Ever heard of Inhotim? No? No wonder since this amazing gallery and botanic garden is hidden on the outskirts of a lost place called Brumadinho, located about one hour from Belo Horizonte.
Nevertheless, to visit Inhotim, one Friday, I hopped on a plane in Rio de Janeiro and flew to Belo Horizonte. There, I took God’s artistic creations – such as flowers and trees – are of genuine, pure beauty, indeed. But in combination with creations by earthly visual artists, they become just marvelous.
|Dan Graham’s Bisected Triangle in the backdrop of the lush greeneries. At Inhotim, God’s creations and the other artists’ works go together just so well.|
Bernardo Paz, the founder of Inhotim in the outskirts of Brumadinho, is not the first impresario to recognize that.
I’ve been to a couple of other fantastic combinations of Godly and artistic creations, brought together by some wealthy impresarios like Henry E. Huntington’s Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino/Pasadena and Knud W. Jensen’s Louisiana North of Copenhagen. I assure you none of these can compete with Inhotim.
The venue, officially called Instituto De Arte Contemporânea E Jardim Botânico, is located prima facie unexpectedly in the outskirts of Brumadinho, a village in Brazil’s federal state of Minas Gerais amidst a depressing minors’ region. It is located about 60 km / 37 miles from Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais.
Despite its isolated location, it attracts art aficionados from around the world – who are willing to undertake the trip from Belo Horizonte; by car, public bus or organized by a shuttle.
|Green, green grass of….Brumadinho.|
The district of Brumadinho – this name derives from bruma which translates to mist – was founded in 1923 and populated by miners and their families.
The founder of Inhomit, Bernardo Paz de Mello, was born in 1949 in the very district of Minas Gerais and made his fortune here, Being very attached to this region, he bought land here where he not only installed his ambitious art venue, but also made his home.
Brumadinho and its approximately 20,000 inhabitants gained notoriety this year on 25 January when a tailings dam collapsed which led to a mudflow that buried houses in a rural area near the city. About 186 people were killed.
Inhotim – what an unusual name, right?! It is said, that the land that Bernardo Paz began to buy up once belonged to an Englishman the locals referred to as ’inho Tim – Mister Tim.
The entire complex of Inhotim, so the botanic garden including all the galleries, is spread over more than 20 square kilometers/ about 5,000 acres located in the northern outskirts of Brumadinho. If you are not exactly gimpy, it’s easy to walk there, however, there is also a local bus between the village center and the gardens.
It is a garden Eden with an indescribable variety of different species of extraordinary plants. The number of different palm trees alone…I think there is no plant on earth that’s not represented in Inhotim. Actually, they were even imported from different places in Asia.
|Just look at all these different palm trees. The colorful concrete blocks are one of the most photographed work: Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe by Hélio Oiticica
No wonder it is so beautiful since Bernardo Paz got help from the famous landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx to design the premises.
|The gardens, too, are meticulously designed: Between around 5,000 species of plants rivers lakes were dug out and creeks are flowing.|
This paradisiac plantation alone would make every trip to Inhotim worth the effort. However, the lush gardens are just a rich setting for amazing architecture housing large galleries and white cubes. There are two dozens pavilions with lots of space even for humongous pieces.
So inside and out, there is an exquisite collection of the most outstanding modern art on display: about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists like Yayoi Kusama, Anish Kapoor, or Olafur Eliasson are being shown.
Paz’ complete collection, however, consists of more than 1.300 works.
|That’s how it all started: Deleite by Tunga
Bernardo Paz started buying the land and building his home that he filled with art in the 1980s. He started buying Brazilian modernist art, but only in 1995, he became serious about it – also inspired and motivated by Brazilian contemporary artist Tunga.
|View across one of the beautiful lakes at the Galeria True Rouge where one of the strongest works by Brazilian artist Tunga is exhibited.
Slowly but surely Paz extended his activities until in 2002, he founded Inhotim. However, initially, the institution opened its gates exclusively to certain groups. Only in 2006, it was made accessible to the general public and has since then been visited by about 3 million guests.
Today, everything there is special and beautiful and caring and welcoming: whether it’s the repellent that every visitor can use for free or the little cars that take guests from gallery to gallery.
|Usually, I don’t tend to take pictures of repellent, but I think it’s such a great service to offer it to the visitors.
