In a first on this blog, I am writing about a place instead of sharing a story or observation. INHOTIM, (pronounced IN-YO-TCHEEN), is a world-class outdoor contemporary art museum and certified botanical garden located in the Brazilian countryside about 1 hour from Belo Horizonte. INHOTIM, one journalist wrote, is the “best place you’ve never heard of,” and, I agree.
Bernardo Paz, a mining tycoon who sold his company to a Chinese consortium for $1.2B USD in 2010, founded INHOTIM in 2006. With 346 acres, a $12.5 million USD annual operating budget, more than 1000 employees, 4500 plant species, and approximately 500 works by 100 artists from 30 countries in over 24 galleries, INHOTIM is unlike any other museum or botanical garden.
My day exploring INHOTIM was immersive, thought provoking, exciting, and full with wonder. This day was especially memorable for 2 reasons. First, I was unaware of the existence of this outdoor contemporary art park some have likened to art’s Disneyland. And, second, as I walked, looked, listened, touched, and connected with INHOTIM’s nature and art, my senses were engaged in ways that art had never before enabled me to experience.
Leaving INHOTIM I was so energized I spent the next few hours reading everything available online about the place. A comment from art curator Beverly Adams in the 2012 New York Times article linked below helped me understand why my day at INHOTIM was especially powerful. She said:
“The amount of space given to single artist projects is unparalleled, as is the way visitors travel from building to building, refreshing their senses, being in nature.”
The time to pause in nature for conscious and unconscious reflection on the art allowed me to focus more intensely on each installation. This focus, which permits total absorption of the art, is less possible in a space where only a few feet separate each piece. After INHOTIM, visiting traditional art museums feels more tiring and my interactions with the art feel less complete.
As a person who enjoys art but never felt strong feelings for this medium, I was amazed at how I could connect to the art and how much I enjoyed my day. I have written before about how I always visit places with the mindset that I can return if I choose to do so. INHOTIM is a place where I would enjoy spending 3 or 4 days opening my mind and heart to the ideas, feelings and experiences the park imparts on visitors.
Helpful articles for learning more:
A sampling of the natural sights in the park’s gardens and surrounding trails. There are 3 main trails in INHOTIM. Each trail is at least a few miles long and has paved sections as well as unpaved off-shoots.
The first exhibit I visited is called Folly by Valeska Soares. This audio video installation in a cool, dark pavilion projects a dancing couple onto the 10-sided gazebo accompanied by a rich musical soundtrack.
Desert Park by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster uses bus stop shelters and other urban furniture situated in a desert environment to comment on cultural nomadism.
Viewing Machine by Olafur Eliasson is a larger-than-life kaleidoscope that serves to modify our vision of the world. The views were stunning too.
Placed near one another are 3 installations, a datebook designed as a swimming pool where visitors are invited to swim; a potting shed with plant holders shaped as letters for message writing; and a series of 6 paintings commissioned for INHOTIM.
Perched on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside is Beam Drop by Chris Burden. This installation was created over 24 hours as 45m beams were dropped into 3m of wet concrete by a crane operator whom the artist was instructing. Also pictured are Beehive Bunker by Chris Burden and Elevazione by Giuseppe Penone. I sat for a while taking in the views at Beehive Bunker.
Interactive installations included galleries playing Jimi Hendrix music in rooms with hammocks, foam pits, and a pool; a maze with running water underfoot; and an opera concert. Inside some of the 20+ galleries are more traditional art installations including paintings by Brazilian artist Luiz Zerbini.
Atraves by Cildo Miereles uses everyday materials in an interactive space to comment on the barriers in life. The floor of this installation is glass pieces and visitors in closed toed shoes are invited to walk through the display. Impregnacao by the same artist is a life-size domestic scene united by red tones.
Sonic Pavillion by Doug Aiken is a 200m hole in the ground embedded with microphones that capture earth’s sounds in real time. The sound pattern is never-repeating.
Matthew Barney’s Da Lama Lamina, the most scary and disconcerting exhibit I visited, approaches the conflict between iron, war and man versus forest, plants and nature. There were no people in the space so the scale of this installation is unclear. I imagine it was 4 stories tall. The tractor wheels were at least 10 feet high.
Magic Square #5 by Helio Oiticica is a ‘square’ both in its shape and as a public space. The colors of the installation against the water and sky were eye-catching and I appreciated the reminder of the need for public spaces where people can meet others and be alone among people.
I suspect one reason INHOTIM is likened to a Disneyland is because of the careful attention to details inside the park. Maps, signage, an electric car transport system, restaurants, resting spaces, emergency equipment, shade and more make the guest experience comfortable and easy. Some of these elements, like accurate detailed maps and fire extinguishers, are common at most U.S. attractions but were sights I had not seen in a while.