Installed in a fine mansion built in early 20th-century neo-classical style, the Benedito Calixto Art Gallery is an important cultural space in the city, with musical happy hour, and a variety of courses and events for children and adults, mainly at the weekend.
The house, the last one along the Santos shoreline to maintain the characteristics of the coffee boom, was a family residence, care home for the elderly, boarding house for young women and even a slum, before being declared a public utility in 1979, with restoration work commencing seven years later.
The ground floor houses the art book library and a permanent exhibition of works by Calixto, considered one of the major exponents of Brazilian painting from the beginning of the 20th century. The upper floor functions as a gallery for temporary exhibitions.
The gardens are where the public can enjoy sculptures, such as the piece donated by artist Bia Dória, from Santa Catarina, a representative of sustainable contemporary art, whose works are made from waste from managed forest, sustainable products and native trees rescued from burning, deforestation, river beds and dams.
The internal spaces are decorated in the art nouveau style and each area has a specific use. The lower floor has a visitors' room, great hall, dining room, office, library and winter garden. The bedrooms are on the upper floor.
The Gallery is home to 65 works by Benedito Calixto, considered one of the four giants of 20th-century São Paulo art, alongside Almeida Júnior, Pedro Alexandrino and Oscar Pereira da Silva. The collection, on permanent exhibition, includes 15 anatomical studies, 14 seascapes, 12 historical subjects, 11 portraits, 10 religious works and one nude, as well as brushes, paint boxes and some photographs of Calixto.
Café Bistro Calixto
Café Bistro Calixto functions in the Gallery gardens, from 8am to 10pm, serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, happy hour and dinner. Access is also via Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, 100, and bookings can be made by telephone: (13) 3394-2410.
The white mansion was built in 1900 by Carl Anton Dick as a family residence. Ten years later it was sold to the family of Francisco da Costa Pires, who remained in the house until 1913. In that year the building housed a care home named Asilo dos Inválidos (today’s Casa do Sol).
In 1921, the Pires family reacquired and renovated the property, giving it its current characteristics – façade and interior in art nouveau style, Carrara marble staircase, solid iron handrails, more rooms, frescos and a winter garden.
Outside, a tennis court, servants’ quarters, classroom, orchard, fountain, pergolas and a long driveway lined with black plum trees.
The mansion was sold in 1935 and functioned as a boarding house for young women for two years, when the Canero family bought it as a residence. The property was declared a public utility in 1979, restored and in 1992 began to house the Benedito Calixto Art Gallery Foundation, with Edith Pires Gonçalves Dias, who spent a good part of her life in the white mansion by the beach, on the board.