Sao Paulo’s modern art museums! Brazilian artists at Japan House, MASP, Beco de Batman murals.

black white striped sun hat

How’s your summer going? Anyone else hiding like a vampire during this heatwave? I’m always under layers of mineral sunscreen, giant sunglasses, a hat, and I have a UV umbrella on the way!

We’re coming to the end of my South America travel stories. This time around, we’ll take a look at the art, culture and fashion of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

vancouver gingerbread houses craftsman tudor

I also wanted to share a peek at my summer wardrobe. Recently, I’ve been heading to Kate’s Clothing for Gothic sundresses and other dark fashion. They carry a number of my favorite brands (such as this pentagram dress by Killstar), as well as Kate’s own fashion lines.

Love the witchy vibes of her Antibrand trailing cardigan with a hood, in front of a gingerbread house.

bella starr hats, stylish sunhats

I’m also currently living in Bella Starr Hats. I’m always on the lookout for wide-brimmed sunhats that are stylish and easy to pack in my suitcase. Bella Starr ticks of all of the above, with her unique hats and hair accessories all handmade in the USA. Stay tuned for many more images this season.

killstar pentagram dress, kate's clothing antibrand

As I’ve hinted, I am gearing up for a trip to Tokyo, Japan. I booked a new travel TV show job as host and producer! As always, First Mate Naomi and I will be arranging something wild involving subcultures. We’ll also visit Hiroshima and Naoshima for the first time, as well as two other countries in Asia… announcements to come.

Above: my striped platform sandals are these exact ones by Rocket Dog. I love this youthful footwear brand; click below for more of their fun designs.

elizabeth wurtzel new york memoirs author

Back to my South America trip with LATAM Airlines. I recently visited São Paulo with my long-time friend Elizabeth Wurtzel. 

Most travellers skip Sao Paulo, as it’s not known as a tourist destination, and focus on Rio de Janeiro (where we also went). However, we were curious about Brazil’s largest city, and discovered that it had impressive food, fashion and art.

sao paulo brazil old architecture

Sao Paulo has a reputation as an “ugly” city, with unsightly urban sprawl and road jams. However, if you look beyond these first impressions, you may be surprised at what you find. In the Jardins district, for example, I found these colonial Portuguese remnants decorated with street art, framed by skyscrapers and traffic.

issoe cafe masp museum sao paulo

Behind these gritty facades, you’ll find restaurants with beautiful decor. We loved our lunch at Issoecafe, beginning with caipirinha cocktails (cachaça sugarcane liquor and lime). We snacked on dadinho de tapioca (a national snack of coalho cheese and tapioca cubes), ceviche, and other healthy Brazilian dishes.

sao paulo photography museum

Elizabeth and I then set off on an art-walk, beginning at ISP. The free museum had a photography exhibit that documented the dramatic evolution of Sao Paulo over the years.

ave paulista sao paulo traffic

From the balcony, we looked out at Paulista Avenue. This central road spans 2.8 km, and has been the site of political protests over the years.

masp exterior sao paulo museum art

We walked over to São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP). The 1968 design by Lina Bob Bardi is easy to spot: red beams draped over a freestanding concrete and glass rectangle.

sao paulo art museums

The ultra-modern exterior hints at the contemporary works inside. However, the MASP is also well known for its collection of classic European art. I’m standing in front of Giambattista Pittoni’s Dioniso e Ariadne, from 1730.

contemporary brazilian artists

We were most interested in the MASP’s eclectic selection of Brazilian art. Quite a few of these works had an indigenous feel, or had national political themes.

masp museum sao paulo exhibit

Unlike in a typical gallery, the frames were free-standing and mounted in a way that mirrored the concrete and glass architecture. The only downside: you had to go around to the back of each picture, in order to read the description!

São Paulo Museum of Modern Art

The next day, we took an Uber to the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art at Ibirapuera Park. Don’t miss out on this view of the megalopolis from the rooftop.

