"Olé" Puts the Soul of Brazil's Street Art Scene on Display at the Museum of Graffiti

Works by Thiago Nevs are part of the Museum of Graffiti's "Olé" exhibition.
Works by Thiago Nevs are part of the Museum of Graffiti's "Olé" exhibition. Photo by Allison Freidin
It's easy to get lured by the many flashy marquee events during Miami Art Week, but few can transport you to another place. That's what the Museum of Graffiti’s newest exhibition, "Olé," promises to do, transporting visitors to São Paolo for its biggest Art Week experience yet.

"The Museum of Graffiti was built specifically to celebrate graffiti as opposed to street art,” cofounder Allison Freidin tells New Times.

While the museum has a jam-packed schedule of programming during Miami Art Week, it's putting most of its focus on its exhibition openings: "Writers on Wax" and "Olé."

"Writers on Wax" focuses on graffiti association with music genres like hip-hop and punk and the artists who delve both into street art and music. For the exhibition, the museum partnered up with Ruyzdael Music, which recently launched Writers on Wax: the Sound of Graffiti, a compilation album series featuring tracks by producers who are perhaps better known as graffiti writers than as musicians.

But the Museum of Graffiti's highlight for the week is, without a doubt, "Olé."
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Works by Skolas, Finok, and Thiago Nevs
Photo by Allison Freidin
The show is an indoor-outdoor experience that incorporates paintings, sculptures, and site-specific murals by Brazilian street artists Ise, Thiago Nevs, Finok, and Skola. (All are part of the Vlok crew founded by renowned twin artists Osgemeos.) "Olé" has been in the works for some time and is a perfect example of what the Museum of Graffiti has come to represent.

“The museum presents the history of graffiti in an extremely authentic way, highlighting a variety of different artists from different decades and thoroughly explains the importance of both the artists and the timing," Finok explains. "In this same vein, the 'Olé' exhibition presents a group of artists who emerged from different phases of graffiti in Brazil, specifically in São Paulo. We believe we served our city well.”

But that’s just the surface of what makes up "Olé." While each artist has a unique style, whether that’s through sculpture, lenticular prints, or traditional painting, there is one clear theme: Brazil.

“You have graffiti artists who are pulling from folk-art traditions to really show their emotional connection with a city they’ve incorporated their artwork into the fabric of,” Freidin adds.
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"'Olé' exhibition presents a group of artists who emerged from different phases of graffiti in Brazil, specifically in São Paulo," says Finok.
Photo by Allison Freidin
The emotional connection comes through clearly, whether through the use of Bahia bands — a Brazilian tradition where you wrap ribbons around your wrists and make three knots until they fall off and you get to make a wish — or references to the nation's most beloved sport, soccer. (The exhibition title, "Olé," refers to the stadium chant during soccer matches.)

The works in "Olé" range from bright colors and patterns to black-and-white images and pure-white sculptures. While not everything features the traditional graffiti style, there are still elements of the artists' style and lettering. Despite the traditional mediums, the works on display still do what street art does best: show how the artists connect with their city.

Examples of this are seen through the artists' use of repurposed objects and imagery. Some works are covered in recycled spray paint cans; others directly show images of graffiti art in the background. The work of Ise (AKA Claudio Duarte) shows a paint-covered hoodie with surveillance cameras and Molotov cocktails, adding an ominous tone. Another shows a boy who has laid aside his slingshot and ball to write "REVOLUTION" on the wall. All of it points to the current socio-political climate in the South American nation.

Still, one thing is clear: All the works in "Olé" were created from the artists' love of their country — a heartache for Brazil.

"Olé" and "Writers on Wax." On view through January 2023 at the Museum of Graffiti, 276 NW 26th St., Miami; 786-580-4678; Tickets cost $16.
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Ashley-Anna Aboreden is a Miami native and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She is an English graduate from FIU and is currently receiving her MFA in creative writing at the New School. She has an everlasting love for shih tzus (especially hers), chocolate chip cookies, and vintage books.

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