Inhotim: A Massive Open Air Art Gallery that is Worth the Trip

Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus garden

Most visitors in Brazil want to set their eyes on the exuberance of Rio, enjoy the idillic beaches of Bahia, or indulge themselves in the vibrant food scene and nightlife of São Paulo. Very few international travelers get the opportunity of knowing the vast countryside of Minas Gerais, even though it is home to one of the most fascinating attractions in the country, Inhotim – a truly striking destination worthy of anyone’s must-see list. Only a 1-hour flight from Rio or São Paulo, it has not only the best contemporary art collection in the country but also one of the most beautiful jaw-dropping places in Brazil.

Inhotim gets its name from the former owner, British engineer Mr. Tim – Nhô Tim, as locals called him. The farm was purchased in the 1980’s by local businessman Bernardo Paz, who purchased also other properties around it in order to protect its vegetation and precious gardens, designed by Burle Marx, from the growing real estate developments. Encouraged by his friend and one of Brazil’s most prized artists, Tunga, Paz started collecting contemporary art and building different pavilions to house them.

adriana varejao
Adriana Varejão Gallery

In 2006, his 5000-acre complex of contemporary art and exotic gardens was open to the public, and more buildings and site-specific art pieces have been added since then. Nowadays, Inhotim hosts around 250,000 visitors a year, has 25 galleries/pavilions, and over 500 artworks of artists from 30 different countries, including Yayoi KusamaOlafur EliassonMatthew BarneyAnish KapoorSteve McQueen, and Brazilians Cildo MeirelesAdriana Varejão, and Helio Oiticica, among others.

cildo meireles red room
The Red room by Cildo Meireles

The experience of visiting Inhotim is comparable to seeing Naoshima Island in Japan but with an exuberant tropical forest surrounding the whole area. Upon entrance, you will receive maps to explore the area, making it seem like an adventurous treasure hunt in the woods. All the trails are signposted, but there’s so much to see that you might need to come back for round two. There are sculptures scattered around the gardens and galleries hidden in the vegetation. Doug Aitken’s Sonic Pavilion, for example, is almost a mile uphill. Luckily there are golf carts going back and forth for people to take rides – as long as they pay for it.

To get the full experience, at least 2 days are recommended. Tickets range from R$ 25 to R$ 40 (US$ 8 to US$13 approximately), with free admission on Wednesdays. The town of Brumadinho, where it sits, has developed and grown a lot in order to cater to the art aficionados, and there are various brand new options of lodging, from low budget BNBs to charming and rustic resorts. A 5-star hotel inside the farm is in the making, but there’s no opening date announced yet.

Matthew Barney’s De Lama Lâmina

Also, Inhotim is a venue for exclusive cultural events. On the 5th and 6th of November, music festival Meca is doing its second edition there. In 2015, the international attractions included AlunaGeorge and La Roux. This year the line-up is all Brazilian, with a concert of worldwide musical phenomenon Caetano Veloso. Tickets start at US$40.

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