liam is known as the man of ’20 instruments.’ He was born in County Cork and raised in a family where music was a way of life. Cutting his musical teeth at the age of four he quickly became an All-Ireland Champion and has also won the Beamish & Crawford Award for Best All-Round Musician. With so much success, Liam was sought after by Michael Flatley to join ‘Lord Of The Dance’. He subsequently played on the soundtrack for the original show and it’s successor ‘Feet Of Flames’. Accompanied by a group of Irish dancers, Liam will play in São Paulo (Dec. 13), Salvador (Dec. 19) and Aracaju (Dec. 20). The money raised from the shows will be donated to a number of local social programs.

Where: Teatro Cultura Artstica, Rua Nestor Pestana, 196 – Consolaão.
When: Dec. 13 at 21h
Tickets: R$30 – R$40. Tel. 3258-3616

British born Margaret Mee spent over thirty years, from the 1950s to the 1980s, drawing flowers and plants from the Brazilian rainforest, many of which are now extinct due to deforestation.
Her life was cut short by a car crash on one of her return visits to Britain in 1988. However her memory is preserved in her many drawings which are currently being shown, for the first time, at the Museu de Zoologia in São Paulo.

Where: Museu de Zoologia, Avenida Nazar, 481 – Ipiranga. Tel. 6165-8100
When: Tues – Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Until Feb. 27
Admission: Free

This week’s entertainment guide features Brazilian funk and soul band Jam Suburbana, Sujinho, one of São Paulo’s most traditional and best value steak houses, ice skating, for a limited time only, at Morumbi Shopping Center, the city’s most authentic Irish pub, Corcoran’s, and for the kiddies the ‘Happy Place’ toy factory.

Jam SuburbanaIf you are looking for something to spice up your Monday nights then check out the funk and soul band Jam Suburbana at the Urbana club in Pinheiros. Usually playing to a packed house, the band, led by Bocato on the trombone, includes black music, soul, funk and jazz in its lively repertoire. The band has a strong link with the Urbana club and was formed there a number of years ago by a group of friends. The band has played with the likes of Jorge Ben Jor, Sandra de Sa, Ed Motta and other big artists. The group also includes Reginaldo 16 (trumpet), Jean Arnoult (sax), Jota Jota (base), C. Tchernev (drums), Marquinhos Aflalo (percussion), Jean Trad (guitar), Marcelo Lima (keyboard) and Lino Crizz (vocals). Every Monday night from 00h30 at Urbana (Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, 614). Admission R$15 – R$30.

SujinhoDespite its name, Sujinho is one of the most traditional and best value meat restaurants in town. If you prefer a large steak, rather than the ‘Rodizio’ style churascarias, then Sujinho is the place for your. The house specialty is the Bisteca de Boi, which at 700 grams is enough to satisfy most appetites. The restaurant has been around since the 1960s and there are two addresss, one on Rua Consolacao (No. 2078) and the other in the center of town (Av. Ipiranga, 1058). Despite it’s simple dcor, the restaurant is popular among artists as it opens late into the night (5am). Very reasonably priced at around R$25 per person. Tel. (011) 3256 8026. Website

Ice SkatingIf you are feeling nostalgic for some snow and ice this Christmas then you might want to pay a visit to the temporary Ice Rink set up at Morumbi Shopping Center. The 400-square meter rink has been mounted specially for the Christmas period and will remain until Feb. 13. The rink holds 70 people at a time and the cost is R$20 per half hour (including skates). The skating rink was originally set up in the 1980s but closed in 1994. Six instructors are present for those who are a bit shaky on their skates, while for complete beginners there is course available (10 hours for R$300). The rink is located in the Atrium and children over 5 can participate. For those under 5 there is a special sleigh (R$5 for five rounds) available. Open from Mon – Sun from 10h to 22h. Shopping Morumbi (Avenida Roque Petroni Jnior, 1089)

Corcoran'sCorcoran’s, an authentic Irish Pub with room for up to 400 patrons, is located in the trendy Itaim district (Rua Tabapu, 1439). The pub is decorated with fine wood and soft lighting, creating the ideal atmosphere. It sports a mezzanine and terrace with pub games, televised sports, and valet parking. Live music most nights, with local bands such as River Raid, Junkie Box and Taboo. Meals range from traditional Irish snacks, to pastas and a variety of sandwiches. Draft beers include Guinness, Beamish, Old Speckled Hen, Carlsberg and Brahma, as well as a host of imported drinks and whiskeys, including Jameson. Open from Tues – Sat. from 18h until the last customer. Website:

Happy PlaceThe Fbrica de Brinquedos Happy Place toy factory is every child’s dream. Instead of smashing up toys they can get the chance to make their own. Under the watchful eye of trained monitors, children from the age of 3 can make their own cuddly toys, including monkeys, cats, elephants, bears etc, as well as robots, in any color and size they wish. There are 21 different options available, all pre-molded and easy to assemble. After they are mounted the toys are given a name and sent to a separate production area where they are stuffed and given a final touch. Once ready, toys are announced by name over a loud speaker, like at a maternity hospital, and your new toy is born. They even come with a birth certificate! The toy factory is located in Tatuape (Rua Itapura, 1243) and is open from Mon-Sat from 9h to 20h and Sundays from 10h to 16h. Price ranges from R$19.90 to R$39.90, depending on the toy chosen. Tel. (011) 295 7999 “