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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cybèle Varela

b. 1943

Works and lives in Madrid, Spain

​​Born in Brazil in 1943, Cybèle Varela began painting at a young age, completed her formal art studies at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art, and received the Young Contemporary Art Award of the São Paulo Contemporary Art Museum. 

Beginning her career in the mid to late 1960s during Brazil’s heightened political climate, Varela became a prominent figure in the Tropicalismo and Brazilian Pop art movements, creating work that critically reflected on Brazilian society, the political state, and gender relations. Throughout her career, Varela’s work has focused on the representation of society and humanity’s relationship to nature and urban environments. 

Leaving Brazil in 1968, she arrived in Paris and became involved in the Narrative Figuration movement during the mid-1970s, exhibiting alongside Jacques Monory and in many group exhibitions. Though she has spent long periods of time in Geneva, Madrid, Rome, and Paris, her commitment to Brazilian culture, and the political, social, and cultural history of Latin America has never waned, and her memories of color and people in Brazil remain at the core of her work.

Varela held solo exhibitions in several institutions, museums, and galleries around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art MAC Niteroi (2013) and National Museum of Fine Arts (2003) in Rio de Janeiro, the Museum of Contemporary Art of São Paolo (1980, 2005), the Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland (1980) and the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington DC (1987). Varela had her first retrospective at the Brasilia Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland in 2018 and had a recent solo exhibition, Cybèle Varela. Pop Imaginaries at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC-USP) of São Paulo on the occasion of her 80 birthday. (July 1 – October 1st, 2023).

Major institutional exhibitions include elles@centrepompidou at the National Modern Art Museum in Paris in 2009, AI-5 50 anos. Ainda não terminou de acabar at the Instituto Tommie Ohtake in São Paolo (2018), Un tiempo propio. liberarse de las ataduras de lo cotidiano at the Pompidou Center in Malaga (2023).

Her work was showcased three times at the São Paolo Biennal in São Paolo Brazil in 1967, 1969, and 1981. Cybèle Varela signed representation with Richard Taittinger Gallery in 2021.