To visit the Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim(CACI) in Brumadinho in the hills of the Brazilian hinterland is an act of committed art pilgrimage. Located about 40 miles from Brazil’s third largest city, Belo Horizonte, this utopian private gallery and museum for Brazilian and international artists is composed of open-air artwork, rare fauna, and a tropical savanna botanical garden containing 3,500 species, all set in a 178-acre landscape of forest, lakes, and hills developed from proposals by landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx. But more than that, Inhotim is also a twenty-first-century Versailles for contemporary art, with more than 500 artworks by 100 artists of over 30 different nationalities presented in an outdoor art park with sculpture in the landscape and architectural pavilions.
Inaugurated in September 2004 and opened to the general public in 2006, Inhotim was created through the philanthropy of Brazilian businessman Bernardo Paz, who funded the art collection with his mining fortune. Paz started buying art in the 1980s, but the gestation of Inhotim stems from the purchase of his first contemporary piece: True Rouge (1997), an installation by Tunga, is a series of red elements—suspended glass bottles, netting, and liquids. This purchase led to Paz’s focus on large-scale installations that necessitated the construction of purpose-built galleries to exhibit the collection. The galleries developed into an institution that now employs more than 500 staff members, including the curatorial board of Allan Schwartzman, Jochen Volz, and Rodrigo Moura, who constantly monitor art fairs, galleries, and exhibitions to maintain the international context of the Inhotim collection.
The ambition and scale of the operation at Inhotim is impressive. The center’s unique capability has been to create a series of architectural pavilions to display its collection through long-term shows in museum exhibition format. Currently on extended exhibition in the Galeria Praça is Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet (2001), a sound installation of a recording of a choir performing Thomas Tallis’ Spem in Alium of 1573. Another work exhibited in a pavilion is Hélio Oiticica and Neville d’Almeida’s Cosmococa (1973), described by the artists as series of living “sensorial environments” that recreate the experience of 1960s happenings. Here visitors can relax on hammocks to watch films and listen to music.
Chris Burden’s Beam Drop Inhotim (2008)—one of Inhotim’s commissioned sculptures—uses 71 steel beams, sourced from scrap yards and showing the color, rust, and marks of previous usage. These beams were dropped in place over a period of 12 hours from a 45-meter-high crane in a haphazard vertical arrangement into a cement bed. Piscina (2009) by the Argentine artist Jorge Macchi is a magical-realist joke—a functioning swimming pool resembling an address book, complete with A–Z alphabetical tabs as steps into the water. Jarbas Lopes’s Troca-Troca (2002)—translated as “tit-for-tat” or “swapping parts”—consists of three Volkswagen Beetles whose monochromatic panels were reconfigured in a harlequin patchwork of red, yellow, and blue, and which move to different locations around the site.