Exhibitions: Shape for the Future

For years, the Sao Paulo Bienal, held in odd-numbered years in Brazil's larg est city, has played poor relation to the more prestigious Venice Biennale, which is held in even-numbered years. Nonetheless, the ninth Sao Paulo Bienal, which is beginning its three-month run in the city's Niemeyer-built exhibition hall, this year bids fair to rival Venice.

It is bigger, more brilliant, jampacked with virtuosity, and more outrageous than ever before. No fewer than 65 countries, ranging from Trinidad-Tobago to the Soviet Union, sent 4,132 works of art. The U.S.'s lavish convocation of nearly 20 popartists' work, called "Environment U.S.A.,"...

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