By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sitting atop a lush and expansive plateau about an hour’s drive south-west of Belo Horizonte is one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets. Inhotim – pronounced In-yo-tcheen and named after a former owner Senhor Tim – is an extensive contemporary art collection spread among 5,000 acres of woodland, wilderness and botanical gardens.
Founded in the 1980s by former mining magnate, Bernardo Paz, Inhotim was originally a home for his private art collection. In 2006 however Paz opened the park to the public and has since turned it into one of the most original cultural experiences in the world.
Hundreds of works are on display from artists from over thirty countries, including Anish Kapoor, Chris Burden, Doug Aitken and Brazilians Tunga, Adriana Varejão and Vik Muniz. Many have been asked to create site-specific works and a number have pavilions dedicated only to their work.
Visitors are advised to take two days to appreciate all that Inhotim has to offer. It is possible to bus around in a golf buggy or to amble between installations, wandering through the countryside coming across works of art. Many are interactive, like for example Olafur Eliasson’s giant, mirrored kaleidoscope that reflects shards of the green surroundings down its barrel or Jorge Macchi’s “Piscina”, a swimming pool inspired by a telephone book which visitors are encouraged to dip in to.
The botanical gardens have over 5,000 species of plants including one of most complete collections of palms in the world. Research programs run alongside conservation efforts and there is a Private Reserve of Natural Heritage which is almost as large as the public area. The surroundings at Inhotim are intrinsic to the experience and the grounds are thoroughly and thoughtfully landscaped to open up new perspectives and compliment the installations.
Paz’s intention is to democratize art and bring it to the masses. By employing much of the local community, running many educational programs for children and putting vast amounts of his own money into it the park he hopes to introduce people to another world and revolutionize how art is experienced.
As he said to the Wall Street Journal in 2013, “People will still have to travel to Inhotim, because it’s impossible to understand it on TV or a computer. It’s all to do with the senses and emotion. Nobody can live without emotion. Teach children to see beauty. Beauty is the first step. People need to organize their needs and desires, that will lead to the new world government.”
Special events run throughout the year, including exhibitions, music festivals, classes and guided tours. On site there are restaurants and cafes as well as shops, though at present there is nowhere to stay. A hotel is under construction but until it is completed visitors can check-in to some of the pousadas in the local town, Brumadinho. Or it is possible to commute out from Belo Horizonte. Buses leave daily from the bus station.
Inhotim is closed on Mondays. Admission is R$25 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, free on Wednesday and R$40 on Fridays, the weekend and holidays.