Inhotim: Unexpected Fusion of Botanical Garden and Art

Recently, as we were driving through Minas Gerais, we stopped for fuel. The owner of the station came up to chat. He spoke good English and asked a lot of questions about our life on the road. I gave him our card, and received an email from him the same day. He knew we were headed for Ouro Preto and suggested a sight ‘not to miss’:

I would suggest not to miss a fantastic place close to Belo Horizonte, the open air museum of modern art of INHOTIM. Look at the internet for www.inhotim.org.br
It’s one of top attractions in Brazil even if you are not an art buff, the place is so beautiful, so unexpected, so amazing. It would be a pity to drive along without visiting. It’s not close to the road, but you are not in a hurry anyway. [Marcos]

Inhotim Amilcar de Castro – Gigante dobrada: this sculpture is a great example of the fusion of art and botanical garden

Inhotim Amilcar de Castro – Gigante dobrada: this sculpture is a great example of the fusion of art and botanical garden

We did some research, including asking another Brazilian that we met. His opinion was also that it is beautiful and ‘not to miss’, and he mentioned ‘contemporary art’ and ‘botanical’. Our interest was piqued. We decided to make the detour to visit, but were still unsure just what we were going to see.

In my mind, I saw something like the Pablo Atchugarry sculpture park we had happened upon in Uruguay . But this place is so much more. It has art galleries, sculptures in the open air, lagoons, and unusual resting places. All of it is set in an enormous botanical garden. This is Inhotim! (in-yo-tcheem)

This is Inhotim – lagoon, artwork, botanic garden

This is Inhotim – lagoon, artwork, botanic garden

Mining magnate, Bernado de Mello Paz, is the mind and the money behind it. His friend, the famous Brazilian landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx, designed the park. Currently there are 140Ha to explore, but apparently Paz has plans that involve a much larger area.
“This is a project to last 1,000 years” [Paz, New York Times interview 2012 ]

At the entrance we stopped to ask for information. We were given a map and offered a ticket for transportation. Since there were no English speakers available, and we were unsure what transportation we would get for 25 Reals – the average price for a restaurant main course – we chose to take the map and walk. The attendant told us that it would take 2 days to see everything the park had to offer! We didn’t really understand this until our visit was over.

So, map in hand, we wandered off to explore. We started with the pink route and ventured into the yellow. After a lunch break we followed the orange path. We realised that the transportation by golf cart to the outlying areas would have been a good investment. We just couldn’t walk that far in the time we had.

Inhotim map: it is posted throughout the park

Inhotim map: it is posted throughout the park

This is a part of what we saw, and only a small part of what there is to be seen.

Galleries at Inhotim

There are currently 23 galleries open to the public – unless they are closed for installing new exhibitions (there was a list of 3 displayed at the entrance). Most hold permanent exhibitions, one gallery usually dedicated to one artist. The spaces are large and normally contain just one work – or related pieces. We were impressed by the way the galleries blend into landscape, or are hidden behind dense vegetation.


Galeria Praҫa

This gallery combined outdoor and indoor areas to showcase several different artists

Marcius Galan – Imóvel/Instável (Immobile/Unstable)

A series of weights interlinked by steel cables and wooden slats – the object of this construction is to balance a 10 Centavo coin on its edge.

John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres – Rodoviário de Brumadinho (Brumadinho bus station)

This shows part of one of the two sculptural murals, exhibited on the exterior walls of this gallery. The artists often draw their characters from the local community – in this case they used people from Brumadinho, the area surrounding Inhotim – some of them employees at the site.

Inhotim Galeria Praҫa: Marcius Galan – Imóvel/Instável

Inhotim Galeria Praҫa: Marcius Galan – Imóvel/Instável

Inhotim Galeria Praҫa: John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres – Brumadinho bus station - sculptured wall art

Inhotim Galeria Praҫa: John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres – Brumadinho bus station

 
Janet Cardiff – Forty Part Motet

We didn’t photograph this 40 track audio installation. It features the performance of a choral work from 16th century composer, Thomas Tallis. The artist has replaced each voice with an audio speaker – 40 of them placed in a large circle. In the middle are chairs to sit and absorb the whole sound, or you can wander from speaker to speaker and listen to the beauty of the individual parts. An unusual piece of art, but it left a lasting impression on me.


Galeria Cildo Meireles

A gallery with three spaces dedicated to one artist.

Red Shift

A room totally furnished in red objects, including inside cupboards and a refrigerator.
We left our shoes at the door – to protect the red carpet. Once you have looked around and then looked again, you are drawn to leave the room, following a red stain on a concrete floor, into complete darkness. Then there is a dim light ahead. As you get closer, (hoping there is nothing to trip over) you reach a white wash basin. The tap is on and red liquid runs freely down the drain.
It is a very strange sensory experience – art to feel with more than just your eyes.
The darkness was so complete that I saw several people coming out using the flashlight on their phones.

