Beam me up, Artsy
I swear, I’ve seen this place before. Was it watching old reruns of The Jetsons on childhood Saturday mornings? Or maybe it’s that restaurant in the middle of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… an art museum? Or more specifically, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea MAC de Niterói, Brazil’s main home for contemporary art.
“Welcome to the future,” the building seems to beep, androidenously. “Let me take you there.” Or at least the future as imagined by centenarian Oscar Neimeyer. The building fits snugly into the style niche of 1950s Modern Architecture, a throwback to the origins of the jet set space age. Funny then that its construction began in 1991 and was completed in December of 1996.
Not to say that the structure is unexceptional – far to the contrary. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the museum, more talked about for its architecture than for the art it contains, is the way it simultaneously embraces its natural surroundings and stands out from them. The large band of windows that entirely encircles the main gallery provides sweeping views of the gorgeous Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain, and the city of Rio de Janeiro, with its famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
The road to Niterói from Rio de Janeiro takes the common taxi through the air and across the 8.25 mile long Rio-Niterói Bridge, which sits 5.49 miles above the water. Before entering the mothership, all visitors must walk a winding red carpet in the sky. Look down from this perch – two bodies of water shimmer below you, the bay below the cliff and a reflecting pool upon it, from the center of which the stem of the building emerges.
After all this, what about the art? Isn’t that the whole point of an art museum? The MAC has collected and houses major pieces from Rio’s foremost collectors – pieces that until its inception were scattered around the city. Film screenings are held in the caverns of the windowless lower level, and community programs bring school kids and interested adults to the museum to explore the world of Brazilian contemporary art. RS