Brazil Rioters Destroy Art at Government Buildings

Brazil Rioters Destroyed Modernist Masterpieces as They Stormed Government Buildings in Nation’s Capital, in Protest of the Newly Elected President.

Jan 17, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Brazil Rioters
A painting at Brazil’s National Congress, damaged during the attacks Mateus Bonomi / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Brazil rioters destroyed “priceless” artwork in government buildings. Supporters of Brazil’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro, stormed government buildings. They protested against newly elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula da Silva swore on January 1. Among the vandalised buildings are the presidential palace, the Supreme Court and Congress.


Brazil Rioters Destroyed an Important Chapter in Brazilian National History

Brazil rioters
Damage at the Supreme Federal Tribunal of Brazil the day after the riots Andressa Anholete via Getty Images


Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician who once led the nation erroneously asserted Lula won the election through fraud. He also questioned the reliability of Brazil‘s electoral processes. And, he refused to give up this election. Driven by conspiracy theories, the rioters caused significant damage to government buildings and art. Overall, the Brazilian government released a list of harmed artworks.


“The terrorists who invaded the Planalto Palace this Sunday (8) vandalized and destroyed an important part of the artistic and architectural collection gathered there. It represents an important chapter in national history”, the palace stated on Monday. They also said it is still not possible to have a detailed survey of all the destroyed paintings, sculptures and pieces of furniture.


Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva


But the preliminary assessment carried out by the responsible team points to the following damage to iconic pieces of the collection. They destroyed work “Bandeira do Brasil”, by Jorge Eduardo, 1995. This painting reproduces the national flag hoisted in front of the palace. It also served as a backdrop for pronouncements by the Presidents of the Republic. It was floating on the water that flooded the entire floor, after vandals opened the fire hydrants installed there.

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Former President Took No Responsibility For the Rioters Actions

Brazil rioters
Employees look at a painting by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti that was damaged by Bolsonaro’s supporters. Andressa Anholete via Getty Images


They also destroyed former presidents’ gallery. They also took all photographs from the wall, threw them to the floor, and smashed them. “The value of what the rioters destroyed is incalculable because of the history it represents”, says Rogério Carvalho, the Presidential Palace’s director of curatorship, in the statement.


He also said the Presidential Palace certainly has one of the most important collections in the country, especially of Brazilian modernism. A team of professionals is still assessing the damage, some of which they will be able to repair. However, a 17th-century clock built by France’s Balthazar Martinot was “completely destroyed”.


The Institute of National Artistic Historical Heritage said it “deeply deplored the damage caused”.


They also damaged other art. For example, Bruno Giorgi’s 1962 bronze sculpture O Flautista, and a wooden wall sculpture by Frans Krajcberg were broken. Also, they destroyed As Mulatas painting. The painting is an iconic work of Brazilian modernist Emiliano Di Cavalcanti. The full list of damaged art is available in the official statement.


Bolsonaro responded to the news on Twitter, writing that the “invasions of public buildings, like what occurred today”, were not acceptable. But, he took no responsibility himself for the events.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.