By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter
SALVADOR, BRAZIL – A visit to Salvador can be more than lounging on beautiful beaches, touring historical buildings and tasting the famed local cuisine. Bahia’s sunny capital has a variety of museums offering insight into the past and present of one of Brazil’s oldest cities.
With around thirty museums in the city with a range of themes from Afro-Brazilian roots and Bahian food to the city’s nautical past and even rocks, art and history lovers will be sure to find something to peak their interest.
Topping the list is the Museu de Arte Moderna da Bahia (MAM – Museum of Modern Art of Bahia), which features contemporary artists with ties to the Bahian past. MAM’s archives include renowned Brazilian artists Tarsila do Amaral and Di Cavalcanti.
This is one of the best places to watch the sunset in the city, located in a beautiful 17th century colonial complex along the Baía de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints). It often holds a variety of events such as the popular jazz sessions on Saturday evenings. In addition to the museum, there is an haute cuisine restaurant, sculpture park and small beach within the grounds.
American expatriate and artist, Mark Pfhol, or Markuza, has been living in the city for over ten years now. “My favorite museum is the MAM because they offer a lot to the community, including free courses in printmaking, painting, drawing, and others, a jazz jam session every Saturday, and an open painting event every Sunday which is great to bring your kids to,” he told The Rio Times.
To get a better understanding of Bahia’s artistic and historical value, travelers must visit the Museu de Arte da Bahia (MAB – Art Museum of Bahia), which is located in a neocolonial building that was once the home of a wealthy merchant in the 1800s. The MAB hosts multiple cultural activities, permanent and temporary exhibitions, courses, musical performances and film screenings.
Being the oldest museum in the state and one of the first in Brazil, the MAB has over 5,000 pieces consisting mostly of fine and decorative arts. The exhibits are made up of paintings from Bahian and foreign artists dating from the 16th century onwards, and a comprehensive set of decorative artifacts, with especially remarkable pieces of furniture, china and jewelry.
A short walk from the MAB is the exceptional Museu Rodin Bahia (Rodin Bahia Museum), devoted to the work of classic French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The museum has helped strengthen artistic and cultural ties between France and Brazil through its partnership with the Rodin Museum in Paris.
For a period of three years that ended last October, the museum hosted 62 of Rodin’s sculptures. The space is now occupied with rotating exhibitions in honor of important Bahian artists. The tranquil gardens surrounding the museum are worth a visit on their own, with lots of greenery, four of Rodin’s sculptures and a tasteful café.
These three museums are major vectors of art in Bahia and are essential pieces in understanding culture and history in the city, although it is by no means a complete list. All three have free entry and are open Tuesday to Sunday.