Meet the artist who came from the streets and found a way to reinvent himself in art

Marcelo Conceição, who lost everything in a landslide in the Morro do Bumba shanty town, today calls himself an “urban prospector.”
25 一月 2024
Meet the artist who came from the streets and found a way to reinvent himself in art

Artist Marcelo Conceição left the streets and found a new way of life in art. He calls himself an “urban prospector” and is one of the exhibitors in “The Fourth Constructive Generation in Rio de Janeiro,” which is running at FGV Art until February 25, 2024.

Born in Niterói in 1966 to a family of 11 siblings, he spent more than a decade living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro after losing relatives in a major landslide in the Morro do Bumba shanty town. He survived by selling objects he found on sidewalks in the city’s downtown and upscale south side. After turning 50, he began to live and work in the art world and today he is a well-established artist, has his own home in Rio de Janeiro and is one of a group of artists taking part in an exhibition hosted by FGV Art.

According to curator Paulo Herkenhoff, the concept behind the exhibition was presented in several essays in a book titled “Rio XXI – Vertentes Construtivas” (“Constructive Strands in 21st Century Rio”), launched by FGV Knowledge in September 2023. The book presents the constructive tradition in Brazilian art since the 1950s, which now, in the latest generation, is marked by the diverse agendas of contemporary life.


Inspiration for his work

The inspiration for his work comes from the discarded objects he finds on the streets and at street fairs in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, the work on display dates back to the period when he was homeless. He uses materials such as corks, iron rods, wood from crates and threads. His work is extremely complex in its search for balance, and at the same time it reveals precariousness and fragility, in an incessant movement of transformation and renewal.

He uses just a few working tools, such as a stylus, a piece of saw blade and glue. He also economizes on paint colors, prioritizing red, black and white, in reference to the samba school he loves, Salgueiro. He has a predilection for buttons, pieces of jewelry, cork stoppers, whelks and spools. Some works made from bamboo sticks and threads hark back to his childhood and techniques used to make kites – toys so playful and light that they can be carried up by the wind.

His work gives a glimpse of the complexity of a plural and generous artist, who shares the little he has and has found in everyday and democratic street life.


FGV’s main building, 190 Praia de Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
Time: Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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