Among the seemingly limitless corridors of the Victoria and Albert Museum, one small exhibition is well worth negotiating the maze. Two small rooms (17a and 18a – it’s not publicised on any of the in-house maps) house an incredible array of handmade textiles and objects. The collection was created by Arthur Bispo do Rosário (1909 – 1989), and shows the results of his aim to record and remake the world through art. Bispo aimed to represent symbolically everything that could be saved on the Day of Judgment, and the exhibition well reflects his awe-inspiring intention.
Arthur Bispo do Rosário was born in Japaratuba in North-East Brazil, a region well-known for its folk arts and vivid religious culture, something clearly represented in his work. In 1938, he had a vision of angels, which resulted in a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Bispo spent the rest of his life in hospital at the Colônia Juliano Moreira, which now houses a contemporary art museum named after him: the Museu Bispo do Rosário Arte Contemporânea. In his art, Bispo made use of discarded hospital items: the exhibition incorporates banners made from discarded bedding, and sporting equipment bound in blue thread from old uniforms.
In 1982, psychoanalyst Hugo Denizart visited the hospital. He had been asked by the Brazilian Ministry of Health to make a documentary on the conditions endured by patients, but became so fascinated by Arthur Bispo do Rosário that he instead concentrated on the artist. There is a clip from the resulting film, The Prisoner of Passage (1982), on the exhibition website. The full film can be seen in the exhibition, which runs until 28 October.
Bispo do Rosário Vinte e um veleiros © Rodrigo Lopes
Reproduced by permission of Victoria and Albert Museum, London