City Report: São Paulo
With more than 20 million inhabitants, SÃ£o Paulo has recently become one of the worldâs first âhypercitiesâ. In a constant state of transformation, the city has fostered an attitude of improvisation, resourcefulness and cultural cannibalism amongst its artists
by James Trainor and Ana Paula Cohen
US Editor of frieze
Thirty-six hours into my first visit to Brazil I sit down in my SÃ£o Paulo hotel room and thumb through my notebook, puzzling over a stream of non sequiturs, observations and lists. I begin to realize I may be the latest in a long line of gringos who, having ventured south of âthe lineâ, unsuspectingly freighted with received ideas about the exotic tropics, have been overwhelmed by a far richer reality: a land dogged by its own messily beautiful and disturbing paradoxes. Later, at SÃ£o Pauloâs oldest museum, the Pinacoteca do Estado, I would see an exhibition about how foreign mariner-artists and naturalist-explorers had variously interpreted the âmarvellous possessionsâ of this alien land and would recall the truism that you can catalogue all the flora and fauna in the world and still have no idea about what it is you are looking at.
Megacites, as defined by the National Geographic Society, are po-pulation centres with more than 10 million inhabitants; the hitherto hypothetical entities known as hypercities (more than 20 million) are no longer the stuff of futurist speculation. SÃ£o Paulo, an urban behemoth lurching into the 21st century, is thought to have recently crossed that threshold, although accurate census data are scarce.