What effect will Paulo Ito’s painting have on the World Cup?


A woman walks past an image painted by Brazilian artist Paulo Ito critical of the 2014 World Cup. (REUTERS/Nacho Doce)

In advance of the World Cup, graffiti artist Paulo Ito has made what’s possibly the most damning and succinct statement about Brazil’s ills — ills which have been put under a microscope as the country prepares to host the World Cup and the Summer Olympics.

Plenty has been written and broadcast about Brazil’s foibles as it tumbles toward the biggest celebration of its beautiful game. The government has told tourists not to scream if they’re robbed. It has subjected poor families to forced evictions and moved them to a place NPR describes as a “barren, treeless apartment compound” in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro.

But it’s Ito’s painting of a crying, starving boy with nothing to eat save for soccer ball that’s swept the Internet. He painted the image on the doors of a Sao Paulo public schoolhouse and posted it to his Flickr account last week. Since then, it’s been shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Ito told Slate’s Jeremy Stahl the painting is his most powerful creation. “People already have the feeling and that image condensed this feeling,” Ito said. “The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start. … I didn’t mean [to say] nobody is doing anything against poverty, but we need to show the world or ourselves that the situation is still not good.”

Well, he’s definitely accomplished the showing. Will it be enough to spark significant action?

We think the plight of children will spur us to act; they are helpless innocents subject to the whims of the adults tasked with protecting them. But is it enough to pass around a picture or tweet a hashtag, as Caitlin Dewey parses? It’s possible we will have Paulo Ito’s name on our minds and our lips when it’s obvious he’s on a much bigger mission.

According to World Policy, “the intersection of social activism and art in Brazil is not new. Since the 1960s, street art, such as pichação (tagging) and graffiti, has been an integral part of Brazilian social activist history. Today, Brazilians continue to embrace art as a critical form of political dissent of the government.”

How long before we turn Ito into Banksy — and we’re wondering what happened to the painting of the starving boy because some daring, enterprising, shameless bandit made off with it in the middle of the night? There’s always a buyer for hip street art. The only question is price. This, by the way, is precisely the reason why Banksy says his work is free and gets irked when it’s commodified.

Will Ito’s doors could be preserved — or at the very least, auctioned off with the proceeds going to help the impoverished children the artist is trying to speak for? Or will the painting remain, only to chip and fade away and eventually be forgotten?

Perhaps, more than anything, Ito’s work will become a commentary on society’s fleeting attention span.

h/t The Independent

Related Content:

Bus drivers and fare collectors in Sao Paulo walked out in protest for a second day on Wednesday. Sao Paulo is expected to host the first match of the World Cup in less than a month. (Reuters)
Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.

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