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Inhotim Cultural Institute, Brumadinho, Minas Gerais

brazilmax.com, August 25, 2009, by Harold Emert.

Brumadinho, Minas Gerais - The Inhotim Cultural Institute reminded me of New York City´s Guggenheim Museum set inside a tropical rainforest. To reach it, I took a 90 minute auto ride from Belo Horizonte on dusty yet bucolic roads toBrumadinho, a town of 35,000 about 60 kilometers from the Minas Gerais state capital.

Founded in 2005, Inhotim spreads about a stretch of converted farmland owned by mining magnate and art collector Bernardo Paz. The official literature calls it "an environmental park and modern art museum. It is a place of production of knowledge created from an artistic and botanic collection."


Lodging and tours in state capital Belo Horizonte and other parts of Minas Gerias with Belo Horizonte Travel (our partner)


Paz is married to the Brazilian artist Adriana Varajão – a fact which perhaps helps explain his eccentric tastes in art. Much of his collection of contemporary art is on display on the grounds: sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos and installations. The permanent collection boasts about 350 works produced since 1960 by more than 80 artists.

One piece that continues to ring in my ears, eyes and soul is "Forty Part Motet" (2001) by the Canadian-born Janet Cardiff, who now lives in Berlin. The looped recording recreates the experience of hearing a live choir performs the English Renaissance masterpiece “Spem in Alium” – composed by Thomas Tallis in 1573 for, some believe, Queen Elizabeth’s 40th birthday. A Renaissance choir brought back to life!

If manmade and women-made wonders abound, so do natural ones. The Tropical Park is a botanical garden that reminded me of the stunning natural features of the Amazon mixed with the wonders of Rio de Janeiro’s parks and gardens created by great 20th century landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx. According to the description on the official Inhotim website “the enormous variety of plants makes Inhotim a local where one encounters one of the major collections of botanical collections in the world, with rare tropical species and forest reserve which is part of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Rainforest)." Not incidentally, a decade before his death in 1994 Burle Marx paid a visit to Inhotim and provided some early suggestions about the projected landscape.

Walking around Inhotim's gardens, parks and scenic wonders, a few comparisons came to mind: Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Pavilions feature permanent exhibitions of Brazilian artists Tunga and Cildo Meireles. In March, 2008, two new galleries were inaugurated: one dedicated to Varejão's work and the other for Colombian Doris Salcedo's piece Neither (2004). Other projects commissioned by Inhotim have included project by international artists like Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney, and Pipilotti Rist. Curators have included Allan Schwartzman, Jochen Volz and Rodrigo Moura.

Inhotim Restaurant

Inhotim’s restaurant, set in gardens designed by Burle Marx, is alone worth the trip from Belo Horizonte. Set among the natural wonders of Brazil’s "tropicalia," the menu is as healthy as the locale. In fact this observer would venture to guess Inhotim's restaurant was on par or better than many of Belo Horizonte or even Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro’s finest restaurants.

Getting to Inhotim

The official website provides directions in English for driving to Inhotim. There is direct bus service from Inhotim from the Belo Horizonte’s main bus station (“rodoviária,” in Portuguese). Though in Portuguese, the bus station’s website features a handy online form that gives you the departure times of all buses from the Belo Horizonte rodoviária. Click on “horários de ônibus” in the left-hand menu.

Inhotim Visits

The center is open during the day, Thursday-Sunday and on holidays. There is a modest fee. Details can be found on Inhotim General Information page of the official website.

Inhotim Reporter’s Notebook

The visit came after I attended a conference in Belo Horizonte called Earth Dialogues: the Planet Water in November 2008. The director of the Institute of the UNESCO Institute for Water Education Richard Meganck visited Inhotim to discuss various projects that involve the participation of Narcio Rodrigues, a Brazilian member of Congress representing Minas Gerais.