At Inhotim Institute of Contemporary Art and Botanical Garden, check out Yayoi Kusama's Narcissus Garden installation. // © 2014 Flickr user elderc
Feature image (above): The Saint Francis of Assisi church is a part of the Pampulha complex located in the Pampulha region of Belo Horizonte. // © 2014 Flickr user dak1b
Brazil may be known for its sports, but the country has extraordinary art offerings, too. Discover the best of Brazil’s local and international art and architecture scene at any of these spots.
In the middle of the Amazon city of Manaus is the beautiful and eclectic Amazon Theatre (Teatro Amazonas) opera house. Designed in a Belle Epoque style, the theater features an assortment of hand-selected elements from many European countries, including 200 Italian chandeliers, steel from England, a painted curtain and furniture from Paris, walls from Scotland and 36,000 yellow, green and blue ceramic tiles representing the Brazilian flag. When synthetic rubber caused the demise of natural rubber, the rubber barons — who commissioned the building — left the city, instigating the discontinuation of the theater. After 90 years of cessation, the theater has been revived. Visit during the annual Amazonas Opera Festival or catch a performance by the Amazonas Philharmonic orchestra.
City of Brasilia
Shaped like the wings of a bird or an airplane, the city of Brasilia was founded to be the new capital of Brazil in 1960. Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and urban planner Lucio Costa was to create a modern urban city. Architecture enthusiasts can marvel at the National Congress, the Supreme Court, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Presidential Palace.
Church of Saint Francis of Assisi
“When you design, you have the mountains of Rio in your eyes,” said world-renowned French architect Le Corbusier to Niemeyer.
The curved form of mountains is visible in Niemeyer’s Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, a building that heavily used the curved line — a form that came to represent modern Brazilian art in the 1960s. Located in the Pampulha region of Belo Horizonte, the church is one of four buildings that make up the Pampulha complex (it also includes a dance hall, a museum of art and a tennis club). Make sure to step inside the church to view the modernist mural created by Candido Portinari, one of the most famous artists in Brazil at the time.
Inhotim Institute of Contemporary Art and Botanical Garden
Imagine a 5,000-acre site dedicated to art and botany — the Inhotim Institute of Contemporary Art and Botanical Garden (Inhotim Centro de Arte Conteporanea) in Minas Gerais is just that. Sprawled across botanical gardens are pavilions dedicated to individual artists. Getting to Inhotim is a little tricky; locals recommend staying in a town nearby and taking an inevitably bumpy hour-long car ride to the site.
When you’re there, be sure to check out Adriana Varejao’s Celacanto Provoca Maremoto, Jarbas Lopes’ Troca-Troca, Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden and Chris Burden’s Beam Drop. Los Angeles natives might be familiar with Burden’s work as he is the creator of the art installation “Urban Light” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro
The museum has been the center of many spontaneous and planned art performances, especially in the 1960s. Brazilian artist and activist Antonio Manuel once infamously stripped off his clothes and strutted around the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro (MAM) in an attempt to defend his passion-fueled ideas and principles. This art institution still maintains its reputation as an important space for art and expression for artists and the art audience.
Museum of Modern Art Sao Paulo
With a collection of more than 5,000 contemporary and modern artworks, the Museum of Modern Art Sao Paulo (Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo) is source of great artistic wealth. This glassy rectangular-shaped museum is located in Ibirapuera Park.
Visitors will find paintings by European masters hanging alongside Brazilian artists. Adjacent to the museum is the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, which famously exhibits the Sao Paulo Biennial. The biennial, which was founded in 1951, attracts artists and art lovers on an international scale to the southern part of Brazil. The 2014 biennial will run from Sept. 6 to Dec. 7.
National Museum of Fine Arts
Named a Brazilian national heritage site in 1973, the National Museum of Fine Arts in downtown Rio de Janeiro is a prestigious art institution that originally started with the art collection of the Portuguese Court. The museum’s galleries house important historical paintings, such as Victor Meirelles’ nationally famous Batalha dos Guarapes and A Primeira Missa no Brasil. The museum sits next to the Municipal Theatre (Teatro Municipal) and in front of the National Library of Brazil (Fundacao Biblioteca Nacional), the seventh largest library in the world and the largest in Latin America. Bonus tip: Another famous library in Brazil, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, will appeal to architecture-lovers with its Gothic-renaissance style.
Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum
Shaped like a UFO or a flying saucer and balanced on top of a cliff, the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi), designed by Oscar Niemeyer, offers interesting contemporary art paired with beautiful scenic views of Rio’s famed beaches and the bay. Catch a musical performance or take in art in this hub for contemporary Brazilian culture visited by locals and tourists alike.
Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo
Over a century old, the Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo is the oldest museum in Sao Paulo. Highlights in this historic space include 19th century paintings and sculptures; Brazilian Modernist artworks and drawings; and paintings by famed Brazilian artist Candido Portinari. Learn all about the Brazilian modernist movement when visiting the ‘Uma historia do Modernismo,’ a temporary exhibition upcoming in 2015.