Bahia Museum of Modern Art

Albino Oliveira
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Museologist
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The Bahia Museum of Modern Art – MAM/BA – was legally created in 1959 and inaugurated on 6 January 1960. Following the creation of the Rio de Janeiro (1948) and São Paulo (1949) museums of modern art, the MAM/BA was the third museum of modern art opened to the public in Brazil.

Thought of as an institute to internationalise the cultural life of the city of Salvador, the MAM/BA was designed during a time of culture effervescence that the location provided, especially at the Federal University of Bahia – UFBA. In this period, the creation of the Theatre School, the Cinema Club, the Seminary of Music, the School of Dance and the Bahia Salon of Fine Arts stand out. Some historians call the result of these cultural initiatives “Bahia modernism”.

Architect Lina Bo Bardi, at the invitation of the Bahia State government, was responsible for the design of the Museum. From Italy, Lina arrived in Brazil in 1946 and, with her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi, actively participated in the creation of the Assis Chateaubriand São Paulo Museum of Art – MASP. Her contact with the city of Salvador began in 1958 when she lectured the School of Fine Arts and wrote a column in the Diário de Notícias, calling attention to real-estate speculation and the future of the city. The museum was envisioned by Lina as being a cultural catalyst for the Northeast region of Brazil, housing modern and popular art.

The MAM/BA provisionally operated in a room at the Teatro Castro Alves, with its definitive site becoming the Solar do Unhão buildings in 1966. Built in the 17th century, with views of Todos os Santos Bay, it was preserved by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Patrimony – IPHAN – in 1943, and later was acquired and restored by the Bahia State government in the 1960s.

The project to occupy and reform the Solar, developed by Lina Bo Bardi herself, eyed the creation of a second museum, the Museum of Popular Art – MAP. The architect envisioned a museum-school, for children and youth, articulating the erudite and popular with a view to break down the barriers normally established by art museums. In her mind, the MAM and the MAP should have been totally integrated. The reform of the building incorporated all the significant alterations that the architectural design had undergone throughout its history, and generated ample space connected by a central staircase with fittings that, according to the architect, reproduced the fittings used on ox-carts.

After the Military Coup in 1964, Lina Bo Bardi was removed from the position and the two museums were unified under the name of ‘Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia’.

After a long period of abandonment, the Museum began a high-profile process of revitalisation in the 1990s with the creation of the Bahia Art Salon, which enabled the amplification of the archive and with the construction of the Sculpture Park, which added new elements to visitors’ perceptions.

The archives of the MAM/BA contain works by artists from various generations, from the modernists Di Cavalcanti, Tarsila do Amaral and Cândido Portinari to the contemporaries Siron Franco, Tunga and Carlos Melo. The archive also contains a rich Bahia production, possessing works by artists like Mario Cravo Junior, Carybé, Calasans Neto, Juarez Paraíso, Mario Cravo Neto, Mestre Didi, and others. Worthy of note is the collection by the Salvador artist Rubem Valentim – sculptures, paintings and serigraphs based on ancestral symbols of African origins.

Recife, 28 May 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.


O MUSEU de Arte Moderna da Bahia. São Paulo: Banco Safra, 2008.

MUSEU de Arte Moderna da Bahia. Disponível em: <http://www.mam.ba.gov.br>. Acesso em: 26 mai. 2010.

MUSEU de Arte Moderna da Bahia. Disponível em: <http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamba-preta>. Acesso em: 26 mai. 2010.


Source: OLIVEIRA, Albino. Belem Museum of Art, Belém, PA. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.


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