Ricardo Brennand, Brazilian entrepreneur and collector, dies at 92

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Ricardo Brennand, Brazilian entrepreneur and collector, dies at 92
Ricardo Brennand. Brennand, one of the richest men in northeastern Brazil who amassed a vast trove of art and artifacts and built a castle-like repository so the public could see it, died on April 25, 2020, at the Hospital Portugues in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco State, from complications of Covid-19. He was 92. Instituto Ricardo Brennand via The New York Times.

by Michael Astor

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Ricardo Brennand’s life as a collector started at age 12 with the gift of a pocketknife from his father. He went on to amass thousands of antique weapons, pieces of armor, clocks, keys and a trove of art and artifacts from Brazil’s colonial era.

The pocketknife was still in the collection at his death, 80 years later. Brennand died on April 25 at the Hospital Portugues in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state. The cause was complications of COVID-19, a family spokeswoman, Sonia Lopes, said. He was 92.

An engineer by training, Brennand at one point owned more than 20 factories. They produced steel, glass, cement, ceramics and sugar, making him one of the richest men in Brazil’s poor northeast.

He designed and oversaw construction of the factories almost from scratch. He often traveled abroad to learn the latest manufacturing techniques and brought in foreign talent to help transform the region — whose economy for centuries relied on cheap labor and sugar cane — into an industrial hub.

Ricardo Coimbra de Almeida Brennand was born in Cabo Santo Agostinho, in Pernambuco state, on May 27, 1927, to Antonio Luiz Brennand, an industrial engineer, and Dulce Padilha Coimbra. He is survived by his wife, Graca Maria; eight children; and a number of grandchildren.

He sold off many of his business interests in 1999 to build the Ricardo Brennand Institute, a giant castlelike structure on the outskirts of Recife designed to house his collection.

The sprawling institute contains Brazil’s largest gathering of artifacts relating to the period when northern Brazil belonged to the Dutch, who were expelled by the Portuguese in 1654.

The institute houses a large collection of work by Frans Post, the 17th-century Dutch painter whose vivid canvases provided European audiences with some of the first glimpses of the newly discovered lands across the sea.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands attended the inauguration of the institute’s permanent exhibition, “Frans Post and Dutch Brazil,” in 2003. The museum has since become a popular tourist destination, receiving more than 3 million visitors since opening, according to the institute.

Brennand, in a 2017 television interview, said he had established the museum as a gift to the public because his family didn’t appreciate his collecting.

“Unhappily, my wife has been left stunned by it. My children don’t like it because I spend so much on it, but what can I do?” he said. “It’s instinctual.”

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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