At the heart of Brazil in Brumadinho lies a botanical garden known as the Inhotim Institute, which serves to explore the delicate relationship between art, architecture and landscape.
The brainchild of entrepreneur Bernardo Paz, who conceived the idea of the garden and the scenic realisation of landscape planner Roberto Burle Marx, the institute is a cultural space for the public, holding art classes and music festivals to attract a diverse range of people. Rare plant species and five lakes are arranged in aesthetic gardens, nestled with preserved forest reserves and within this space, exposed and unexposed art defies its viewers’ notions of natural and man-made beauty in the shape of discourse.
Over the past few decades, the role of artists has evolved and extended with globalisation. As creators of dialogue and discourse within and outside of their geographic sphere, contemporary artists are expected to make art not just for intellectuals and like-minded artists, but also for the public.
In a sense, the Inhotim Institute is an extension of this realisation that art is an indelible component of humanity. “We want the public to be involved,” says Brazilian art expert Roberto Padilla, who is currently visiting to Islamabad to share his knowledge of Brazilian art scene with Pakistani artists.
Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who has been invited to reserve a spot in and create an installation for the institute, finds this new relationship “enchanting”.
With over 500 works by more than 100 artists from over 30 countries, Inhotim has proved that artists are no longer limited to their own cultural context.
Kapoor, whose thought provoking installation and sculpture work has been widely exhibited at galleries and museums around the world, such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Gladstone Gallery and Nottingham Castle, creates work that challenges the viewer’s perception of space, time and psychology.
Intimidad La la luz in St Ives (Intimacy of the lights in St Ives) by artist Victor Grippo is part of the permanent collections at the Inhotim Institute and a testimony to the non-exclusivity of contemporary art. The idea behind the installation; five wooden desks bathed in shifting light inside a white structure with a skylight, is both the rueful passage of time and historical place of the object from everyday to extraordinary.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, contemporary art has barely found its place in galleries, let alone the public sphere.
Nageen Hayat, curator of the Nomad Art Gallery, believes there is a need to create audience awareness before art can be extended to the public.
Previous attempts to introduce sculptures at the Fatima Jinnah Park, originally conceived as a cultural space, have left artists disappointed.
Hayat’s sculpture about women’s empowerment may have been supported by non-governmental organisations and civil society, but public visitors to the park who fail to recognise its beauty and function vandalise it in no time.
“In Brazil, the government will not tax corporations which invest in art,” explains Hayat, adding that if such encouragement is given to art in Pakistan, perhaps it would give more purchasing power to people and help create a wider audience.
According to the curator, there is a need to inculcate awareness about the worth and function of art. She believes community art is one way of doing it.
“We can use art to create conscientiousness within our society,” says Farman Ali, a patron of the arts and a believer in earlier generations of artists whose work was a culmination of discussions with intellectuals and agents of progressive thought and change.
Pakistan may be a long way from becoming Brazil, and from ridding itself of the stigma that art is an elitist activity, but there is no doubt that it has something to learn from the Inhotim Institute and its organic conclusion between landscape and art.
“We can barely appreciate landscape,” complains Uzma, an Islamabad-based artist. “To expect people will understand art if placed in a park which is an easier kind of beauty to reckon with may be a little too ambitious at this point in our history.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2012.
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