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b. 1977, Brazil

Paulo Nazareth Biography

Brazilian multidisciplinary artist Paulo Nazareth sheds light on themes of marginalisation through durational performance, photography, and installation. Described as a 'global nomad', he has worked and travelled throughout the Americas and overseas. Drawing upon his Indigenous and African heritage, Nazareth employs simple gestures and observation to signpost issues of racialisation, immigration, colonialism, and globalisation across the Global South.

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Early life

Born in Governador Valadares in Minas Gerais, Brazil, Paulo Nazareth undertook a flurry of hands-on vocations while growing up, from pig farmer to street vendor cook. His earliest artistic training came from Brazilian folk artist Mestre Orlando, who taught him wood carving. It was also from Orlando that Nazareth learnt the principle that art should not be separated from life.

Nazareth went on to study drawing and engraving at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), graduating with a BFA in 2005, followed by an MFA in 2006. He would later return to UFMG to study linguistics, graduating in 2010.

Paulo Nazareth's biography, growing up as someone of African and Indigenous descent in Brazil, is written into his work. This marginalised identity is a foundational part of the artist's performative practice.

Early Performance

Expressing his ideas through ritual-like performances, the artist has subjected himself to increasing levels of discomfort. In Meat (2005), Nazareth tied a piece of meat to his face, and in Cabelo [Hair], the artist ate a plate filled with his own thick, black hair. In 2007, he walked across Belo Horizonte with his mouth wide open to expose his missing front tooth in a work entitled Elephant Tooth.

Since 2005, Paulo Nazareth has made and distributed pamphlets to accompany his performance works. Printed by the artist's publishing platform P. NAZARETH ED./LTDA, they elaborate on the racial and colonial themes of his work, as well as their autobiographical references.

A Nomadic Artist

Although Paulo Nazareth's artistic expression takes many forms—photography, installation, video, print, found objects, and sculpture—his durational performances constitute the basis of his practice. These generally involve long journeys, which he documents. Themes and materials emerge from the relationships he forms along the way, particularly with people who are marginalised, repressed, or ignored.

Paulo Nazareth's News from the Americas (2011—2012) series documents one of his longer travels. Starting in March 2011, the artist travelled by bus and foot from Minas Gerais to New York. Travelling barefoot through 15 different countries without washing his feet, Nazareth observed and documented reactions to his Afro-Brazilian identity in each place. The journey ended with Nazareth ritualistically bathing his feet in the Hudson.


Based on his travels, experiences, and broader research, Nazareth creates a variety of installations on the topics of race and marginalisation. Paulo Nazareth's 'Arma Branca (White Knife)' series, on display at the Boros Collection, Berlin, uses black woodcut prints of kitchen knives to explore stereotypical associations of Black people with knife crime. Visitors are encouraged to make and take home their own prints.


Paulo Nazareth's ICA Miami show Melee (2019), his first solo exhibition in a U.S. museum, presented a body of new installations that retell the political history of the Americas from the perspectives of the marginalised. Among them are a series of 49 bronze medals representing marginalised Latin American figures, such as Indigenous leaders and guerrilla fighters, displayed atop 50 pedestals and encircled by one red curtain.

Another work displayed in Paulo Nazareth's Melee was a reprisal of his project, The Red Inside (2018). Created while following the route of the Underground Railroad that once brought fugitive slaves to North America, the work comprises concrete watermelons cast by the artist using materials from the Mississippi River.

Public Collections and Exhibitions

Paulo Nazareth's art can be found in major institutional collections, including the Tate, London; Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP); Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo; Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro; and the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Reflecting his international practice, Paulo Nazareth's work has been exhibited widely across the globe. This includes group and solo shows as well as major art events, such as the Venice Biennale, Prospect New Orleans, Frieze Sculpture, and the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art.

Paulo Nazareth's solo exhibitions include Melee, ICA Miami (2019); Faca Cega, Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte (2018); The Journal, Institute for Contemporary Arts, London (2014); Premium Bananas, Museu de Arte de São Paulo (2012-2013); Na impossibilidade de nomear, Museu de Uberlândia, Brazil (2010); Paulo Nazareth, Museu de Arte da Pampulha, Belo Horizonte (2007).

Paulo Nazareth's group exhibitions include Língua Solta, Museu da Lingua Portuguesa, São Paulo (2021); Beyond the Black Atlantic, Kunstverein Hannover (2020); Global(e) Resistance, Pompidou Centre, Paris (2020); EXTREME. NOMADS, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2018); Imagine Brazil, Musée d'art Contemporain de Lyon (2014); Museum as Hub: Walking Drifting Dragging, New Museum, New York (2013); City as a Process, National Center for Contemporary Arts, Ekaterinburg (2012); Multiparidade, Palácio das Artes, Belo Horizonte (2007).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Paulo Nazareth Featured Artworks

Paulo Nazareth Recent Exhibitions

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Paulo Nazareth Represented By

Mendes Wood DM contemporary art gallery in São Paulo, Brazil Mendes Wood DM Brussels, New York, São Paulo

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