There are many reasons to believe that Dante Mantovani, the new head of Funarte, Brazil’s government arts agency, won’t exactly be the most progressive person for the post. After his appointment by populist leader Jair Bolsonaro, Mantovani now heads up an agency that was created in 1975 “to promote and encourage the production, practice, development and diffusion of arts in the country.”
But if his ideas about music, which is his specialty, are any guide, he won’t be an advocate for progressive culture. Mantovani has spoken out against rock music, claiming that its physicality leads to sex, that sex leads to abortions, and abortions are linked to Satanism, as CNN has reported, based on a video on Mantovani’s YouTube page. He also has some interesting thoughts about the C.I.A.’s involvement in dosing hippies with acid at Woodstock. Mantovani’s critique of rock’n’roll also seems to surface racist tropes and hysteria about the genre—calling it ”repetitive” music that is “more based on rhythm” and “speaks more to the body than the soul.”
Things were already bleak well before Mantovani assumed his role. Observers, speaking to Artnet News after his election, dubbed Bolsonaro’s ascendancy a “nightmare” for the cultural sphere; one pointed out that in his “plan of government” document, the word “culture” appeared only once. In fact, on taking office, he disbanded the culture ministry as such, folding it into a new Ministry of Citizenship, which includes social policy, sports and culture. “It’s a very dark time in Brazil,” Pedro Mendes, of Brazilian art gallery Mendes Wood DM, told Artnet News at the time.
So what to make of Mantovani, who appears to literally believe that John Lennon once sold his soul to Satan? “It’s hard to take it seriously,” said a Brazilian art dealer recently, speaking off the record about Mantovani’s appointment. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in music, Mantovani, born in 1984, achieved a doctorate in language studies, both from the State University of Londrina. After studying various musical instruments, he has made a project of creating Catholic choir groups, “prioritizing the rescue of the liturgical traditions and Gregorian chant,” according to his website. He’s taught art history at Dom Bosco College and was an art teacher at the Paraná State Education Network, as well as teaching other subjects at other Brazilian universities.
Right-wing populist president and former army officer Jair Bolsonaro came into office on January 1. He is an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage and homosexuality, and supports laws against abortion. He has gained headlines for opening up the Amazon to development and industry, resulting in the highest losses in the forest in a decade, reports the New York Times. He has branded immigrants from places like the Middle East “the scum of humanity.”
There may be an upside to all of this, said the Brazilian art dealer, again speaking anonymously.
“It’s making the cultural community stronger in a way,” said the dealer. “People are really rallying against this.”
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