Public Art Projects Cancelled Ahead of Rio Olympics Launch

Is it a budget or a political question? We spoke to one affected artist.

Giancarlo Neri. Photo Luca Nostri courtesy of the artist.

The tales of cutbacks and mishaps at the Rio Olympics, due to begin this coming weekend, seem to be never ending, and the arts are the latest aspect of the Games to be affected.

A number of public works made for the Games have been cancelled by Brazilian Culture Minister, including a work by Italian artist Giancarlo Neri, which was intended for a public square in the Glória area of Rio.

Bar Paris, a work by Neri made up of 1,415 chairs decorated with lights, was given a budget of 632,000 reals ($200,000) for storage, security, logistics, and materials before being cancelled, the Art Newspaper reports.

Giancarlo Neri Bar Paris. Photo courtesy the artist.

Giancarlo Neri, Bar Paris. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Neri, however, believes the cancellation of the projects is about politics rather than budget cuts.

“They have cancelled many other things [as well as my project] but what happened really was the impeachment of Dilma [Rousseff] came as we were about to sign the final contract,” Neri told artnet News over the phone. “Three days later Michel Temer closed the ministry and froze the contracts leaving us waiting for two-and-a-half months to see if we would proceed. Then two or three weeks before the Olympics, they cancelled many projects but you must understand this is about the political situation rather than being about the budget.”

According to a post on Neri’s Facebook page, all cultural events at the Olympics have been closed, including his. The post “thanks” (ironically, of course) the Brazilian Cultural Ministry for shutting down the cultural aspect of the games: “cancelling all the cultural projects in 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, including ours.”

The Brazilian government has come under criticism for the way they have organized the Games, with complaints varying from events taking place in areas known to be rife with the Zika virus to urban cleansing. The powers that be in Rio are also putting vast numbers of police officers and soldiers on the streets to maintain safety at the event and to keep gang members in the city’s favelas.

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