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During my recent trip to Brazil, one of the highlights was a day at Inhotim, the open-air museum and botanical garden in Minas Gerais. If you’ve never heard of it before, you are not alone. I first read about this 3,000-acre ranch a few months ago in an article from The Guardian:

Located in Brumadinho, a sleepy mining town around 40 miles from the state capital Belo Horizonte, Inhotim began life in the 1980s when Paz bought a 3,000-acre ranch with part of his fortune. He transformed the site into a stunning botanical garden with the help of his friend Roberto Burle Marx, a landscape architect.

In the late 1990s Paz began building galleries at Inhotim to house his growing art collection. In 2006 it opened to the public, rapidly becoming a reference point for the arts in South America: 300,000 people visited this year.

A cross between Tate Modern and Kew Gardens, Inhotim is home to nearly two dozen art “pavilions”, housing work by giants of the Brazilian arts scene such as Hélio Oiticica, Cildo Meirelles and Vik Muniz and international names including Doug Aitken, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Steve McQueen.

Getting there was no picnic. I had planned on staying three days at Belo Horizonte, so I could visit Inhotim one or two days (it’s located 1.5 hours away by bus). Unfortunately, for many days prior to my arrival, torrential rains had soaked Minas Gerais. Many towns were covered by floods. So much so that Inhotim didn’t open to the public the first two days I was in Belo Horizonte. Fortunately, the last day I was there it opened, and I got to visit!

The photos in the slideshow should give you an idea of the place, the botanical gardens, sculptures and pavilions. The buildings contain the private art collection of Brazilian magnate Bernardo Paz, the man behind Inhotim. The sculptures are in-situ installations, specially commissioned for the space.

Thanks to the useful circuit suggested at the Vambora blog, I was able to see everything in one day. Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Narcissus Garden, by Yayoi Kusama
  • Penetrável Magic Square, by Hélio Oiticica
  • Galeria Miguel Rio Branco
  • De Lama Lâmina, by Matthew Barney
  • Sonic Pavilion, by Doug Aitken
  • By Means of a Sudden intuitive realization, by Janet Cardiff
  • True Rouge, by Tunga
  • Através, by Cildo Meireles
  • Desvio para o vermelho, by Cildo Meirelles
  • O assassinato dos Corvos, by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
  • Cosmococas, by Hélio Oiticica and Neville d’Almeida
  • Beam Drop, by Chris Burden
  • Galeria Adriana Varejão
  • Forty Part Motet, by Janet Cardiff
  • Viewing Machine, by Olafur Eliasson

The institute’s website has photos of the artworks created by the different artists. While many of the pieces are interactive (sounds installations abound at Inhotim), they will help you get an idea of what you’d encounter.

If you love modern art, visiting Inhotim is a must. To me, it was as unique an experience as going to the Venice Biennale for the first time. Only that instead of canals, I was surrounded by Brazilian tropical gardens!