São Paulo’s Galeria Leme, a key player in Brazil’s innovative art scene, has gained a colourful new appendage. As part of the gallery’s ‘SITU’ project – where Latin American artists develop site-specific works on the theme of urban space – artist Pilar Quinteros has constructed a tongue-in-cheek clock tower on the gallery’s roof.
Don’t be tricked by the playful, primary colours of Quinteros’ new installation – this is serious stuff. As curator Bruno de Almeida explains, by laying the ‘subverted’ clocktower sideways, Quinteros is making a philosophical comment on ‘the conquered supremacy of time over space and its consequences on our built environment’.
Designed by the godfather of Brazilian brutalism, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, the grey gallery building is at odds with its vibrant new addition. Despite their aesthetic differences, the two structures share historical parallels. Both, in one way or another, were at one time situated somewhere else.
‘Situ 6: Friends of Perpetual Movement’, by Pilar Quinteros. Photography: Filipe Berndt
Quinteros’ installation is a replica of the clock tower at Luz train station – one of São Paulo's most storied buildings. Designed by quintessential Victorian architect Charles Henry Driver at the end of the 19th century in Glasgow, the station was imported to Brazil piece by piece. Galeria Leme has a similarly pre-fabricated past. The original gallery was dismantled in 2011 (just a few short months after it was built) because the plot was bought by a commercial construction company. In 2012, a new, near-identical version (also designed by Mendes da Rocha) was reconstructed down the road.
‘I was very interested in the shared aspects of the history of both buildings,’ Quinteros offers. ‘But at the same time, the longer I spent working on this project the more I got interested in the station’s clock tower as a symbol. The Luz Station is one of the most emblematic buildings in São Paulo but paradoxically it has an European origin. I believe this metaphorically represents the history of our continent.’
Time, too, is a European construct, thinks Quinteros. ‘The clock tower symbolically implements a sort of global order – standard time and the time-zone system also originated in Europe.’ Significantly, Quinteros’ clock doesn’t tick. The 9m long, volumetric rendition of Luz clock tower replaces any intricate internal mechanisms with foam blocks, surrounded by a crude wooden structure and supportive scaffolding – easily dismantled; easily re-installed elsewhere.