Officially open to the public in 2006, Inhotim has become one of the top museums to be visited worldwide. Combining botanical and art collections, the institute includes works by modern and contemporary artists such as Adriana Varejão, Yayoi Kusama, Olafur Eliasson, Miguel Rio Branco, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark and many others.
Set in Brumadinho, a municipality of 35,000 inhabitants, Inhotim is located approximately 50 km from Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais. Its remote location requires one to travel to get there, an act of peregrination in the name of art. This expedition feels like a moment of preparation, a transition between the chaotic urban centre and the isolated natural retreat. Once you get there, you feel you have reached a sacred and long awaited destination.
Inhotim’s beauty is a sum of three elements – landscape, art and architecture. The site is breath-taking. Along the garden paths, there are special spots for the scenic contemplation. These paths connect the art sculptures and installations through the terrain to the art pavilions, where temporary and permanent exhibitions are displayed. These buildings take advantage of the creative freedom and small scale to innovate in terms of architecture and design.
The beauty of Hugo França’s design does not go unnoticed. There are 98 of his furniture pieces scattered throughout the garden. França spent 15 years living in Trancoso, where he discovered the ‘pequi-vinagreiro’ tree, a native species of Bahia’s Atlantic Forest, seldomly used in furniture design due to its wood’s irregularities. From the unearthed roots, hollow trunks and tree branches, França designed a unique set of furniture, extremely striking and rare.
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has her “Narcissus Garden” (2009) on permanent display at Inhotim. The installation consists of a great number of metallic spheres, convex mirrors that allow the visitors to dwell at their own reflections. This work makes a reference to the myth of Narcissus, who became enchanted by his own reflection and drowned as he dived into the lake after it. Even though the spheres are the central element of the piece, its relationship with the lake and the surroundings brings a different layer to the composition, resembling the traditional Japanese gardens. The spheres’ positions and appearances vary according to the weather conditions, emphasizing nature’s influence over the installation. Kusama’s work incites an awareness of what is around as well as a moment of introspection.
Hélio Oiticica, Magic Square #5 (1977) A “square” can both be a rectangular shape where the 4 sides have the same length and an urban space with a similar form. In his work Magic Square #5 , Hélio Oiticica makes use of these both definitions. It is one of six pieces belonging to a series entitled “Penetrables”, all of which were built after the artist’s death, in 1980. He developed technical drawings, diagrams and samples detailing how the construction of these modules should be. The result is a colourful space ideal for social use and permanence. It is a study on space occupation, the influence of colour on a spatial scale and its relationship with the natural surroundings. This work embodies Oiticica’s pursuit of bringing art closer to real life, a concept which is also evident in ‘Cosmococas’, another pavilion in Inhotim. ‘Cosmococas’ consists of a sequence of different rooms, each one offering a singular experience where the visitor can interact directly with the artwork, either by diving into a swimming pool, lying on a hammock, listening to music or simply by sanding their nails.
Cildo Meirelles – Inmensa(1982-2002) Sculpture in stainless steel. In Cildo’s piece, the same element is replicated in multiple scales, thus establishing distinct relationships between the components and with the surrounding. The geometric composition alludes to concepts that go beyond form, as highlighted by the title “Inmensa”, latin term for in/on the table. ‘Inmensa’ also resembles the Portuguese word for immense – ‘imensa’. It is worth noticing that the sculpture inverts a structural logic, since the smaller elements sustain the larger ones. This can be interpreted as a metaphor for political, economic and social structures.
Amílcar de Castro – Gigante Dobrada(2001) Sculpture in stainless steel. Amilcar de Castro’s ‘folded giant’ portrays a geometric form enclosed in itself. With this folding act, a single metal sheet generates a spaciality, with an interior and exterior. A two-dimensional object acquires spatial characteristics.
Olafur Eliasson – Viewing Machine (2001) Danish artist Olafur Eliasson is well-known for his research in light, colours and reflections. In his ‘viewing machine’, the artist has created a kaleidoscope through which the visitors can observe the view. Through this instrument, we see Brumadinho’s landscape with a unique regard, appreciating new points of view and distorted elements.
Chris Burden – Beam Drop (2008) This is a site-specific piece built with steel beams literally dropped into a pool of wet concrete. After the performance and the drying of the concrete, the beams remained in place as a giant structure.
The video below shows how was this process:
Troca-Troca – Jarbas Lopes (2002) (translation: switch-switch) 3 coloured Volkswagen Beetles, with their parts switched among them, travelled from Rio de Janeiro to Curitiba in 2002. On the way, they gathered stories, experiences, and memories. In 2007, the beetles took the road again – this time from Belo Horizonte to Brumadinho. The beetles are currently parked in Inhotim, yet they are impermanent for there is always the possibility of going on another trip. It is a collective work with a transitory, ephemeral and playful character.
True Rouge Gallery
Paulo Orsini is the architect who designed the True Rouge Gallery, the first pavilion to be built in Inhotim. It houses Tunga’s beautiful piece “True Rouge” (1997). The architecture follows some of the modern movement’s premisses, such as ‘promenade architecturale’ through the meandering access walkway; the pilotis which reveals the structure and shelters the balcony, the free facade with large glass panels which allow the observation of Tunga’s art piece from the exterior, and a reflecting pool that leaves an unobstructive perspective of the object from a distance.
Adriana Varejão Pavilion
Designed by Rodrigo Cerviño Lopez, the pavilion housing Adriana Varejão’s work has become one of Inhotim’s postcards. The construction is partially buried into a slope while the other end is cantilevered. The entrance to the gallery is through this opening under the cantilever. Inside, the circulation paths are not separated into corridors, but rather integrated in the exhibition rooms. This solution offers the visitor multiple points of view over the artwork and the space, even when in transitioning from one room to the next. This continuous path starts outside, on a walkway over the reflecting pool, goes into the building, through the exhibition rooms and comes to an end at the roof terrace.
The institute has a strong focus on the renewal of its collection. There are the permanent and site-specific pieces, yet the temporary exhibitions are changed on a regular basis and occasionally a new pavilion is built.
Inhotim provides the visitors intellectual marvel and, at the same time, a moment of rest. As we return home to our busy lives, we come back light-hearted and with a desire to revisit Inhotim many other times.