Event Horizonte

Brumadinho, Brazil

Left: Eugenio Dittborn and Inhotim founder Bernardo Paz. Right: Inhotim curators Allan Schwartzman, Rodrigo Moura, and Jochen Volz. (Photos: Carol Reis)

“THE GROUND IN MINAS is so full of iron, people are literally magnetized to the place. You'll feel that at Inhotim, it’s amazing.”

Someone tripping on acid at a party for Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at the Videobrasil festival in São Paulo told me this the night before I flew to the state of Minas Gerais (General Mines). About ninety minutes outside the capital city of Belo Horizonte, mineral magnate Bernardo Paz has built (and continues to build and build) his massive contemporary art center–cum–botanical garden Shangri-La, Inhotim.

I awoke last Thursday in Belo to news that Steve Jobs had died. We were then escorted to Paz’s storied site of extravagant wealth. Somewhere near a stretch of road called Topo do Mundo, my good-natured companion asked our driver to stop for a photo and attempted to relieve himself of the cachaça that had served as his hearty welcome to Minas. An hour later we reached the dusty town of Brumadinho, and then the gates.

Inhotim hosts openings once each year, in the Brazilian spring, celebrating exhibitions in the temporary galleries (where works from the collection are on view for a minimum of two years) as well as freshly installed outdoor works and newly erected pavilions devoted to single artists. I began at Fountain Gallery, where works by Susan Hiller, Isa Genzken, Lothar Baumgarten, and Eugenio Dittborn joined a Steve McQueen film already on view to collectively comment on the perceptions and mediations of exotic cultures (from tribal to consumer). At the nearby Lake Gallery, an elaborate rain-catching sculpture made by Bahian artist Marepe hugged the building housing a video by Pinchuk Prize winner Cinthia Marcelle, and a outsize, cartoonish room by Thomas Hirschhorn rammed full of textual and tactile tools for resistance.

On my way to Giuseppe Penone’s Elevazione, a trompe l’oeil bronze sculpture of a tree suspended in the air by four living ones, I caught the museum's assistant curator Júlia Rebouças, who filled me in on some of the upcoming projects: Anish Kapoor, Pipilotti Rist, more Eliasson.

Left: Vinicius Spricigo and artist Isaac Julien. Right: Artist Cinthia Marcelle. (Photos: Kevin McGarry)

Lunch was an epic buffet of fruits, meats, farofa, and sweets. Whether in reference to crispy pork parts or a gooey caramel pudding, people resoundingly offered the advice “Try it, it’s Mineira.” Between courses I received a warm welcome from Paz himself, a lean man with a white mane whose chill demeanor is part mad scientist, part Jerry Garcia.

Afterward I met Marcelle, a Belo Horizonte local. She had been to Inhotim many times but could confirm that the magic never wears out. I told her it might if it rained. She retorted, “But it always rains here! Whenever there is an opening, it rains!”

Sure enough, as I set off to ascend the hill leading to Doug Aitken’s and Matthew Barney’s pavilions, sans golf cart, I felt drops. I hitched a ride with the first vehicle to pass, ferrying none other than Isaac Julien, who was traveling with São Paulo writer Vinicius Spricigo. The precipitation was a false alarm, and while taking in the panoramic view inside Aiken’s structure, Julien and I pondered the enormity of the place and its rapidly growing reputation outside Brazil––only to be shushed by a vigilant attendant who reminded us we were disturbing the gnawing earth sounds miked some 650 feet below us.

Left: The Tom Zé concert. Right: Artist Rivane Neuenschwander. (Photos: Carol Reis)

Later I ran into Videobrasil’s Solange Farkas, who asked if I was staying for Tom Zé’s concert. Unsure of who the famous Zé was, I received a quick lesson on the South American icon of Tropicália, both a contemporary of Caetano Veloso’s in the 1960s and a collaborator of David Byrne’s in the 1990s.

The seventy-five-year-old sang, danced, curtsied, and humped the microphone stand, lighting up a stage ensconced in palms. As dusk fell, I caught sight of Paz, perched with his wife and daughter atop a steep knoll overlooking the crowd. Even with a bit of a running start, I needed a hand making it to the top. “Look,” he gestured, “now everyone from town is arriving for the music.” They were, and a few minutes later I saw the Paz family bobbing in the mix. After at least four generations of autograph seekers dissipated, us stragglers found our cars waiting at the gates, and then took off to cause the biggest, and perhaps only, traffic jam of the year in the area.