The best art museums in Brazil host impressive collections of contemporary art, both international and Brazilian. From MASP's collection often considered to be the best collection of western art in Latin America to Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo's collection of Brazilian art that showcases Brazil's history and culture, these museums have something for every art lover.
Not only do these museum's feature standout collections, but they have can't-miss architecture and features such as sculpture gardens and botanical gardens.
MASP: São Paulo Museum of Art
MASP, or the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, is one of São Paulo's most recognizable buildings. Constructed in 1968, the museum is a landmark piece of modern Brazilian architecture. The museum stands on pillars; the free space under the museum is often filled with young Paulistas playing music or hanging out with friends, but a notable antique market is held there on Sundays.
MASP is best known for its impressive permanent collection, often considered the best collection of Western art in Latin America. It includes works by a long list of European masters, including Renaissance painters Botticelli, Titian, and Raphael; Rembrandt; the Impressionists Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh; and modern art pioneers Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso. In addition, the museum houses excellent temporary exhibitions of Brazilian artists as well as international artists.
The museum is located on the city's main boulevard, Avenida Paulista. Parking can be found in small lots next to the museum or in parking garages on adjacent streets, and the nearest metro station is Trianon, just across the street.
Trianon Park sits across from the museum. Its paths, which wind under tropical plants, make a nice place for a stroll, especially on Sunday mornings when the handicrafts market occurs at the park's entrance, street food is available, and musicians sometimes play traditional Brazilian music.
Note that on Sundays, Avenida Paulista is closed to car traffic for the city's open bike lanes, so the street will be full of Paulistas enjoying a safe place to walk, bike, and gather with friends.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói (MAC)
The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói sits on the water with views of Rio de Janeiro. The museum houses a notable collection of contemporary art by both Brazilian and international artists. However, the museum's architecture is reason alone to visit. Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil's most famous architect, created this building with his trademark use of curves, glass, and water.
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
One of the finest museums in the country, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo is housed in an impressive brick building that dates from the year 1900 and sits in the Parque da Luz in the center of São Paulo. This museum's collection of Brazilian paintings is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Brazil. For example, you can view the images of daily life of old colonial Brazil and fancy city life in the early 20th century. However, the Pinacoteca is not just about Brazilian painting; there is a nice collection of French sculpture, too.
Audio tours are available via headphones in Portuguese, Spanish, and English.
The museum is close to the Luz metro station. There is a nice cafe downstairs and a beautiful sculpture garden and European-style garden in the adjacent park. However, the park can be seedy, so it's best to use caution while walking there.
Inhotim Contemporary Art Center
The Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim is a 5,000-acre botanical garden and art center in the hills of Minas Gerais. Inhotim sits on what used to be a ranch about 40 miles outside Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. With about two dozen art pavilions and a large collection of contemporary art by Brazilian and international artists, Inhotim is a unique experience that combines both art and landscape.
Situated near the state's capital, Inhotim is accessible as a day trip, although due to the center's size, it's recommended to stay at a nearby hotel and experience Inhotim over at least two days. In addition, Inhotim is expected to open its own hotel soon so that visitors will be able to stay right in the park.
Due to the park's size, there is an optional shuttle service via electric golf carts for a fee. Children 5 and under ride for free, but hold on to them as the carts can start suddenly and there are no seatbelts.
The park has restaurants and free parking.
Oscar Niemeyer Museum
The Oscar Niemeyer Museum is in the city of Curitiba in the state of Paraná. The museum is also known as Museu do Olho, or Niemeyer's Eye, because of the eye-shaped design of the main building. Its unusual design both from outside and from inside is the highlight of any visit here.
The architecture was designed by the renowned modern architect Oscar Niemeyer when he was 95 years old. Besides providing information about Niemeyer (Brazil's greatest architect), the museum hosts exhibitions of international and Brazilian contemporary art and has an outdoor sculpture garden.