Instituto Inhotim: Modern Art in a Natural Paradise

In the beautiful hills of Minas Gerais, just a short hour’s drive southwest of Belo Horizonte, sits a lush paradise for the lover of modern art. The Instituto Inhotim is an engaging hybrid — part museum and part botanical garden — where each element maintains a surprising dialogue with the other.

Located on the outskirts of Brumadinho, a small town in the Paraopeba valley, Inhotim is a world-class art facility — boasting over 500 works in 18 galleries by both international and Brazilian artists. Most famous are the larger installations and site-specific pieces which are meticulously set within the breath-taking environment. In fact, Inhotim has the largest collection of outdoor art in Latin America.

Thus, the primary ‘gallery’ at Inhotim is its magnificent location — a protected remnant of the once-vast Mata Atlântica tropical forest. The site is home to 4,500 species of flowers, plants, and trees including over 1,500 species of palms. The artwork was thoughtfully integrated into the immense arcadia by the Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx in a manner that’s actually quite moving. After visiting, Maria Fernanda Candido, a Brazilian actress famous for telenovelas, reflected:

The grandeur and exuberance of Inhotim provides a unique experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s an experience of great impact — from the connection with our own soul in communion with nature.

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Inhotim is a natural preserve

Inhotim began in the mind of Bernardo Paz, a mineiro entrepreneur, back in the mid-1980s. Paz had amassed a valuable collection of contemporary art including Vik Muniz, Matthew Barney, and Doug Aitken. But beyond just housing the pieces, he had a vision for a cultural center with a greater mission.

In 2004, the institute first opened its doors and, by the next year, began to rescue native species from various parts of Brazil — introducing them into the botanical gardens at Inhotim. There’s an area which recreates the Amazon rainforest with poisonous plants and endangered trees like jacaranda-da-bay and palm-juçara. The curators want to delight visitors who love nature, but also educate them about issues of biodiversity and preservation.

Although the grounds at Inhotim encompass a total area of 786 hectares (almost 2,000 acres), only 97 hectares (240 acres) are actually used by the museum and gardens. Forty percent of land has been designated a natural perserve and thus remains untouched.

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If you go to Inhotim

The town of Brumandinho is situated about 60 km from Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. The easiest way to get there is by Fernão Dias highway (BR-381) — heading west. [Refer to the map below.] Once past the city of Betim, you’ll go south on MG-155 to Mário Campos, then continue along MG-040 to Brumandinho. If you don’t have a car, Saritur offers a quality bus service.

The Instituto Inhotim is open Tuesdays to Sundays, and on public holidays. Admission on Fridays, weekends, and holidays is R$28; students with valid ID and those over 60 are R$14. Wednesdays and Thursdays are discounted to R$20 and R$10; while every Tuesday admission is free. Children 5 and under are always free. During the week, the hours are 9:30 am to 4:30 pm; and on weekends and holidays, they’re open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Although the institute provides motorized transport (for a R$20 fee) to access the most remote artwork, most visitors choose to enjoy the enormous landscape on foot. So remember to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. You’ll really want to set aside the entire day, if not two, to see everything.

And don’t worry about food, either; Inhotim has 8 different eating options on site: from the upscale Restaurante Tamboril to a casual pizzaria. Back in town, Brumandinho also features many wonderful restaurants — as well as fine hotels and pousadas (bed-and-breakfasts), if you decide to stay the night.

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Information on Inhotim

A modern art museum and botanical garden in the rare Mata Atlântica forest. Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm; and weekends and holidays from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Rua B, 20
Brumadinho, Minas Gerais
35460-000
Brazil
Phone: +55 (31) 3571-6598
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Photos: Inhotim, Azeite, and Inhotim

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Fredrick Haugen

Fredrick Haugen

Fredrick is the founder and editor of Brazigzag, an inside guide to the diverse and enchanting culture of Brazil. A writer and artist, he also teaches yoga. Follow him: @fredrickhaugen

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