Brazil is experiencing a wave of political unrest—but you wouldn’t know it from browsing the aisles at SP-Arte, the premier event on Brazil’s art calendar, where dealers and collectors were doing brisk business this weekend. The 97 domestic dealers, 34 international galleries, and 33 design dealers who set up shop inside São Paulo’s Oscar Niemeyer-designed biennial pavilion seemed unfazed by the current upheaval outside their doors.

The brisk sales at the fair, which closed to the public yesterday, illustrate the paradoxical situation that currently defines the arts in Brazil: The market is doing well at the same time that the art scene itself continues to be threatened by a concerning political shift toward the right, which has stifled creativity and freedom of expression.

The market has benefited from the fact that the government recently lowered interest rates, encouraging domestic collectors to diversify their investment portfolios through a variety of assets—including art—in order to prevent money from languishing in their bank accounts.

“The scene is doing terribly,” explained Brazilian dealer Pedro Mendes of gallery Mendes Wood DM, “but the market is doing great. People are investing in the economy and buying art is a good way to do that.” The São Paulo gallery sold out its recently opened show of work by Paulo Nimer Pjota and Runo Lagomarsino and reported a flurry of sales at the fair, including a wall piece by Sonia Gomes, five floor sculptures by Paulo Nazareth, a Kishio Suga sculpture, a Daniel Steegmann curtain, and paintings by Patricia Leite and Lucas Arruda. Read more