Of course, there is free WiFi, but what’s as important and convenient is the high number of sockets you find all over the place to recharge your phone or camera whenever you need it.
There are water faucets at the visitor’s disposal and many clean bathrooms – smelling of lemongrass!
|Some of the water faucets might be already occupied, but don’t worry, the next one won’t be far.
They have a rather fancy restaurant serving an excellent all you can eat buffet for 20 bucks and a cheaper, also buffet style restaurants that’s also good, but more like a cafeteria.
|Even the cheaper cafeteria is set up really nicely and with the vertical blades, it’s like outdoor eating with a great view.
In addition, there are a couple of snack and fast food stands. Some shady places – and at a botanic garden like this you find a lot of shady places – are equipped with extraordinary seats made of raw wood.
Of course, there is a gift shop where you can stock up on original souvenirs.
|Perfect place for a short – or longer – break: A bench, carved from a huge tree trunk, placed under…a huge tree.|
(Photo: Otávio Nogueira from Fortaleza, BR, Inhotim (26164690911), CC BY 2.0)
You can easily spend the entire day there. And that’s what I did without any symptoms of museum fatigue.
Thinking Big and Falling Deep
So yes, the place has a size of 5,000 acres, the collection consists of 1,300 works – think big is definitely Bernardo Paz’ motto. The mining magnate likes to emphasize that he was planning the museum for the next 1,000 years. Well, living in Germany, I must say that people here would get very suspicious hearing this: In the last century, Europe’s experience with over-ambitious men planning for 1,000 years was quite unpleasant
But his over the top gigantomania is not the impresario’s biggest flaw.
Sadly, he doesn’t seem to always live up to his ideals: The man who became a billionaire through a network of mining and steel companies has been accused of breaking a series of environmental laws. Furthermore, he benefited from child labor and according to governmental investigations of ‘slave-like’ working conditions in one of his plants.
Finally, in 2017, Paz was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to nine years of jail.
To keep Inhotim’s name clean, Paz stood down from his position as a chairman of the board of directors.
So while the fact that he’s being convicted of money laundry is even a tad bit funny since it’s such a Latinamerican cliché, the accusations of having damaged the environment – which had a terrible impact on people’s living conditions – and abused his workers are more than disappointing.
|Somehow this work created by Adriana Varejão, Paz’ fifth wife, is a great metaphor: As you break the white tiled wall, you discover all the ugly intestines.
Although I still think that Inhotim is a fantastic project, the allegations against Paz do give it a negative connotation. It’s a bit like when you find out that a singer of beautiful, soulful love songs is a child molester – things get tainted.
My eight favorite galleries
But like I said – heaven is a place on earth, and this place goes by the name of Inhotim.
Obviously, I cannot introduce all of the 500 pieces. And to cherish them, you have to see them in person, anyway. So I show you some of my favorite pieces – and hope you like them so that you put Inhotim on your list when visiting Brazil.
|At Adriana Varejão’s pavilion, it’s all about tiles – and be prepared for some bloody disturbing sights.|
|At Adriana Varejão’s pavilion, it’s all about tiles – and be prepared for some bloody disturbing sights.|
|Together with eight of his friends, the artist Jarbas Lopes traveled in the three cars of his work Troca-troca from Rio de Janeiro to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea do Paraná in Curitiba.|
|True Rouge looks like an assembly of giant hearts – and not the Valentine-kind of hearts.
|The installation of sculptures called The Sleeping City looks like a three-dimensional painting by Joan Miró. It has been created by Czech artist Dominik Lang who uses parts of his father’s work, the sculptor father Jirí Lang, referring to the history of Czechoslovakia under Soviet occupation.
