Where to See the Art of Brazil

Where to see the art of Brazil | This Is My Happiness travel blog
MAC Niteroi. Photo credit: Rodrigo_Soldon, Flickr.

The theme for this month’s ArtSmart Roundtable is “national art,” or art that makes one think of a particular country. I decided to share suggestions for where to see the art of Brazil since Brazil is so much more than soccer.

Most people don’t realize that Brazil is a very artsy place. When I first went there, I was surprised to see art everywhere…from the expressive way people dressed to the color of the houses, from their infectious love of music to the “hippie fairs” full of handmade arts and crafts, from capoeira performed on street corners to the theater performances beckoning at night. For example, São Paulo, the world’s fourth largest city and tenth richest city, is full of creative spaces; in fact, I recently heard that it now has more theaters than any city in the world. On any given day, you can see theater, opera, art, or music in a variety of venues such as this cultural center, SESC Pompéia.

There are many places to see the art of Brazil, but here are three places that provide a sense of its art history and current art scene and possibly a break from the usual while visiting Brazil.

 Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Where to see the art of Brazil | This Is My Happiness travel blog

Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Photo credit: Fernando Stankuns, Flickr.

The Pinacoteca art museum is housed in a brick building from 1900 in central São Paulo. Most of the art here is Brazilian painting that shows the history and culture of the country. I found the collection to be educational as its reflects life from the early years of Brazil through the 20th century. (But the whole collection is not Brazilian art–there is also a collection of French sculpture, for instance.) Through 2015, there is a special exhibition of Brazilian art called “Art in Brazil: A Story at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo.”

Where to see the art of Brazil | This Is My Happiness travel blog

Exterior of the Pinacoteca. Photo credit: Rodrigo_Soldon on Flickr.

The beautiful downstairs cafe and the outside of the museum are also worth a visit. The exterior is decorated with playful, colorful images, and the adjacent park includes a sculpture garden and traditional European-style gardens.

To find out more about museums in São Paulo, click here.

Inhotim Contemporary Art Center and Botanical Garden, Minas Gerais state

Inhotim Art & Nature Park in Brazil | This Is My Happiness.com

Inhotim is housed on a former ranch 60 km outside Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. It is now a sprawling 5000-acre botanical garden with two dozen art pavilions and a large collection of contemporary art by Brazilian artists and international artists. It can be experienced as a day trip from Belo Horizonte but could take two days to fully explore.

Because of our shared interests in landscape design, horticulture, and art, my husband and I had been wanting to visit Inhotim for a long time before finally doing so in 2014.

Botanical garden at Inhotim. Photo credit: Maristela Leão, Flickr.

Botanical garden at Inhotim. Photo credit: Maristela Leão, Flickr.

Museum of Contemporary Art of Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro state

The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói houses a large collection of contemporary art by Brazilian artists as well as some international artists. Besides providing a window into Brazil’s contemporary art scene, the museum is worth visiting for its architecture. This is one of Oscar Niemeyer‘s (Brazil’s most famous architect) best known buildings. The shapes and use of glass and water means that, like his other work, it must be experienced to be appreciated.

Where to see the art of Brazil | This Is My Happiness travel blog

MAC Niteroi. Photo credit: Rodrigo_Soldon, Flickr.

Sadly, like so many museums in Brazil and around the world, the website of MAC Niteroi is not user-friendly and has no English translations (and the Google translations are not sufficient).

These three museums are only some of the places you can experience the art of Brazil. What suggestions would you add?

For more posts about art from my fellow ArtSmart Roundtable bloggers:

“Ceramic Folk Art from Around the World” from Christina of Daydream Tourist

“Art and Territory in Conegliano” from Alexandra of ArtTrav

“The Modern Dutch Stijl” from Art Weekenders

“America and Its Skyscrapers” from Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles

Join me on Pinterest and Instagram for more travel and design inspiration.


  • It looks as though it would take a lifetime to explore all the art in Brazil, Jenna! The Pinacoteca itself looks worthy of a pilgrimage but I’m partial to art exhibited in outdoor settings. Inspiring post!

  • The Inhotim Contemporary Art Center and Botanical Garden looks absolutely amazing! I do hope you get a chance to visit soon, because I would love to hear more about it.

  • Murissa says:

    Love the summersault statue!
    Looks like a feast for the eyes and I have heard for the senses as well in Sao Paolo.
    Great post Jenna!

  • Lizzie says:

    Great guide, Jenna! I really must visit Brazil soon, and check out some of these cool places 🙂

  • Fun post!

    If people want to see some of the famous colonial works of art by the sculptor Aleijadinho, then it is worth taking a trip to Minas Gerais and visiting small colonial towns like Ouro Preto and Congonhas do Campo. The “Prophets” sculptural group outside the church Bom Jesus dos Matozinhos in Congonhas do Campo is one of the most famous works of art from Brazilian colonial history.

    I’ve also enjoyed seeing art exhibitions at the Parque Ibirapuera in São Paulo. (The park itself is worth a visit, in and of itself.) The Museum of Modern Art is located here, too: http://mam.org.br/

    The São Paulo Museum (called the MASP) also has a nice collection of European art. The collection doesn’t have very famous pieces in and of itself, but there are lots of nice, lesser-known pieces by well-known artists. http://masp.art.br/masp2010/

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you for the informative comment. I have not spent much time in Minas Gerais yet, but I hope to get to Ouro Preto and Tiradentes this July.

      I have written about MASP before. It’s a great museum.

      I also love Parque Ibirapuera. I go there every time I’m in Brazil. I was disappointed, though, that the Museu Afro-Brazil doesn’t have English translations of their exhibits.

  • Lydian says:

    The Inhotim is high on my list for next time we’re in Brazil, can’t believe that we missed this one (and Minas Gerais in general) while spending three months in almost every corner of Brazil! If you ever happen to be in the northern part of Brazil the Oficina Brennand sculpture park near Recife is also very fascinating http://www.brennand.com.br.

  • Rebecca says:

    a great post and one I plan to reread when I’m in Brazil. I love visiting art museums when I’m traveling!

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