Inhotim gallery of Cildo Meireles: Red Shift – a room totally furnished in red objects

Inhotim gallery of Cildo Meireles: Red Shift – a room totally furnished in red objects

Através (Through)

A 3-d collage on a base of shattered glass: shower curtain, prison bars, cyclone fencing, razor wire, window blind, garden trellis – just some of the materials and objects, which are commonly used for building barriers.

Através and its obstacles allude to the barriers of life itself and to our wish – not always entirely clear – to overcome them.

Glove Trotter

This piece covers the floor of a dimly lit room. At first it looked a bit like a lunar landscape. Then, as you look more closely, you recognise some of the shapes under the mesh – everyday spheres of different sizes, from a marble to a basketball.

On the one hand, it harks back to the ancient metal structures used in medieval armour; on the other, it lends the sculpture the futuristic aspect of a lunar landscape.

Inhotim gallery of Cildo Meireles: Através - A 3-d collage of everyday materials that form barriers, on a base of shattered glass

Inhotim gallery of Cildo Meireles: Através – A 3-d collage of everyday materials that form barriers, on a base of shattered glass

Inhotim gallery of Cildo Meireles: Glove Trotter - everyday spheres of different sizes, overlaid by steel mesh

Inhotim gallery of Cildo Meireles: Glove Trotter – everyday spheres of different sizes, overlaid by steel mesh

 

Galeria Adriana Varejão

This gallery is dedicated to the work of one of Paz’s ex-wives. The concrete bunker style of the gallery, with a reflecting pool, reminded us of Niemeyer.

Her work is varied, but all incorporates tiles. Travelling in Brazil, we have noticed the great love affair the people have with tile work, so I guess this should be no surprise.

Celacanto Provoca Maremoto

This work (Coelacanth Provokes Seaquakes, in English) is a mural of blue and white, baroque and Portuguese tile art.

…the large tiles allude to the haphazard and casual manner in which broken tiles were replaced in baroque murals. Thus, seaquake and the angelical features depicted in Varejão’s paintings make up this exacting architecture of chaos…

O Colecionador

This oil on canvas continues with the tile motif, but the use of light and shading makes you feel like you could walk straight into this strange collection of rooms and doorways.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

From the roof of the gallery you can see a beautiful reflection of the tropical garden in the pool, which surrounds the gallery.


Galpão (warehouse)

William Kentridge – I’m not me, the horse is not mine

Conceived for the 16th Sidney Biennial (2008) and having participated in important solo shows by the artist since then, the work is now being presented for the first time in Brazil, occupying one of the largest exhibition spaces at Inhotim.

There are 8 screens around the sides of this large space, showing short videos in a loop. The video installation is based on The Nose, a classic story from Russian Nikolai Gogol. Kentridge wrote his own version of the opera based on the story, and these video snippets came from that process. The title of this work is an expression used by Russian peasants to deny responsibility.

Inhotim Galpão: William Kentridge – I’m not me, the horse is not mine

Inhotim Galpão: William Kentridge – I’m not me, the horse is not mine

 

Art in the Inhotim garden

Throughout the botanical garden there are 22 diverse works of art. As you wander the pathways, you sometimes see them in the distance, and at other times you turn a corner and are confronted with something interesting, wonderful or perplexing.

Paul McCarthy – Boxhead

This bronze sculpture captured my attention – but I just don’t know what it’s trying to say to me.

Hélio Oiticica – Magic Square #5, De Luxe

Interestingly, this work was not produced by the artist. Rather, it was constructed after his death from detailed plans and descriptions of the conceived piece.

Olafur Eliasson – Viewing Machine

The hexagonal viewing tube (shown at the end of the post) was created using 6 mirrors to reflect the reflections, again and again. You can look through and multiply the view, or your companion’s face.

Edgard de Souza – Sem título (bronze 5)

An unusual series of bronze sculptures – the bodies appear to be life-like, but they all lack the identifying feature of the head. When you look more closely you see that there are other inconsistencies to notice.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Yayoi Kusama – Narcissus Garden

500 steel balls floating in a rooftop water garden.
How many reflections of yourself can you see at once? I’m guessing that’s where the narcissism comes in. And then there is the sound of the balls, clinking against each other, as the breeze causes them to gently float in slow motion. This artwork is in a state of constant change.

Inhotim Yayoi Kusama – Narcissus Garden: 500 steel balls floating in a rooftop water garden.

Inhotim Yayoi Kusama – Narcissus Garden: 500 steel balls floating in a rooftop water garden.

 

Botanical garden

Inhotim’s gardens are unique, with rare beauty and a landscaping design that exploits all the aesthetic possibilities of the botanical collection. [website quote]

But the collection itself is also important. The Inhotim Botanical Garden is recognised as such in Brazil, and has the largest number of unique species of all of Brazil’s botanical gardens. Around 1400 species of palms makes its one of the major collections in the world. They also provide substantial help with conservation, by propagating threatened species from around the world, and making them available for reintroduction into their native environment.

