Inhotim, Building Art in Eden

To the discovery of the Brazilian contemporary art park, its architecture, the collections and saving the ecosystem.

​by Giulia Zappa

South of Brazil, hidden amidst a subtropical forest, with its lush and creative vegetation, you find Inhotim, the largest contemporary art park in the world. The name explains the origins of the place: “Inho Tim” is the nickname fazenderos of the land gave to their British landlord Sir/Senhor Tim. Set on the backdrop of the small town of Brumadinho, 60 km from the region capital Belo Horizonte – where Oscar Niemeyer first experimented with concrete -, the Inhotim Institute is the largest of its kind in all of Latin America.

Education Center Burle Marx - Credits Marcelo Coelho
Tamboril tree - Credits Ricardo Mallaco

​It’s also the first in the world to mix land architecture with contemporary art. Achieved thanks to a lot of determination and vision, with the collaboration of artists, landscape architects and researchers, it also includes a botanical plan and a project to save one of the richest ecosystems of the planet. An open-air museum that offers an alternative to the city and fuses with the natural landmark’s enveloping magnificence.

Cosmococas - Credits Marcelo Coelho

​Bernardo Paz, manufacturer and contemporary art collector, had the idea. The park is developed in a way that will always invite new site-specific installations and solutions. Paz started buying the land that surrounds the fazenda back since the 80s. He shaped it with the help of the great landscape artist – and personal friend - Roberto Burle Marx. The entire land now covers 140 hectares and is fragmented with forests and botanical gardens.

Lygia Pape Gallery - Credits Daniella Paoliello
Adriana Varejao Gallery - Credits Eduardo Eckenfels

​Opened to the public since 2006, Inhotim now hosts 18 pavilions distributed around the park representing each artist. You add to that four galleries of 1000 square meters each, Lago, Fonte, Praça e Mata, with a selection of pieces from the Paz collection, 800 art pieces, sculptures, paintings, video-art, photography, and 200 pieces under exhibit. Doug Aitken, Chris Burden, Matthew Barney, Doris Salcedo, Cildo Meireles, Tunga, Adriana Varejão, Dan Graham, Olafur Eliasson, Giuseppe Penone are among the 100 famous international artist represented in the collection.

Wooden bench Hugo França - Credits Rossana Magri
Magic Square Helio Oiticica - Credits Rossana Magri

​It’s not just about art. Saving and cultivating the local vegetation is also a big part of the initial project. Many imported trees and exotic plants are now growing next to the local flora. It is the result of a long process and in many cases a binary work which consisted in creating a vast botanical variety – 1000 palms species, the pride of the Institute – and a progressive human work on the landscape by means of pathways, bridges, patios that respect Brazil’s traditional architecture.

Cristina Iglesias Vegetation Room Inhotim - Credits Daniela Paoliello

​Saving the ecosystem as well as including and involving the local population. In 2004, Inhotim was recognized as a foundation by the Federal Institutions and supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. There are many programs dedicated to working with students and residents, but foreign visitors also started to grow in numbers. Probably thanks to the hospitality it offers – restaurants, boutiques and a shop where you can buy the work of local ceramists and international designers - but also to the growing fame of this unique setting, vital and magnetic, where nature and culture converge continuously and harmoniously to become one.

Jardins Inhotim - Credits Ricardo Mallaco
Tunga Gallery - Credits Daniela Paoliello

​Instituto Inhotim
Ph.: +55 31 3194-7300 | +55 31 3571-9700
Visiting hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Oiticica Restaurant - Credits Ricardo Mallaco
Doug Aitken Sonic Pavilion - Credits Daniela Paoliello.

​About the author Giulia Zappa is an Italian journalist, Doctor in Communication and Design Strategist. Zappa is also the editor in chief of the contemporary art magazine ​Artribune.

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