The publication Hélio Oiticica accompanied the retrospective exhibition of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (1937 – 1980), which took place at Witte de With center for contemporary art (22 February – 26 April 1992). Witte de With and the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume collaborated with the Fundació Antoni Tàpies and the Centro de Arte Moderna of the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Europe, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in United States, to give the oeuvre of Hélio Oiticica the familiarity that it deserves.

The concept of this exhibition was introduced by Chris Dercon into the exhibition program of Witte de With center for contemporary art, in Rotterdam, and by Catherine David into the program of the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, directed by Alfred Pacquement. It was not accidental that two new institutions at the time that did not bear the ballast of the past and were not hindered by the presence of a collection, had taken this book and exhibition under their wings. The work of Oiticica was at home as much as in the Netherlands as it was in France. There was Oiticica’s unbridled fascination for the prophecies of Mondrian that had even brought to the table the idea of naming the exhibition after the Oiticica’s work Homage to Mondrian. There was also a strong common alliance for the destiny of Brazilian and French modernist movements.

Hélio Oiticica’s practices were strongly linked to the social and cultural realities of Brazil. Despite being locally rooted, his art is not local. And at the same time, though it originates in an international movement such as neo-concretism, it cannot be assimilated to an idea of international art as could be constructed by the West. For Witte de With, Oiticica’s work is extremely relevant as it transgresses stereotyped Eurocentric conceptions of Latin-american culture, rather than reinforcing our view of the ‘other’.

Hélio Oiticica was a restless wanderer. His art and life state that the basic action that one should take when facing the world is always to wander. It is this facet of Hélio Oiticica that this book and exhibition tried to transmit. The ambition was for this project to serve as a constructive criticism on the manner in which art is being handled in general. “To assume a critical position: the aspirin or the cure? Or the screwing: of paternalism, of inhibition, of guilt,” wrote Hélio Oiticica in 1970.