By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANIERO, BRAZIL – Completed in 1996, the Oscar Niemeyer designed Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi, or MAC) overlooking the Guanabara Bay in the neighborhood of Boa Viagem, serves not only as a visual landmark but also as a thriving art and cultural center for the city across the bay.
Often likened to a modernist UFO, a more poetic description was perhaps given by the architect Niemeyer who once described it as, a flower emerging from the rock that holds it.
With an spacious open courtyard of 2,500 square meters, and a reflecting pool surrounding the cylindrical central support of the building, the main saucer shaped floors do appear to stand almost like a sci-fi flower in bloom.
Consisting of a ground floor, two levels and a mezzanine, entrance into the white structure is accessed by a curving 98 meter bright-red concrete entrance ramp leading visitors to the Hall of Expositions and its frequently changing exhibitions.
It currently houses “Truth”, paintings and sculptures by Roberto Coda Zabetta that honor the memory of Brazilians who were imprisoned or disappeared during the time of the country’s 21-year military dictatorship (March 31, 1964 to March 15, 1985).
Perhaps the best display in the museum is that of the city Rio de Janiero, which is constantly exhibited through the museum’s viewing gallery, where seventy glass plates set at forty degree angles offer breathtaking views of Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf), Corcovado and the city’s skyline across Guanabara Bay.
These panoramic views can also be enjoyed while dining in the museum’s Bistro which offers “contemporary international cuisine” (currently featuring a shrimp cooked with coconut milk cream, white wine and rice dish), a select wine list and a warm atmosphere.
Musicians play live there on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 9PM with no additional cover charge, and the Bistro remains open for diner until the last customer is served.
Adding to the exhibits and dining there are many ongoing programs at the museum that offer both entertainment and community enrichment, making MAC a true cultural hub.
Weekly events include storytelling on Sundays at 4PM directed by actor Flavio de Souza where audience participation and interactions are encouraged and Tai Chi Chuan lessons taught by Professor Chang Whan in the museum’s courtyard on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings. The Wednesday and Friday lessons are R$70 monthly but Sunday mornings are for open training and free.
Monthly events at MAC include the third Saturday of the month meeting at 4:30 PM of the CineOlho film society in the museum’s basement auditorium to watch and discuss films and poetry readings on every 2nd Saturday on the month at 3PM.
Additionally, every first Sunday of the month the Cultural Exchange Fair is hosted in the museum’s courtyard. There community members and visitors alike bring items, both new and used, of cultural significance, to exchange with others.
Whether it’s the architectural beauty of the building itself, the views offered from within or the ongoing exhibits and programs, there is always something to see at MAC in Niterói.
What: Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum: MAC
Where: Mirante da Boa Viagem, Avenida Almirante Benjamin Sondre, (Google Map)
Price: R$6, R$3 for students and teachers, free entry for children under seven, Wednesdays are free for everyone