It's like as if the Jardini of the Venice Biennale moved to the tropics, got more color, more polish and a much more cutting edge architectural style, and was lavishly dressed for a wedding. I've been told repeatedly that one couldn't be an artist in Brazil and not visit Inhotim. Some local friends have called it a pilgrimage that one has to make before dying and I've also heard it unflatteringly nicknamed as the Disneyland of the artworld. All of above are true together.
It's a magnificent and magical place, an artist geek-out in the middle of "nowhere" in rural Minas Gerais (MG), a state northeast of the state of Rio de Janeiro. It's an hour flight from Rio to Belo Horizonte, the capital of MG, plus another 2 hours drive on badly marked, insanely rolling rural roads. It took both of us to navigate these roads, in addition to a rental car GPS and many carefully selected printed google maps (thanks to Sandor's excellent planning) that showed every possible intersection and turn to be encountered.
As a gift for my birthday, we took a 3-day trip to MG, visiting the historic town of Ouro Preto, the Serra de Moeda mountain range, and Instituto Inhotim.
According to their website, "Instituto Inhotim began to be conceived in the mid-1980s by Minas Gerais businessman, Bernardo de Mello Paz. With time, this parcel of private land was transformed into a unique place, with one of the most significant collections of contemporary art in the world and a botanical collection containing rare species from every continent." Paz commissioned architects and landscapers for making "temples" for the significant artworks that were already in his collection, as well as over the years he has continued to commission many more of the leading contemporary artists for making site-specific works, many of which enjoys the benefit of a close collaboration between artist, architect and landscape architect. The result is a mind-blowing exploration of space and the senses, the visual just being a tiny fraction of this equation.
|Groundkeeper at work in the magical landscape of tropical colors and textures. Among the trees, there are hundreds of hidden sites for resting. Clever nooks landscaped from plants, rocks and roughly carved tree trunks provide well-disguised shelters for a quiet enjoyment of the park.|
|Olafur Eliasson's Viewing Machine|
|The inside of Olafur Eliasson's Viewing Machine|
|Marilá Dardot's participatory work in which visitors can plant seeds in letter-shaped pots and place them out in the pasture. This sign must have said "Obrigada Deus" (Thank you, God.) until the R and the U were pirated by other participants.|
Some of my favorite flowers from the park (I don't know any of their names... I have about ten times as many photos of plants that I took.)
We toasted my birthday on the "top of the world" in the Serra Moeres mountains.
|The amazing view from our window of the fog slipping through the valley at 6:30am in the morning. Inhotim is at the opposite end of the valley, about 35Km, 1 hour driving away.|
En route to Inhotim, we stopped for a day in Ouro Preto, the center of gold and silver mines in the 18th century. This city was made rich with gold that was mined from its mountains, washed from its rivers and picked from its land. Lavish architecture was comissioned by the Portuguese, which is well preserved due to the city's status as one of the World Heritage sites. Ouro Preto (Black Gold) is a marked contrast to the dirty, ignored, run-down, unhealthy cities and villages that are a majority in Brazil.
|View of Praça Tiradentes (the main square) in the Center of Ouro Preto.|
|This may be the steepest incline that any street on this earth has. The sidewalk (aka the narrow catwalk by the houses) has many steps to prove it. The road itself is barely passable. While climbing up, we met a car which was driving down. It was 1degree away from free fall.|
|Igreja S. Fco. Assis (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi)|
|Ceiling fresco in the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi. The style and symbolism is very particular to this area of Brazil. The combination of reds and blues make all the decorations quite lovely. There are expressive hand and facial gestures and Christ is often symbolized with a pair of crossed (wounded) hands placed over a heart.|
|The fountain in the back of a garden. Notice the decoration of broken plates and seashells and the blue color.|