The site also includes 7 thematic garden areas – 2 of them dedicated to orchids. We were lucky enough to find an abundance of these beautiful, and seemingly delicate, flowers to photograph.

Inhotim Botanical Garden: Orchids from the Vandário garden

Inhotim Botanical Garden: Orchids from the Vandário garden

In this tropical garden setting, we were pleased to find many plants familiar to us from home. But we were also fascinated by the unusual among the diversity. Like the walking palm, so named because of its stilt-like roots.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Most of the pathways we walked were paved, and wandered in and out in the semi-formal gardens. Some wider paved roadways are shared with the electric carts which provide transport to the outer areas of the park. But there are also unpaved pathways through natural forest – part of a remnant of the Atlantic Forest which is being conserved on the land surrounding the park.

There is not much attention focused on the local fauna here, but we did encounter the now familiar tiny marmosets. They appeared to have no fear of all the people pointing cameras at them.

Inhotim Botanical Garden: Tiny marmosets came close and posed for photographs

Inhotim Botanical Garden: Tiny marmosets came close and posed for photographs

 

Seating areas

We were fascinated by the seating areas scattered around the park. They come in all shapes and sizes and are works of art in their own right. They were simply carved from a single tree – no joints, nails, screws or glue needed. Not all of them were really comfortable, but they did look amazing.

Inhotim resting areas: the benches are carved from a full tree

Inhotim resting areas: the benches are carved from a full tree

 

Our impressions and recommendations about Inhotim

After spending the best part of a day in this place we felt like we had only scratched the surface. It’s a situation where too much nature and art is just not enough. Looking at the parking lot you would think that the park is really busy, especially for mid-week, but inside it never felt really crowded. There is so much space to move around in. Of course, the school groups rushing by always made their presence felt.
Inhotim will appeal to both art enthusiasts and nature lovers. So, if you are one of these, visit the park and it may just ignite an interest in the other.
At the end of the day we felt more exhilarated than exhausted. Had we not begun to feel the pressure of time, with just a few weeks left in Brazil, we would probably have returned for another day; wandering through galleries and chancing upon more works of art, while enjoying the natural environment of one of Brazil’s most important botanical gardens.

Inhotim parking lot: it looks busy, but the park didn’t feel crowded

Inhotim parking lot: it looks busy, but the park didn’t feel crowded

 

Inhotim Facts

Current park 140 Hectares
Altitude from 725-970m – not too much up and down!
Open Tuesday to Sunday and public holidays – Wednesday free
Golf cart transport – hop-on-hop-off – free to people with special needs +1 companion
Paths – paved or dirt – some used by golf carts
Food and drink – restaurants, cafes and snack bars – from expensive gourmet to takeaway – note: some are only open on weekends and public holidays
Website for up-to-date information: www.inhotim.org.br

140 Hectares of lush botanical gardens or an open-air gallery of contemporary art? INHOTIM in Minas Gerais (Brazil) interestingly combines conservation of the threatened plant species with outdoor and indoor exhibits, from sculptures to sound & video installations to full-room-sized artworks.

PIN THIS for later!

 

Note: all descriptions and quotes about the art works were sourced from the onsite information signs, unless otherwise credited.

Inhotim Olafur Eliasson – Viewing Machine: just like a giant kaleidoscope

Inhotim Olafur Eliasson – Viewing Machine: just like a giant kaleidoscope

If this post inspires you somehow to visit Brazil, we recommend Michael Palin: BRAZIL
Michael Palin‘s book ‘Brazil’
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Find Michael Palin‘s ‘Brazil’ on AMAZON !
[ Affiliate link – but you won’t pay a Cent more. Thank you for your support! ]
 

Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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4 Responses

  1. Ruth says:

    The area covered by Inhotim seems huge. It reminds me a bit of Rio’s botanical garden (minus the art). It took me almost an entire day to check out the sights inside’s Rio’s garden. This one seems way bigger. I can understand why you guys were pressed for time. At least, you experienced a good part of it.

    • Yasha says:

      We would have liked to visit the botanical garden in Rio, but had problems really seeing that city because we couldn’t get around easily in our Berta. It would also have been good to have time to spend 2 or 3 days at Inhotim. Despite the fact that we travel slowly, sometimes we have to move before we really want to. Pity countries impose visa restrictions, isn’t it?

  2. Anda says:

    I kind of envy you guys for traveling at length through South America. This is such a fantastic continent! I’ve only seen some parts of Argentina and Uruguay, but would definitely like to explore it more. Inhotim is indeed an interesting combination between and art gallery and a botanical garden and your pictures managed to catch the atmosphere of the place perfectly. It’s great reading about your adventures.

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Anda. It is certainly a great way to explore a continent this big. And no matter how much we’ve seen, there is always more to explore. Inhotim is special – we recommend it to anyone visiting Brazil.

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