Institution needs solutions to continue in full operation. In the photo, the sculpture "Inmensa", by Cildo Meireles. (photo: Tiberius France)

In a very difficult year in the visual arts scene, marked by censorship and idiotic protests, 2017 ended with bad news: the fall of patron Bernardo Paz, creating uncertainty in the future of Inhotim.

The news does not really deserve to be considered a surprise in the history of Brazilian art, since all the important initiatives that originated in the private sector did not sustain themselves peacefully after the death, fall or bankruptcy of their creator.

This was the case with the São Paulo Museum of Art, Masp, created by Assis Chateaubriand, and the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art and the São Paulo Biennial, both created by the desire of Ciccillo Matarazzo, to cite two cases from São Paulo. All these institutions have gone through and are going through periods of financial or ethical turmoil, without a structure that guarantees them a permanent life.

At the root of these crises lies the same difficulty now faced by Inhotim: a portrait of its creator, Bernardo Paz, how will it be possible to guarantee continuity to such a personal project?

Installation Narcissus garden, Yayoi Kusama
Installation Narcissus garden, Yayoi Kusama, 1966. (photo:

The businessman's commitment to the place seemed unequivocal. Inhotim was inaugurated in 2004, with a bang, with chartered planes to take the 700 guests to the space where guides, dressed as if they were in Jurassic Park, served sparkling wine in abundance. At first, the park was criticized for exhibiting artists seen in any international collection and unrelated to the place. Gradually, Paz changed the meaning of the place, focusing on Brazilian production, reinforcing the ties between art and nature, inviting artists to create works in dialogue with the exuberance of the context.

The inauguration of Claudia Andujar's pavilion two years ago can be seen as the culmination of this process. There is no artist who better expresses the relationship between the environment and art than she and her pavilion, not only deserved but necessary, in the face of the massacre that the Indians continue to suffer in Brazil.

However, like the patrons who left the scene and left the institutions adrift, the absence of Paz will be felt in the short term. After all, a resident of the park, a permanent fixture at lunch at the Tambaqui restaurant, he guaranteed a quality standard that will hardly be maintained.

Inhotim is already an Oscip, a civil organization of public interest, but without a patron worthy of Paz, the park's development will hardly be guaranteed. The fragility of the Museums of Modern Art, both in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the irregular trajectory of Masp and the constant crises of the Bienal indicate that leaving the best space for contemporary art in Brazil in the hands of the private sector is foolhardy.

In the city of São Paulo, it is undeniable, the institution with the most solid trajectory and consistency is the Pinacoteca do Estado, despite its recent semi-privatization, being transformed into SO (social organization). The Pinacoteca, in its more than one hundred years, had important directors such as Aracy Amaral, Fabio Magalhães, Emanoel Araújo, Marcelo Araújo and Ivo Mesquita, having a policy of acquiring collections and exhibitions without paradigms. The Pinacoteca hosted an important debate on constructive art when Amaral was director, opened up to performances during Magalhães' administration, conquered a massive audience with Emanoel on the occasion of Rodin's exhibition and so on. Now, with the German Jochen Volz at the forefront, it opens a new, more international phase, which was necessary.

The Lygia Pape Gallery
The Lygia Pape Gallery, installed in Inhotim. (photo:

However, it is undeniable that what Inhotim became the great reference of Brazilian art in the country, with artists that are not properly seen in the rest of the circuit, such as Cildo Meireles, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Miguel Rio Branco, Tunga, Adriana Varejão and Andujar, to name those with permanent pavilions.

And this permanence does not deserve to be rooted in the patrimonialist vision of the Brazilian elite, which always mixes private and public with ulterior motives.

Until now, Inhotim's management has sought to maintain the sponsorships already achieved, but art institutions such as Inhotim, in order to survive with dignity, need the support of consistent government policies.

In this sense, it seems astonishing that the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Ibram) has not had some kind of visible action to make the maintenance of Inhotim viable. Both he and the government of Minas Gerais need to enter this debate decisively, or the opening of the site, with the guides dressed as in a prehistoric park, will only have been the harbinger of a disastrous end.


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