|It’s not by accident that Swiss-born photographer Claudia Andujar has one of the largest galleries all to herself: Although her photographs are less flashy and spectacular than some of the other works, her pictures of the Yanomami Indios are extremely powerful.|
|Yes, exactly, there are no intestines, no blood, sweat, nor tears, there are just sumptuous gardens in natural colors, combined in an untamed way – these are the painting by Luiz Zerbini. This one is called High Definition and I like it a lot since it is like a portrait of the plants at Inhotim gardens.|
|Cildo Meireles’ installation Através is the perfect example for why extremely spacious galleries might be needed: The dimensions are 600 x 1500 x 1500 cm – or more than 236 x 590 x 590 inches; nuff said?!|
My eight favorite sculptures and installations
| Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe by Hélio Oiticica|
Bernadete Amado, InhotimPorBernadeteAmado, CC BY 3.0
|Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden consisting of 1,500 mirrored stainless steel spheres, was also exhibited at London and New York in 2018.|
|Outdoorsy art by Edgard De Souza – being untitled gives it a pretty long title: Sem título, 2000; Sem título, 2002; Sem título (Bronze 5)|
Gui Tuo Bei
|Jorge Macchi’s Piscina ran out of Ns.|
The pools – this one outdoors and the indoor pool at Galeria Cosmococa – can be actually used by the visitors.
|“Wait”, the weather god said “Chris Burdon’s Beam Drop Inhotim looks even more dramatic in the backdrop of dark clouds.” This sculpture is made of 72 steel beams dropped 45 meters from 150-foot-high cranes into a pit filled with wet cement.|
|The admirer reflected in the admired: Taking a picture of Cristina Iglesias’ open-air gallery Vegetation Room|
|And another artsy selfie: Standing in Dan Graham’s Bisected Triangle taking a picture of my reflection and the incredible view.|
How to get there
By public bus: A one-way ticket from the central bus station in Belo Horizonte to the town center of Brumadinho costs R$ 22,15. There are buses at 7 a. m., 11 a. m. – on Sundays, this bus leaves already at 10 a. m.! – and 3 p. m. The ride takes about 90 minutes and you can buy your ticket also in advance through the Saritur website.
|John Ahearn’s sculptural murals are showing you where to arrive: At the Rodoviária de Brumadinho, the bus station of Brumadinho|
Once you arrive at Brumadinho, you can either take a cab, a local bus, or you just walk. From the village center, it’s about 20 to 30 minutes.
On weekends and holidays, Saritur offers a shuttle service from Belo Horizonte and back. It leaves at 8:15 a. m. from the central bus station and gets to Inhotim at 10 a. m. The fare is 41 R$. In the afternoon, the coach leaves Inhotim at 5:30 p. m. and arrives in Belo Horizonte at 19:25 p. m. – this trip costs – for what reason ever – only 37 R$.
There is also a shuttle service organized by the Inhotim people that theoretically serves the venue every day except Mondays. However, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays, there have to be at least four passengers. You can make reservation sending your name and phone to firstname.lastname@example.org
or through the website www.belvitur.com.br. If you have questions or want to make sure that the service is available, you can call + 55 – 31 – 32 90 91 80.
Generally, the coach leaves Belo Horizonte at 8:30 a. m. and goes back depending on the closing hours, i. e. 4:30 p. m. on weekdays and 5:30 p. m. on weekends and holidays.
Roundtrip costs 66 R$, only return 35 R$.
Only return has to be bought at Inhotim and is, obviously, subject to availability.
Opening Hours and Admission
The gardens and galleries are open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a. m. to 4:30 p. m. – Saturdays, Sundays and holidays to 5:30 p. m.
Entrance fee for adults is R$ 44.00 (13 US$), kids from 6 to 12 have to pay half price and if they are younger than 6, entrance is free; and so is the entrance for everyone else on Wednesdays (except for holidays).
|If you are ambitious to learn more about all the exotic plants, just let an expert guide you through this Garden Eden.
If you want to use the shuttle carts, you have to pay an extra 30 R$. Especially if you have only one day, you might want to save time by taking advantage of this service.
Charter of a private cart for up to 5 people 500 R$ (150 US$) per day or 200 R$ (60 US$) per hour.
Since Summer 2018, you do not need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Inhotim. However, to save yourself from disappointment, you might want to check their website or inquire directly regarding the status quo short before visiting.
Where to spend the night
Honestly, there is no reason to spend the night at Brumadinho since there are all these convenient options to get to Inhotim just for the day. However, if you prefer to book accommodation there than in Belo Horizonte, I can recommend Hostel Hari due to its proximity to the venue: A ten minutes walk, and you’re there.
Another upside of this place is that the hosts are very kind. They have rooms of different sizes, but the bathroom always has to be shared with other guests.
Nonetheless, it won’t be the poshest place you’ve ever stayed at.
Wanna read about other great places and more impressive art in Brazil? Then quickly go to this post and take your pick!
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