Given the importance of the Bienal de São Paulo exhibitions and the continuity and interest they have generated in artistic centers (both Brazilian and international), it has become necessary to understand the institution’s past and to study the shows, the participating artists, the production, among other information that might prove relevant to the curatorial process for future editions and scholarly research in various areas of knowledge. After each edition, it is essential that these records find a place where they can be gathered, organized and conserved so that they may be useful to those who need them - fulfilling their informative and documentary function.
These necessities spurred the creation of the Contemporary Art Library and Historical Archives by Wanda Svevo in 1954, the year of the fourth centennial of the founding of São Paulo. Made official in 1955, the main objective of the Historical Archives was to guard documentation produced during the biennial exhibits, including bureaucratic records of institutional activities, especially documentation that resulted from contact with artists in exhibition, as well as information gathered about other artists. Thus, a pioneering experience in Latin America began with the constitution of one of the most important, internationally-recognized archives on visual arts.
The importance of the documentation in the Wanda Svevo Historical Archive lead CONDEPHAAT - Board of Defense of Historical, Artistic, Archeological and Touristic Heritage of the State of São Paulo - to confer national landmark status upon the Archive and its collection through São Paulo State Culture Secretariat Resolution SC-16, issued on October 13, 1993, and published three days later in the Diário Oficial do Estado.
The Archive is the most important Latin-American documental archive on modern and contemporary art produced between 1948 and the present day. This trajectory of over half a century has resulted in the formation of almost 780 linear meters of documents of various types.
The Archive is mainly used by university researchers and students, as well as by the curatorial and educational teams working on exhibitions and programs for museums and cultural institutions.
1954 Creation of the Wanda Svevo Historical Archive
1993 The Archive is declared a National Landmark by CONDEPHAAT
1996 The Archive is transferred from the ground floor to third floor, with installation financed by FAPESP - Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo
2001 Creation of the Archive Database
2006 Temporary opening of the Teachers’ Room during the 27th Bienal
2008 Bienais do Mundo [World Biennials] project developed during the 28th Bienal and presented in the exhibition space
2010 Permanent opening of the Reading Room as part of the educational project of the 29th Bienal
2010 Creation of a Computerized Archive System
2011 Launch of the Archive webpage with the catalogues digitalized