Design in Brazil: Inhotim, A Different Kind of Art Gallery

In the hills surrounding the town of Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state once known for its gold and diamond mines, is Inhotim, an entirely different kind of art gallery. It's equal parts gallery and botanical garden, comprising 250 acres of lush planting, interspersed with unusual sculptures by more than 100 artists from around the globe. How unusual? One of the sculptures is a swimming pool — and you're more than welcome to take a dip.

Larissa Pissarra, a native of Brazil, alerted us to this intriguing space:

As a Brazilian living in the U.S., I enjoy playing tourist in my own country from time to time. Most people only think Rio, beaches, beautiful women and soccer, but Brazil's most exciting destination these days is called Inhotim.  

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Nestled in the luscious hills of the town of Brumadinho, Instituto Inhotim is a 250-acre botanical garden and open air contemporary art museum, showcasing the works of more than 100 artists from around the globe, collected for over 25 years by mining magnate and patron of the arts Bernardo Paz. With gardens originally designed by renowned Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, Inhotim is a feast for the eyes and for the senses. I will not spoil the surprise, but be ready for a couple of works of art that will play tricks on your eyes.

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Among the recently added site-specific pieces and one my favorites is the "Sonic Pavilion", by American multimedia artist Doug Aitken, which features an impressive sound system with microphones buried about 600 feet deep and amplified to a round room where the visitor can appreciate the view while witnessing Mother Earth's seismic moves. The exhibit is on a remote corner of the park — if your legs give up, hop on one of the many electric golf carts that cover five different routes, but do not miss it.

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Another must-see is Chris Burden's "Beam Drop", a massive sculpture comprised of over 70 junkyard beams originally arranged by a crane that dropped them from 150 feet over wet concrete, as if playing a giant pick up sticks game. If you can't wait to see it in person, watch the video of the construction here

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Make sure to check out the vista through Olafur Eliasson's "Viewing Machine", a large-scale kaleidoscope that will give you spectacular views of the surroundings. If Jorge Macchi's "Swimming Pool" seems to be calling your name, get in! Visitors are welcome to go for a swim and be part of his work.

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After a swim, hang out in one of the hammocks suspended from the trees — a perfect place to see the works by Brazilian artist Tunga.  It is the largest and one of Inhotim’s most beautiful pavilions — an airy treehouse in the middle of the lush tropical vegetation. 

Adriana Varejão is another Brazilian with a stunning pavilion built to match her powerful creations, which can be extremely raw and incredibly delicate at the same time. Koi fish give a touch of color to the gallery's pond downstairs, and little birds grace the long bench at the rooftop terrace. I envy them, as they get to spend their days at Inhotim. 

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If you're interested in visiting, there are daily, 45-minute flights from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte. From there, rent a car or arrange transfers with one of the local travel agencies to go to Brumadinho. Check out www.inhotim.org.br for more information on hours, admission, etc.
Thanks Larissa! 

(Images: Larissa Pissarra)

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