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Pousada Picinguaba

"Elegant and sustainable..."

Art and Design at Picinguaba and Catucaba: "Brasileiridade"

Picinguaba and Catuçaba intend, each in their own style, to express the specific environment in which they are set, and a certain idea of Brazil.
At Picinguaba, in the Portuguese colonial setting of the main house, the decoration favours Brazilian folk art, with a mix of major names of both popular contemporary art and unknown, impressive artists, which has been brought in by Emmanuel and his wife Filipa from their travels in the region. Over the last 10 years Picinguaba has also been working with Roberto Rugiero, owner of the Brasiliana artGallery in Sao Paulo.

In the bedrooms and living room we can admire gorgeous paintings by Alcides Pereira (Bahia), Sergio Vidal (Rio de Janeiro), Nilson Pimenta (Cuiaba school) and Romero de Andrade Lima (Pernambuco). Bajeco, who works with metal in the small village of Bichinho (close to the colonial town of Tiradentes in Minas Gerais State), is a humble craftsman who became a friend after many years of collaboration. He had done several major pieces in the gardens: a big wall of metallic leaves that grows to meet the actual rainforest, a great cage with open doors as a symbol of freedom, where monkeys and colourful birds come in the morning to eat the rest of the fruits left over after breakfast. He also did the lights in the rooms, designed together with Filipa Rengade especially for the hotel.

This subtle equilibrium is the result of the magic, candour and warmth of Brazil, creating an atmosphere where beauty and delicacy contributes to making you feel at home. A reflection of the pristine landscape that is revealed in front of the windows, a collage of Officina de Agosto offers a vision of paradise, overlooking the dining room, a synthesis of the baroque art specific to churches of Minas Gerais with small animals made from wood, an early demonstration of primitive art in Brazil.

In the antechamber of the nuptial suite, you are greeted by a young married couple sculpted by Resendio (Alagoas). Some beautiful pieces of the indigenous Xingu also complement this eclectic composition, especially near the fireplace: a bird-shaped bench with two heads, symbol of spirituality and elevation (in the indigenous culture, the two-headed bird flies higher than other birds) from the Amazon village of Kuikuro (Kalapalos tribe), where people still live completely cut off from the modern world, and which Emmanuel visited many years ago. In the suite, we also admire a headdress belonging to the Waura tribe, and in the lounge, a sumptuous ornament from the Kayapos.

The furniture is also a home-made mixture of many Brazilian styles, be they pieces carefully selected from the 40s to the 80s, or bespoke design made from old wood (like Peroba Rosa and Jacaranda Bahaino) by craftsmen from Minas Gerais.

In the reception area we are welcomed with two classic "Oscar" armchairs by Sergio Rodrigues, and in the living room you can spot chairs designed by Lucio Costa (who, with Oscar Niemeyer, was responsible for the design of Brasilia). In the suite, we find a lounge chair by Martin Eisler, and in the common areas, tables and chairs designed by Zanine Caldas, the grand master of wood. Villa Casa Verde is illuminated by a dining room signed by Joaquim Tenreiro, recognized as one of the most important Brazilian designers of the 40s.

In Catuçaba decoration reflects the authenticity of the place: it is above all a Fazenda, (farm) which is relatively simple, where there is no reception area or grand entrance. We arrive through a small wooden gate, and then symbolically cross a river to finally arrive by foot at the house and enter the basement, where slaves once lived. The style is that of a family home, where ages are well-blended, and where coffee culture and farm culture are permanently remembered. Always refined and elegant, Catuçaba shows a preference for the golden age of Brazilian design from the 40s and 50s with furniture made from precious tropical wood (Jacaranda), such as a table designed by Giuseppe Scapinelli, or a reading chair signed by John Graz.

The boundaries between art, craft, photography, local culture and contemporary art have been voluntary blended, as maybe best illustrated by the beautiful black-and-white portraits of people from Catuçaba village, on show in the kitchen and in the library (a permanent exhibition of the photographer artist in residence Fernanda Preto). Some of those people are themselves descendants of the first French owners of the Fazenda, dating back to circa 1850. A leopard made of wood, from the Mehinacu tribe (acquired directly from the indigenous people), stands alongside classic modern armchairs designed by Sergio Rogrigues. In the living room, near the fireplace, we admire a chair given by the Campanas Brothers, neighbours of the owners in São Paulo.

Catuçaba also hosts artists in residence, and in recent years received a number of talented young artists, amongst them the Sao Paulo photographer Fernanda Preto (currently exhibiting in both hotels), the Brazilian filmmaker Bruno Jorge, the landscape artist Pasha Radetsky from New York, and soon a musician, a writer and a sculptor, for more re-interpretations of the rich local culture.

This eclecticism creates an indefinable harmony, where we recognize the love of beautiful objects, whether precious or not, within a philosophy close to the Wabi Sabi Japanese aesthetic concept, where every object must find it place, and with no intention to impress. Their integration into the special atmosphere of the place, which constantly brings popular culture into the house, is a permanent reverence to Brazil and to all its beauty.

Emmanuel Rengade likes symbols, and in the middle of the photo exhibition a blurred picture hanging on a wall is a little hard to identify: it is "Point de vue du Gras", the first known photograph of Niecephore Niepce (1823). The photo shows the view from a fazenda, a few miles from where Emmanuel was born.