Tarsila do Amaral painting sao paulo

The museum has over 4000 works, with a focus on contemporary Brazilian creatives. We loved this deceptively simple and cheerful landscape by painter Tarsila do Amaral. She recently had an exhibit at the MoMA in New York, which had elevated worldwide interest in modern art from Brazil.

giant elephant modern art sculpture

The MAM consists of multiple floors, filled with works in various sizes and media. This elephant caught my attention — he’s made entirely from slices of foam.

oscar oiwa paradise

Over the years, I’ve noticed that many readers of this blog come from Brazil, and that quite a few Visual Kei / J-rock bands have toured here. It’s no surprise to hear that Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, especially in the district of Liberdade.  

japan house sao paulo liberdade

To find out more about Japanese-Brazilian culture, we visited the newly-opened Japan House Sao Paulo, which was creatively directed by Muji’s Kenya Hara. This Zen-inspired building holds a gallery space, a cafe and restaurant, boutiques, and various cultural events.

oscar oiwa 360 degree immersive paraiso

Elizabeth and I were mesmerized by Oscar Oiwa’s installation, called Paraiso or Paradise. We pushed our way through an air-tight flap, and found ourselves inside this inflatable 360-degree Garden of Eden. Oscar Oiwa used black marker pens to adorn the walls with dreamy forest paths, creatures and abstract swirls.

Paradise was one of our favorite moments of the trip. Inside this wonderland, you can’t help but feel uplifted. I hope you might have the chance to experience Oscar’s vision for yourself.

adrianna bara fashion boutique

Elizabeth’s friend Bráulio Mantovani (writer of the “City of God” film) recommended that we visit Adriana Barra’s boutique in the Jardins neighborhood. This turned out to be yet another wonderland…

modern brazil fashion designer

… of dreamy fashion and interiors, and plates of snacks for guests to enjoy!

brazilian colorful textiles clothing

Adriana Barra is a Brazilian textile designer, beloved for her eclectic prints that feature  tropical flowers, exotic birds, butterflies and fantastical creatures. The store’s upper level gives you a peek into her screen-printing workshop.

adrianna barra sao paulo clothes shop

It’s worth stopping by to admire the interior design, with miniature dollhouses and “kawaii” characters. All of her clothes were works of art; Elizabeth took home this one-of-a-kind top.

japan sao paulo neighborhood

Loving the mix of Japanese and Brazilian influences that I saw all throughout Sao Paulo. The two fuse surprisingly well when it comes to food and fashion.

beco de batman at night nighttime

Finally, we took a trip to Beco de Batman, or Batman Alley. This cluster of alleyways in the Vila Madalena district is covered in striking murals.

pele batman alley mural painting

The city installed lights in this area, so visitors can now come at night to admire the street art. These works tend to be gigantic and showcase cheeky themes — like Brazilian footballer Pele embracing Batman.

graffiti artists sao paulo brazil

Beco de Batman arose in the 1980s, when local art students began painting walls in this somewhat run-down area. One of them made a homage to Batman, and this took hold as the name of the alley.

beco de batman sao paulo artists

Today, you’ll still see young artists making new graffiti, often featuring the Caped Crusader.

walter white mural brazil

Say. My. Name. Don’t let the Walter White portrait intimidate you; this is a safe area (although you should always watch your belongings and be aware, no matter where you go).

elizabeth wurtzel middle finger bitch

Elizabeth gives the middle finger to the universe, much like she did on the cover of her bestselling book Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women.

brazilian ethnic modern art

Beco the Batman is constantly changing, as artists add their visions to these walls. There’s so much talent in Brazil.

alternative underground subcultures sao paulo

Elizabeth and I had fun wandering around Sao Paulo. The city isn’t on most bucket lists, as it doesn’t have a specific tourism draw. However, if you look beneath the “unsightly” surface, you’ll find loads of inspiration.

weird strange bizarre sao paulo brazil

Did this travel diary change your expectations of Sao Paulo, Brazil? Did you know there was such a large Japanese population here?

One more post to come, from Easter Island… and then we’re off to Asia for travel TV hosting! If you have any particular requests for Tokyo travel coverage, do let me know. The Sailor Moon cafe, Mori Digital museum, and Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkins are on my list already.



  1. EDA Frames
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    All your post was very good. I always support you

  2. Sarah
    Posted August 4, 2018 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    ooh what a cool fusion of culture! I didn’t know a Brazillian-Japanese culture crossing thing even existed.

  3. Karine
    Posted September 2, 2018 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Very happy to see a post as wonderful as this one about my beloved São Paulo, the “Brazilian city-world”. Whenever I can walk you through the social networks. I loved this <3

  4. Sarah
    Posted July 27, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    What a surprising and fascinating artsy side of this gigantic city. I love cities that aren’t open books: exploring hidden treasures in under-appreciated cities is so much more fun and rewarding than visiting the obvious sights in well-know places.

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