Plínio Palhano

500 million dollars - a great deal of it from free enterprise - were spent, in 1977, to restructure Bilbao, the fourth major city in Spain and most important port of the country. On the other hand, only the Guggenheim Museum, also inaugurated in 1977 as the leading star, had an estimate cost of 100 million dollars - under the demanding supervision of the Basque Tribunal of Public Accounts, which calculated it approximately in 131 million dollars and questioned its collection as assessed by the Museum itself.

All this complex of rebuilding was carried out in a country which has a millenarian and rich tradition and trades on the tourism as one of the main sources of its economy. Of course, it was not only the interest of Bilbao in setting up a Guggenheim Museum, but, mainly, the Museum managers who were aware of the possibility of opening a large-sized museum as the Guggenheim in that city. After the success and the marketing sold, there are more than fifty countries interested.

As declared by its director, the almighty Thomas Krens, Latin America comes into the sights of the Museum. He leads a competent crew which is always lurking results, so much so that the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg/Russia was persuaded to hand over its important collection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, taken by force from the Nazis by the Stalinists during World War II, to be displayed together with that of the Guggenheim on an exhibition held in April 2001 as well as to form part of the projects of an American branch in Las Vegas.

It was also charged from Brazil the bagatelle of a bit more than US$ 8 million as a rent, just to display Brazilian artists in their headquarters in New York aiming at internationalizing our art on an exhibition called "Body and Soul" in September 2001: a concession made to open ways and future talks and contacts to set up a Guggenheim in a city like Rio de Janeiro, which has more chances.

The Museum is a large-sized structure, with a collection having considerable historical and artistic values, apart from works of the most remarkable artists of the centuries XIX and XX, from which comes its lofty international prestige. It also lodges post-modern architectonical projects, valuable works of art, which add strength to win donors and countries eager to have its brand, which will be swallowed by it, should the latter does not have a cultural character to balance their relationship with that political and economic power.

It is common ground that both the municipal and state governments were at one to set up a Guggenheim Museum in Recife. They would make available US$ 1,46 million for the Museum Foundation to carry out the study of viability. The state government has gone back on its partnership, leaving the total investment to the Recife town hall, which will try to touch the Pernambucan undertakers to take up the state parcel. At least, as they had the same view, they showed a new political mentality by eliminating the conception that opponent ideologies cannot work together. It is not necessary to think big as to these major objectives - as the military governments did -, but to think possible within the context of a third (under) world country.

Recife is no Bilbao. It has its own needs and characteristics and manifold economic means. It also has a port and an old district with a meaningful architecture and has been working its revitalization for years. Then, why not concentrate resources and ideas in this part of Recife? As Lisbon and Bilbao, why not turn the warehouses of our port into venues for cultural manifestations such as handicraft shops, galleries for debate, etc. Maybe the US$ 1,46 million would be enough to boost this project and we would get rid of tutors to manage these works, as those performed on Bom Jesus Street, Malakoff Tower Square and the project "Eu Vi o Mundo…" (I Have Seen the World…}, with the representative sculptures by Francisco Brennand and the opening of the Ground Zero, with the Wind Rose by Cícero Dias. If we just worked this part of the city, it would be a considerable task. All of this revitalization would also, for sure, call more attention for our culture and tourism, becoming the reason for new undertakings.

More feasible and real than the Guggenheim Museum building project is the Tacaruna Cultural Complex. The building is very beautiful, it only needs some renovations to comply with the project. With the Old District completely revitalized, plus the building of the Tacaruna, Recife would be visible again. It must be put that perhaps we have no resource, even to spend on the Museum, which will be a kind of branch probably set up in Rio de Janeiro. Be that as it may, I hope our city be far less inhuman and become a worthy place to live in. However, generally our dreams are postponed by the political reality.