The Bienal de São Paulo was initiated in 1951 and is the second oldest art biennial in the world after the Venice Biennial, which was set up 1895 and served as its role model.

The Bienal de São Paulo was founded by the Italian-Brazilian industrialist Ciccillo Matarazzo (1898-1977). Since 1957, the Bienal de São Paulo has been held in the Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion in the Parque do Ibirapuera. The pavilion was designed by a team led by architects Oscar Niemeyer and Hélio Uchôa, and provides an exhibition space of 30,000 m2. The Bienal de São Paulo features both Brazilian and international artists, and is considered to be one of the most important art exhibits in the country.

In 1962 the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo was created, taking over the exhibition organization that, up until then, had been under the sucessful management of the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, MAM-SP. The venue it occupies today came to house the biennials from its 4th edition onwards.

The Biennial’s initial aims are to make contemporary art known in Brazil, push the country’s access to the art scene in other metropolises and further establish São Paulo as an international art centre. The biennial serves to bring Brazilian art closer to an international audience, and vice-versa. The international exhibitions are held under the direction of rotating chief curators.