Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Visit to Pampulha and Inhotim, Minas Gerais, Brasil

The past two days have really shown me more of Belo Horizonte than I have seen on previous trips to the city. Yesterday I was in Pampulha, a wealthy neighborhood of Belo that has more of a suburban vibe. We went to look at several buildings of note that encircle a man-made lake, of particular note are: Igreja Sao Fancisco de Assis (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi), Museu De Arte Da Pampulha (Pampulha Museum of Art), Iate Clube (Yacht Club) and Caso Do Baile (Ballroom House). When I return home I will add photographs to show the buildings, artwork and landscaping all of which were meticulously thought out in advance and showcase Oscar Niemeyer (architect/designer) and Roberto Burle-Marx (landscape architect/designer) genius. Oscar Niemeyer is Brasil~s most celebrated architect and is still alive and working. He celebrates his 100th birthday this year. To acknowledge his contributions, the Brasilian government has placed a statue of a man (presumably of Sr. Niemeyer) with a large red balloon in front of buildings he designed. Belo Horizonte is awash with Niemeyer buildings and any fan of his should certainly consider making a stop here if only to see Igreja Sao Fancisco de Assis.

Today, Thanksgiving, I ventured about 30km south of Belo Horizonte, to the small town of Brumadinho. Brumadinho happens to have a rather extraordinary contemporary art museum & gardens. The more than 85 acres of Inhotim contain approximatly a half dozen 1-story buildings to showcase their semi-permanent collection of modern artwork (the collection changes every 2 years); many eye-catching outdoor sculptures; and a delicious restaurant. By far, my favorite art installation is from the Canadian artist Janet Cardiff. 40 Part Motet, originally housed in the Tate Museum in London, the exhibit is now at Inhotim. The installation is set in a sterile white room with chairs in the center. Surrounding the chairs are 40 speakers aligned in a large circle clustered in 8 separate groupings of 5 speakers set side-by-side. Each speaker represents a single voice in a church choir.

Although the drive is a bit remote; it was worth the trip.

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