Adriana Varejão (born 1964, Rio de Janeiro) is a Brazilian artist. She works in various disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation and photography. Varejão lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.
References to the effects of colonialism of Brazil by Europe, are apparent in her work as well as art history and illusion. Her work alludes to expansion and transformation of cultural identity, yet continues the use of her theme of understanding the past, in order to understand the present.
Cultural anthropology, or the process of absorbing and incorporating foreign influence into native Brazilian culture, inspires much of Varejão’s work. This movement is evident throughout Brazil’s history into the present and the dichotomy of diversity and unity is a common theme amongst contemporary Brazilian artists. In Varejão’s works, she examines this theme within the contexts of race, body, identity, and the effects of colonialism.
Drawing upon tensions surrounding race and ethnicity in Brazil, Varejão uses installation, oil painting, and drawing to comment on the perception of race in Brazil in the twenty-first century. She often starts with a canvas, adding materials such as porcelain and ceramics. In her work entitled “Polvo,” exhibited at Lehman Maupin in 2014, Varejão combines color theory and casta (a social theory that influenced European paintings of Brazil’s conquest), to examine the norm of defining race in terms of skin color. The series of nearly identical self-portraits forming the bulk of the work were displayed with individualized titles that explained the portraits’ only differences: the titles were generated by the 1976 Brazilian census, which asked Brazilians for the first time to give their definitions of their own skin tone; the responses ranged from branquinha, “snow-white,” to morenão, roughly “big black dude.” 
Several of Varejão’s sculptural installations, including “Linda da Lapa”, “Folds”, and “Ruina de Charque - Nova Capela (Nova Capela Jerked-Beef Ruin),” juxtapose structural uniformity and stability against human destruction. These artworks consist of bisected azulejos-covered walls filled with human organs. Using these images, Varejão comments on postcolonial Brazilian social structure and implies that colonially influenced order is built upon human destruction and violence.
One of the artist's largest projects to date recently opened at Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea, Brazil - a specially commissioned pavilion designed in collaboration with architect Rodrigeo Cervino Lopez. Her work is included in numerous collections worldwide, some of which are the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, among others.
Varejão is represented by the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York City, NY and Victoria Miro Gallery in London, UK. She holds the auction record for a Brazilian artist with a $1.8 million sale of Wall With Incisions a la Fontana at Christie's in February 2011.
The Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim in Brazil opened in 2008 and includes a pavilion dedicated to her work and built by her then husband, collector Bernardo Paz. She was included in the "Brazil: Body and Soul" exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2001, as well as in the MoMA QNS exhibition "Tempo", where she filled an entire room with the wall-based installation Azulejões (Big Blue Tiles). Her work has also been included in the Venice Biennale and Biennale of Sydney. She had solo exhibitions at Lehmann Maupin (2011 forthcoming, 2009, 2003, 1999) in New York, Soledad Lorenzo (2011 forthcoming, 2002, 1998) in Madrid, Victoria Miro Gallery (2011 forthcoming, 2002) in London, Galeria Fortes Vilaca (2009, 2005) in São Paulo, the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (2007) in Tokyo and the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain (2005) in Paris.
Paintings by series
- Plates, 2009-2011
- Saunas and Baths, 2003-2009
- Jerked Beef Ruins, 2000-2004
- Seas and Tiles, 1991-2004
- Tongues and Incisions, 1997-2003
- Irezumis, 1994-1997
- Academics, 1995-1999
- Proposal for a Catechesis, 1993-1997
- Terra Incognita, 1992-2004
- Baroque, 1987-1988
- The Seducer, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- The Obscene, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- The Guest, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- The Specialist, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- Divine Diva, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- The Wicked, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- Mme. F., 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- Mrs. White, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- The Host, 2009, graphite on paper, 70x100cm
- The Voyeur, 2009, graphite and watercolor on paper, 70x92cm
- The Obsessive, 2007, graphite on paper, 42x29.7cm
- J'aime Baden, 2004, graphite on paper, 29.7x21cm
- The Mystic, 2004, graphite on paper, 51x37.5cm
- Chaque Jour Est un Jour de Fete, 2004, graphite on paper, 29.7x21cm
- The Diva, 2004, graphite on paper, 51x37.5cm
- Rogue, 2004, graphite on paper, 29.7x21cm
- Sauna, 2003, graphite on paper, 55x77cm
- Virtual Ambient-graphite, 2002, graphite on paper, 50x57cm
- Garden of Delights, 1994, ink on paper, 32x43.5cm
- Elegia Mineira, 2007, backlight, 125x163cm
- Lukacs Bath, 2005, digital photograph, 50x66cm
- Palatinus Lido Bath, 2005, digital photograph, 50x66cm
- Szechenyi, 2005, digital photograph, 26.7x35cm
- Melee de Guerriers Nus - Redux, 2005, digital photograph, variable dimensions
- Contingent, 2000, photograph, 28x48.5cm
- Dadivosa, 1999, digital photograph, 24x21.5cm
- Happiness, 1999, backlight, 84.5x139x13.5cm
- Anything, 1998, c-print, 56x37.5cm
- Cannibal and Nostalgic, 1998, digital photograph, 107x83cm
- Scenography of Erwartung, opera by Shoenberg, Grande Teatro do Palacio das Artes, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil, 2009
- Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporanea, pavilion of permanent show, 2008
- Scenography of Idomeneu, opera by Mozart, Theatro Municipal de Rio De Janeiro, 2006
- Panacea Phantastica, silk-screen printing on tiles, variable dimensions, Panorama de Arte Brasiliera, MAM Sao-Paulo, 2003
- Hara, Toshio, "Adriana Varejao", Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007
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- Grosenick, Uta (2005). Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century. Taschen. ISBN 9783822858547.
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- "Sustainable Olympic aquatics stadium unveiled ready for Rio 2016 Games". 5 August 2016. Archived from the original on 20 August 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
- Adriana Varejão Victoria Miro Gallery, London.
- Katya Kazakina and Juan Pablo Spinetto (August 28, 2012), Gagosian Plans $130 Million Package for Brazil Art Fair Archived March 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Businessweek.
- Ayers, Robert. Adriana Varejao at Lehmann Maupin ARTnews. October, 2009.
- Varejao, Adriana. "Adriana Varejao". Archived from the original on 2010-03-16. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Lehmann Maupin Gallery
- Victoria Miro Gallery
- Adriana Varejao
- Museum of Modern Art
- Inhotim Instituto Cultural
- Envisioning the Body Politic through Dense Layers of Paint: The Art of Adriana Varejão
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