São Paulo Diary: “Art Barn Is a Death Trap!”

O Lavrador de café (1934), by Cândido Portinari: Will the noble laborer in the coffee fields move to a new home at the Pinacoteca?

MP pede interdição do Masp devido a problemas de segurança (Estado de S. Paulo): “The state attorney’s office petitions to close the Art Museum of São Paulo due to safety and security problems.”

My “death trap” headline is highly exaggerated, on purpose, but to no real purpose, in the best traditions of the moral panic-driven Brazilian press.

Inspections found the museum had firefighting equipment, but criticized its deployment and the adequacy of the museum’s signage.

I am a big proponent of signage improvement myself.

The signage identifying São Paulo’s subway and commuter train stations, as you roll into them, cannot be read, for example, by a standing passenger. And the vast majority of passengers are standing-room only.

The intercom quacks inaudibly most of the time. If you are not familiar with the system, you quickly become disoriented, angry and — in my case — hungry. Stress makes me hungry. Go figure.

One of the greatest inventions since sliced bread was that automated announcement system they rolled out in the New York City subways.

You know the one, with the broad, corn-pone accent saying, “Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” and with all those redundant information systems, with well-calculated sight-lines, keeping you constantly updated on which station is next no matter how packed the car is.

Another practice São Paulo might emulate: Urging boarding passengers to let deboarding passengers off before boarding. Time the stops to provide enough time for this to happen. Run a public-service campaign. Have train announcers reinforce the behavior.

The rush-hour commute on trains and subways here is like working as an extra in an Irwin Allen disaster movie — sai da minha frente que eu quero passar — and tends to erode your faith in the essential goodness and good sense of your average fellow naked ape.

End digression. A follow-up to

Theft of a really, really valuable (but minor) Picasso and an iconic Portinari from the Niemeyer-designed hover-museum on the Avenida Paulista unleashes fear, uncertainty and doubt about the institution’s soundness.

O Ministério Público de São Paulo entrou nesta quarta-feira, 16, com uma ação na Vara de Fazenda Pública da Capital pedindo a interdição do Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Masp). A interdição vale até que sejam atendidas as exigências de segurança do Corpo de Bombeiros e do Departamento de Controle do Uso de Imóveis (Contru). “Foi constatado que o Masp não atende às exigências para garantir a vida das pessoas e a segurança do acervo, que é inigualável na América Latina”, disse a promotora de Justiça do Meio Ambiente, Mariza Schiavo Tucunduva.

The state Public Ministry filed suit in [a São Paulo court] today to close the Art Museum of São Paulo. The closure will last until security requirements of the state fire brigade and the [buillding inspector] are met. “It was noted that Masp is not in compliance with requirements needed to guarantee the safety of visitors and the security of the collection, which is unequaled in all of Latin America,” said environmental prosecutor Schiavo Tucunduva.

“Como não houve a atuação da municipalidade que tem o dever e o poder de interditar, agora cabe ao judiciário atuar”, disse a promotora. Segundo Mariza, o Masp nunca teve alvará de funcionamento. Vistorias no museu detectaram material combustível nas áreas administrativas, irregularidades nas instalações elétricas, pisos inflamáveis, falta de saída de emergência e falta de alarmes de incêndio.

“Since the city government, which has the power and the duty to intercede, has not acted, it is now up to the courts to act,” she said. Schiavo says the museum does not even have an operating permit. Inspections of the museum discovered combustible material in administrative areas, irregularities in the electrical system, flammable flooring, lack of emergency exits and lack of fire alarms.

No despacho, a promotora alega que o prédio do Masp “não possuía licença de funcionamento e também não existia atestado de vistoria do Corpo de Bombeiros de São Paulo assegurando que o prédio do Masp estivesse em condições de ser utilizado para as atividades fins da associação civil.”

In her petition, the prosecutor alleges that the Masp building “had no operating license and no record of inspection by the state fire brigade, attesting that the Masp building is fit to be used for the purposes for which it was incorporated.”

A promotora pede no texto que sejam tomadas diversas medidas para segurança contra incêndio, como melhorias nas saídas de emergência, melhor sinalização pelo museu, alarmes e colocação de hidrantes. A ação baseia-se em inspeções do Corpo de Bombeiros e laudo do Contru. O pedido também reforça a necessidade de regularização da licença de funcionamento do Masp.

The prosecutor requests various fire-safety measures be taken, such as improvements to the emergency exits, better signage, alarms, and the installation of fire hydrants. The suit is based on fire brigade and Contru inspections. It also emphasizes the need for Masp to bring its operating license up to date.

Further from G1:

Tucunduva solicita ainda que durante o período de interdição do Masp, o acervo do museu seja encaminhado para a Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. A argumentação usada pela promotra para a escolha desta instituição foi a de que o prédio teria passado pela inspeção da consultoria Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, que constatou que a Pinacoteca “apresenta excelentes condições de segurança”.

She also wants the museum’s collection moved to the Pinacoteca during the suspension of operations at Masp, arguing that the Pinacoteca’s building was inspected by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which found it to have “excellent security conditions.”

And what do the fire brigade and Contru say? Maybe the re-opening of Masp should be conditioned on an inspection by the same consultancy, to avoid the apparent double standard.

(We love the Pinacoteca, by the way, as we mentioned before. Neuza is very loyal to MASP, but I find it a little too heavy on the Brutalist-generalíssimo overtones. Same for MAM in Rio. There is just something queasy-making about having art museums and government buildings sharing the same design.)

All the local political pundits say that the governor, who left the mayor’s office to run, tries to keep his (nonentity of a) former deputy mayor (if I may venture an opinion) on a short leash.

Matarazzo is supposed to be the governor’s metro viceroy. But then Matarazzo has some problematic aspects as well (how come illegal gambling joints continued to flourish on his watch and on his turf for so long?)

Is this an example? Just idle speculation.

UPDATE: Last I heard (Jan 18) the petition had been denied.


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