Chatting With Bernardo Melo Paz

bernardo melo paz Inhotim

Inhotim: Allowing Contemporary Art Reaches the Underprivileged Kids

We spoke with Brazilian entrepreneur Bernardo Melo Paz – the patron of arts behind Inhotim – about his vision on supporting contemporary art in Brazil. This interview has been translated from Portuguese and edited for clarity.

Interview by: Claudia Repsold & Lianna Patch

Brazil & US Biz : What inspired you to create Inhotim?

Bernardo Melo Paz: The park was created very intuitively; it was not preconceived and it was not planned at all.During a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, I saw a very tall wall that intrigued me, and I decided to climb it to see what was on the other side. What I saw changed my life forever.

There was a beautiful lake surrounded by wonderful gardens, with many people dancing to music played by an orchestra. The garden was very light and beautiful.

At the time, I owned a farm in Brumadinho, a place near Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. In the 1980s, I founded the [Inhotim] botanical gardens, where I think the real beauty lies. After a while, I added some pavilions to enhance the garden.

Over time, I realized that all that was being created transcended individual property. Inhotim has great botanical value and an amazing collection of art, which should be affordable for people. So in 2006, we opened Inhotim to the public.

I did not start a private art collection for my friends to enjoy. My intention was always to promote education and bring art and culture to my country. I started collecting art with the intention of public exposure. Today, a team of curators, artists, and collaborators promotes new ideas and facilitates the acquisition of works of art. After all, our goal is to simplify and bring people closer to art.

Brazil & US Biz : What effect do you think Inhotim has on visitors?

Paz: Inhotim offers the possibility to showcase art in a magnificent natural environment, among manicured landscapes with an incredible variety of plants. It is unique. I do not think there is anything similar.

Inhotim has become a very special and magical place. Our visitors are so fascinated that they spend days and days here and never tire.

Art can be better appreciated and understood in an environment where the mind is relaxed and unoccupied. This magical place should be enjoyed fully; we aim to offer a unique experience to our visitors.

Brazil & U.S.A. Business: Tell us about the process of working with artists to create site-specific works.

Paz: Inhotim has made a difference in the [customary ways] of displaying art, not only in Brazil, but worldwide. We also have to thank the artists who perform — in works commissioned by our curators — some of their best and most unique projects at Inhotim.

Most of the art exhibited in the park could not be displayed anywhere. Today, Inhotim is a paradigm for the world.

All this was only possible because I saw the light in the eyes of our visitors, especially children. You have no idea what it is like to look at the eyes of poor children who come to Inhotim every week, and realize the joy they feel for being here.

I have a passion for education; I want to open the doors of education to those who do not yet have it. Every year, we receive more than 50,000 children —mostly kids in need — in art and environment[al science] classes. We’ve formed orchestras, bands, and choirs of children, youths, and adults.

Brazil & US Biz : Do you have American artists’ works at Inhotim?

Paz: Yes, we do. Doug Aitken of California did the unique site-specific work called “Sonic Pavilion”. Chris Burden, of Boston, did the piece “Beam Drop Inhotim”. We have on display “Bisected Triangle,” a work by Dan Graham of New Jersey. Last year, we opened a space dedicated specifically to display the work of Carroll Dunham, of New Haven.

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