(Un)Known Artists of the Amazon

24 April 2024 to 21 April 2025

This exhibition is a project jointly undertaken by the Weltmuseum Wien and the private Museu de Arte Indígena (MAI) in Curitiba, Brazil. The show’s curators, Claudia Augustat and Julianna Podolan (MAI), engage these two museum collections in dialogue, reflecting thereby the manner in which autonomous works of art have evolved from functional and ritual objects.

The Participatory Space

About the exhibition

About the exhibition

Centred on Indigenous art from Brazil, the exhibition traces how public perception of this art has changed. Its makers have been considered rather as mere bearers of their respective communities and traditions, void of any kind of individuality. Their names were considered unimportant, not worthy of documentation – hence, unlike the MAI, which names almost all artists and to whom it also fosters ongoing relations, the WMW only rarely names the artists among its collections.

The exhibition’s point of departure is feather art, in the West a much-admired art form. The Ka’apor, Yanomami, and Tapirapé testify to the outstanding craftsmanship of their otherwise largely anonymous makers. The same can be said about the Rikbaktsa artefacts, which feather artist Messias Rikbaktsa selected from the Weltmuseum Wien collection.

Suspended above the visitors’ heads, Tania Kamayura’s hammocks highlight the ways in which environment-inspired imagery manifests itself in the designs of artistic and everyday objects. The same holds for the wooden benches, which are inspired by animal figures: having observed these latter in the trees, the artists then fashion them from a single piece of wood once the tree has been felled. Similarly, the exhibited ceramics, along with artefacts used for processing manioc, illustrate the remarkable progression from domestic, everyday objects to works of sculpture.

Indigenous Amazonian art is, however, also performative art: mask dances comprise part of many rituals and facilitate interaction with spiritual beings. In the contemporary context, masks have now become artworks which no longer serve any practical function, thus establishing clear distinctions between ritual and art.

Body painting and body jewellery continue to play a central role. Jewellery fashioned from glass beads was introduced with the arrival of missionaries and explorers. In the work of present-day artists, who, for the most part, produce necklaces and bracelets, this art has evolved into an expression of self-empowerment and independence.

Artists of the likes of Feliciano Lana discovered Western drawing and painting techniques during the 1970s. Depicting themes exemplified from Desana mythology, his works are currently housed, among other venues, in New York’s MoMA. Exhibited at the São Paulo and Venice Biennales, the work of the late Macuxi Jadier Esbell, who died in 2021, also features in the exhibition.

The visual references discernible in the most widely differing art forms, are remarkable. They highlight the fact that Indigenous Brazilian art – past and present – is informed by a principle of aesthetics running throughout the human world, thereby linking to the ecological and spiritual environment.

Daily (except Monday)
10 am to 6 pm
10 am to 9 pm

Weltmuseum Wien

Neue Hofburg, Heldenplatz
1010 Vienna, Austria

Free Entry
Being part of zam the exhibit can be visited for free.

Accompanying programme

Our events from

Children & FamilyWeltmuseum Wien FriendsSchools & KindergartenBarrier-free inclusion event




The publication describes the fascinating history of indigenous art in Brazil and its changing public perception. On 56 pages, the most important themes of the exhibition are presented with color illustrations. The booklet accompanying the exhibition is published in German and Portuguese, invites you to look at and enjoy it and offers a nice reminder of your visit to the museum.


In cooperation with

zam is a place for collaborating in the museum. Here we want to address relevant questions of the present in partnership with societies of origin, communities of remembrance, communities and visitors. These questions are developed and designed together and presented in various forms.

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