Inhotim Institute: Brazil’s Open-air Museum and Botanical Garden

When one thinks of Brazil, it is hard not to think of its exuberant nature, the South American country being synonymous with a unique geographical landscape and sprawling flora. That unparalleled landscape and flora are at the very core of the Inhotim Institute, a blend of arts park and botanical garden located in the Southwest region of Brazil, in the landlocked state of Minas Gerais (about one hour drive from the state’s capital, Belo Horizonte).

What started as an ambitious vision (all the way back in 1980’s) by mining businessman and avid art collector Bernardo de Mello Paz is today one of the world’s largest open-air museums in the world, with cutting edge contemporary installations and sculptures nestled amidst an encyclopedic sampling of Brazil’s diverse vegetation.

Opened officially in 2006, the park encompasses an area of almost 2 million acres amidst the tropical savanna of Cerrado and Atlantic Forest, with about half of that total being designated preservation areas and a significant portion marked as a national natural heritage site. Overall, nature has been left mostly untouched, with just over 140 hectares open to the public. Scattered throughout this public area is a collection of around 700 artworks by some of the top Brazilian contemporary artists alongside global big names, positioning Brazilian artists on par with its international colleagues from nearly 40 different countries. Among the artists featured ( truly a who is who of the art world) are Tunga, Yayoi Kusama, Adriana Varejão, Anish Kapoor, Cildo Meireles,  Thomas HirschhornDominique Gonzalez-FoersterSteve McQueen, Dan Graham , Helio Oiticica and many others.

Similarly, the botanical garden has also been equitably curated, its over 4.3 thousand rare botanic species having its origins in all continents. Organized in some areas thematically and in others in its wildlife like organic order, the gardens offer both the option of a contemplative experience or if preferred a more active hiking mode. Either way, the gardens are an experience as engaging and visually stimulating as the art on view. Attesting to the serious work done by the Institute’s Educational Center Burkle Marx, in 2021 the Botanic Gardens Conservation International recognized Inhotim’s work on environmental preservation research.


By Paul Clemence

Featured photo: Inhotim Institute, Minas Gerais, Brazil, photo by Paul Clemence

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