Art and na­ture in­ter­twined at mas­sive Brazil­ian park

Malta Independent - - FEATURE -

Smack in the mid­dle of lush eu­ca­lyp­tus forests in Brazil’s heart­land, In­ho­tim Park of­fers visi­tors a mix of sen­sa­tions rarely com­bined into one ex­pe­ri­ence: art and na­ture.

With more than 700 works of art by more than 100 artists, there is plenty to con­tem­plate. And be­cause those works are spread out across 400 acres, in a for­est with over 5,000 species of plants, there is plenty of time to en­joy na­ture, or re­flect on a work you just saw, while go­ing to the next.

The park is so sprawl­ing that many peo­ple take golf carts from one in­stal­la­tion to the next — and even such rides take at least five min­utes.

“Speed is the en­emy of good taste and per­fec­tion,” said min­ing ty­coon and park founder Bernardo Paz in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Associated Press. “The beauty here is more or less the ideal of hap­pi­ness.”

In­ho­tim (pro­nounced IN-YOTCHEEM) has be­come one of the most im­por­tant art cen­tres in Latin Amer­ica since open­ing 10 years ago. It has reached in­ter­na­tional ac­claim thanks to the mix of na­ture and ex­hi­bi­tions of glob­ally known artists like Chris Bur­den, Adri­ana Vare­jao and Cildo Meire­les.

Some of the most pop­u­lar dis­plays in­clude a sus­pended bronze tree made by Ital­ian Giuseppe Penone and a pavil­ion where visi­tors can hear sounds of the earth from 200 me­ters down via mi­cro­phones, a work cre­ated by Amer­i­can Doug Aitken. There is also a braid-shaped piece by Tunga that was the first work by a con­tem­po­rary Brazil­ian artist shown at the Lou­vre mu­seum in Paris.

“This is a very spe­cial place. I was here be­fore and this time I brought my girl­friend,” said Hum­berto Nogueira, 25, who works in ad­ver­tis­ing in Sao Paulo. “Every­one should come.”

Two mil­lion peo­ple have vis­ited the park in the last 10 years. But de­spite its pop­u­lar­ity, park ad­min­is­tra­tors worry about sus­tain­abil­ity go­ing for­ward.

Brazil, Latin Amer­ica’s largest econ­omy, is mired in its worst re­ces­sion in decades, which means Brazil­ians have less money to travel — even in their own coun­try. The park’s off-the-beat­en­track lo­ca­tion, 667 kilo­me­tres north of Rio de Janeiro, cuts both ways: the re­mote­ness makes it both at­trac­tive and rel­a­tively hard to get to. And the up­keep of the park, which in­cludes 1,000 staff mem­bers, is ex­pen­sive (park au­thor­i­ties de­clined to say how much).

Look­ing for new sources of rev­enue, the park has be­gun ex­per­i­ment­ing with rent­ing it­self out. The first glimpse of that came ear­lier this month, when In­ho­tim opened a space for in­die cul­ture fes­ti­val MECA and al­lowed hun­dreds of peo­ple to spend the night in their tents. The event, which or­ga­niz­ers said was a suc­cess, in­cluded Grammy-award win­ner Cae­tano Veloso.

A lux­ury ho­tel is also be­ing built in­side the park. Cur­rently, there are only a few ho­tels in the clos­est city, Bru­mad­inho. Many visi­tors pre­fer to stay in Belo Hor­i­zonte, Brazil’s sixth largest city, 37 miles 60 kilo­me­tres away.

There are also plans to build a theatre, an am­phithe­atre and a new pavil­ion. Also pro­posed: stand-alone lofts so visi­tors can en­joy a serene overnight stay, or even rent out a unit long-term.

An­to­nio Grassi, the park’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, says they also want to host de­bates and fa­cil­i­tate in­no­va­tive art projects. But mak­ing changes “has been a very tough fight,” he said. “Our ca­pac­ity to draw spon­sor­ship of pri­vate com­pa­nies has been af­fected dur­ing this cri­sis. Our chal­lenge is to keep look­ing for al­ter­na­tives.”

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