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Paulo Herkenhoff and Helena Nader are the new holders of the Olavo Setubal Chair

by Richard Meckien - published Mar 18, 2019 11:40 AM - - last modified Jun 16, 2020 02:44 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa and Fernanda Rezende.

Paulo Herkenhoff e Helena Nader
Art curator Paulo Herkenhoff and biochemist Helena Nader

In 2019 the Olavo Setubal Chair of Art, Culture, and Science will have two holders who will address the visual arts and science, as well as the intersections between them.

The positions have been taken on by art critic, curator, and cultural manager Paulo Herkenhoff, and by biochemist Helena Nader, a professor at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) and former president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC).

The inauguration took place on March 28 during a ceremony in the University Council Room. Social, educational and cultural activist Eliana Sousa Silva, the previous holder, will continue to be linked to the Chair while coordinating the ongoing project Democracy, Arts and Knowledge.

The coordinator of the chair and former director of the IEA, Martin Grossmann, emphasizes that the initiative, as a result of an agreement between the IEA and Itaú Cultural, has an open configuration, both thematic and organizational, hence the possibility of simultaneously exploring two areas of knowledge.

For him, the choice of Paulo Herkenhoff and Helena Nader is due to the role of "curators" that both play in their areas of activity. "Herkenhoff has important institutional participation in the field of the arts and Nader acts almost as a diplomat to the world of science, science politics, technology and innovation."

It will not be the first time that science will be next to art in an activity of the chair. In 2016, holder Sérgio Paulo Rouanet organized the seminar "Science and Its Borders."

At a preliminary meeting on March 8 to gather the IEA directors, the chair coordination, and the new members, Director Paulo Saldiva said that choosing Herkenhoff and Nader will allow a reflection on the false duality between the creative process and the scientific one. In reference to Jacob Bronowski's book "Science and Human Values," he affirmed that there are "extremely intuitive things when you do science and very accurate ones when you paint a picture."

Still in relation to the dialogue between art and science, Herkenhoff cited the concept of a "black hole" applied to ghettos by artist Cildo Meirelles: "The energy trapped in the ghetto ends up growing and self-feeding, an example of which is New York's Harlem in the 1920s."

More on the Olavo Setubal Chair of Art, Culture, and Science

Another aspect emphasized by Saldiva is the importance of the new holders' action so that the chair is a space of dissemination and clarification for art and science "at a time when both areas are under attack."

This is a crucial function in the current context of the country, according to Nader: "We must take advantage of this space to strengthen art, culture, and science." In that sense, she and Herkenhoff hope that their stay at the IEA will contribute to the development of scientific and artistic education.

Specifically referring to the role of art in this context, Herkenhoff sees it as a possibility of healing, of something that makes life possible: "As sculptor Louise Burgeois said, 'art is a guarantee of sanity.'"

Paulo Herkenhoff

In the 1970s Herkenhoff worked in a law firm and eventually participated in the reorganization of the Açude Museum and the Chácara do Céu Museum, both created by the Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya Foundation in 1964 and 1972, respectively.

In the following decade, he worked at the Brazilian Art Foundation (FUNARTE) and traveled to several cities in the country. He highlights two works from that period: a show in Curitiba, with the participation of 250 artists from the Americas, and a project in Belém about visuality and diversity of the Amazon.

He was the curator general of the 24th São Paulo Art Biennial, the so-called "Biennial of Anthropophagy," held in 1998. So that the exhibition could have a historiographic and critical character about the city, Herkenhoff considered the Brazilian Anthropophagic Movement as a representation of São Paulo and a response to it. The objective was to address the concept of anthropophagy as a "process of cultural formation with a view to autonomy." Also worthy of note is his curatorship of the Brazilian pavilion at the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997.

Herkenhoff has also been director of the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Fine Arts, chief curator of Rio de Janeiro's Museum of Modern Art (MAM), curator of the Eva Klabin Rapaport Foundation, adjunct curator at the Department of Painting and Sculpture at New York's MoMA, and cultural director of the Rio de Janeiro Art Museum (MAR).

At MoMA, in 2002, he had three months to organize the exhibition "Tempo," in which artists from different countries addressed the phenomenological and fictional perceptions of time aspects. It was pointed out by The New York Times as a reference for directions to be taken by the museum.

Herkenhoff's bibliographic production includes works on various Brazilian artists, collections, artistic production in historical periods, and contemporary art in Brazil and Latin America.

Helena Nader

A professor of Molecular Biology at UNIFESP, Helena Nader has allied her teaching and research activities with the role of academic administrator, director of scientific entities and adviser of research support agencies.

Nader has graduated in biomedical sciences from UNIFESP and in biology from USP. She has performed postdoctoral research at the University of Southern California. She is a productivity fellow at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) and of the São Paulo State Academy of Sciences (ACIESP), and participates in The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).

She is an adviser to several national and international journals, and has been a visiting researcher in the United States (Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM) and W. Alton Jones Cell Science Center) and in Italy (Ronzoni Institute for Chemical and Biochemical Research and Opocrin Research Laboratories).

Her main focuses of research are glycobiology, and cellular and molecular biology of proteoglycans, especially heparin and heparan sulfate. Her works are related to the involvement of these compounds in hemostasis, in the control of cell division and in cell transformation.

Helena served as president of SBPC for three terms (2011 to 2017), president of the Brazilian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SBBq), provost for Undergraduation and provost for Postgraduation and Research at UNIFESP, coordinator of the Advisory Committee in Biophysics, Pharmacology, Physiology and Neurosciences (CABF) of CNPq, adjunct coordinator of the Biological Evaluation Area of the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), and member of the Biology Coordination of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

Nader received the National Order of Scientific Merit (Comendador class in 2002 and Grand Cross class in 2008), the Brazilian Navy's Tamandare Medal of Merit in 2013, and the 2007 Scopus Award by Elsevier and CAPES.

Photos: Leonor Calasans / IEA-USP