1963: Gottlieb is awarded the Grande Prêmio at the VII São Paulo Bienal


Original footage of Adolph Gottlieb receiving the Grande Prêmio medal from the award ceremony at the Bienal.

"Gottlieb expresses intimate emotions through colors,"  Diáro de São Paulo , 1963.

"Gottlieb expresses intimate emotions through colors," Diáro de São Paulo, 1963.

In April 1963, an exhibition of forty-five works by Adolph Gottlieb opened at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In September of that year, the exhibition travelled from Minneapolis to Brazil to represent the United States at the VII São Paulo Bienal, where it was installed at the American Section of the VII Bienal do Arte Moderna. The Bienal Internacional de São Paulo was founded a few years prior in 1951, but had quickly reached a level of worldwide prestige as the first  arts biennial to focus explicitly on Modern art.

For Martin Friedman, then director of the Walker Art Center, the "principal concern was to organize an exhibition that would bring together some of the most vivid manifestations of art in the United States," as he told Brazilian newspaper Diáro de São Paulo.

On the basis of the exhibition, Gottlieb was awarded the Grande Prêmio prize, thus becoming the first American artist to receive the distinguished award. He and Esther Gottlieb travelled to Brazil, where they were received with great honor. 

We fly to Rio and change planes for São Paulo. In Rio, we’re met by a representative from the Embassy, and with due apologies that their Ambassador is in Washington, they present me with a big bouquet of flowers. We walk from one plane to the other while these little photographers, all running backwards and taking shots of us, were calling out, ‘Señor Adolph, Señor Adolph!’ They kept running back and taking pictures. It was very funny.

Then we changed planes for Sao Paulo, and went through the whole thing all over again. Our friends, the Friedmans, were waiting for us at the gate, and they were all excited! ‘A unanimous decision!’ Adolph said, ‘What are you talking about?’ Martin kept saying, ‘it was unanimous! We got the Grand Prize!’

We got to the hotel—Adolph was calm about it—they were all bowing and scraping, ‘Maestro, Maestro,’ and had banked our room with flowers. It was terrific. It was really great.

One Brazilian newspaper praised the selection of Gottlieb for the Grande Prêmio as a step forward for culture "this side of the Atlantic," and Diáro de São Paulo reported that Gottlieb considered it "a further contribution to the movement that has slowly revolutionized the situation of American art."