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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Flavia Liz - Tornado of a Tour Guide

Sometimes even a relative pro in the field of Design Trawling needs a little help. After living in Brazil for nearly 9 months, I was put in touch with Flavia Liz De Paolo; somewhat of a rainmaker in the city of Sao Paulo. Her brief? Bring the best of the city's design and urban/contemporary art scene to the Editor and Chief of DesignTrawler.com

With less than 24 hours to put together an itinerary, read how this force of a private tour guide whipped out the key to the city, showing me more city in 3 hours than I was able to see in 9 months.

Speeding through the busy streets, phone in one hand and gesturing wildly with the other, the Anna-Wintour lookalike has been giving guides in the city for over 20 years. Presidents, trade parties, celebrities, you name them, she's given them highly specialised, personal tours of the urban jungle that is Sao Paulo.

She explains that we're going to meet one of the most famous graffiti artists in the city; Mundano; and takes me to Batman Alley in Villa Maddalena to get familiar with the Brazilian urban art scene. "Look there! That one is new! I've not seen it before!" she exclaims, pointing to Mundano's signature green monster on a building 15 stories high.

Next I'm taken to the recently opened atelier of Mundano and given a tour of the space by the studio manager. "Here is the gallery space where we exhibit the work, excuse the stage; where we had some live music the other night". Of course, the atelier is closed and staff seem delighted to show me around. "Upstairs we plan to open a vintage store with a library of vinyl which visitors can browse on an iPad, and here will be the bar. We also have a cinema space, and the courtyard down there is a shared working space for new collaborative projects".

Leaving the studio, a quick left and a quick right down some rather shady looking alleyways reveals an entirely hidden set of interconnecting back alleys with gigantic graffiti murals. I'm told that this underground and totally public space draws some of the world's most famous urban artists and is protected and respected by something of a gentleman's street code. Even locals living in the area are unaware of it's existence and it trumps any pseudo-nuevo urban gallery exhibition in London or New York.

A number of galleries and private tours by respective gallery owners later, we're off to the flagship of the tour. The previously mentioned Coletivo Amor De Madre, a heavy-hitting design gallery with rather more light hearted design store across the road. Flavia Liz rolls out another owner, Olivia Yassudo Faria, who provides an after-hours tour of her latest exhibition. "We already have three spaces in Jardins. If we really want the old part of the city to come alive, we need to be in Centro, driving arts and design back in to the heart of our city".

All the while, Flavia Liz takes calls and discuses new projects; "A new charity? Of course I can put you in touch with somebody in government! Brunch tomorrow? Only if they have good champagne!" - I'm not sure if I'm more impressed with the tour guide or the tour itself, but without doubt, it's the richest design experience this year.
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