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The spoils of the Petrobras scandal: a blockbuster exhibit of confiscated art

Untitled, Cicero Dias (cropped)/Museu Oscar Niemeyer
Now everyone can see them.
By Jenni Avins
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The political and financial fallout from the Petrobras corruption scandal unfolding in Brazil has been staggering. Brazilians are angry, and rightfully so. The investigation known as “Operation Car Wash” alleges that local politicians and executives spent years filling their pockets with cash scraped off the top of Brazil’s nationally-controlled oil company, doing indelible damage to Petrobras’s bottom line and to foreign investors’ faith in Brazil.

Embezzled cash was allegedly parked in items including apartments, jewelry, and luxury cars—it was the “gift” of a $78,000 Land Rover that set the investigation into motion in 2013. The accused also bought art, some of it spectacular. Thanks to the Petrobras investigation, now the public can enjoy some of the privately-owned works that Brazilian police have confiscated.

Museu Oscar Neimeyer
Rio de Janeiro, Postcard, Vik Muniz, 2013.

The works include pieces by notable Brazilian modern and contemporary artists such as Vik Muniz, Tarsila do Amaral, and Pedro Motta, and are on display at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, Brazil—the home base of the Petrobras investigation The exhibit, highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, opened in April and has been extended until November due to its popularity. A ticket costs R$9 (about $2.50).

Museu Oscar Neimeyer
Untitled, Cicero Dias.

The exhibit is a win not only for the museum, but also for the police, who simply didn’t have the proper storage space and conditions for the works, Curitiba’s police chief, Igor Romário de Paula, told the Wall Street Journal.

And for lovers of Brazilian art, there may be more to come. The museum has yet to show any of the art confiscated from Petrobras’s former head of engineering and services, Renato Duque. According to the Wall Street Journal, police seized more than 130 works from Duque’s apartment, including pieces by Spanish surrealist Joan Miró and Brazilian musician and painter Heitor dos Prazeres. (Duque’s lawyer denied the works were purchased with illegal funds.)

If Duque is found guilty of money laundering, it’s possible the pieces will go up for auction—or perhaps into another public exhibition.

Museu Oscar Neimeyer
Frutos, Miguel Rio Branco.
Museu Oscar Neimeyer
Mesa 12, 1990, Amilcar de Castro.
Museu Oscar Neimeyer
Galeria, 2002, Daniel Senise.

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