Long known for its music scene as the home of bossa nova as well as a 1940’s samba and dance culture, Rio’s cultural heyday is anything but past. Today, its international profile is rising with the upcoming Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics games, and it’s not just sports fans who have their eye on this vibrant city.
Art exhibitions put on here are among the world’s most-attended, while both Rio and Sao Paolo have art fairs and talent strong enough to rival any emerging cultural hotspot. Last year, Brazillian artist Beatriz Milhazes’ set a new record for Brazilian art, selling a piece for $2.1 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. A host of new international galleries single the city out as the must-see destination for any global art connoisseur: Emmanuel Hervé (Paris), Société (Berlin) and Thomas Brambilla (Milan,) are some who have made Rio their next home.
A perfect time to experience this vibrant city can begin with ArtRio, Rio’s first contemporary international art fair launched in 2010. Every September, a week is packed with stimulating events and private dinners; those looking for a truly exclusive experience may want to brush shoulders with the most exciting creative minds and the glitterati of the city at the black-tie gala ball held at MAR, one of the city’s leading contemporary art museums.
For those seeking the authentic sounds of Brazil, the bars and cafés in Lapa, a bohemian neighborhood of 19th-century buildings is not to be missed. Samba and choro, the country’s traditional music, are only one part of Rio’s varied musical landscape – a one-of-a-kind fusion that includes Brazilian jazz, bossa nova, Afro-Caribbean funk and American jazz. Although Caipirinhas, Brazil’s signature lime and cachaça drink, are found aplenty from the street vendors in the Lapa district, a quality glass of wine to accompany a soulful evening of music cannot disappoint. Indeed, Brazil’s wineries are fast experiencing a naissance similar to its burgeoning cultural energy. A well-kept secret for truly discerning palates, the leading producers in the region are producing luxury vintages with a distinctive Brazilian flair.
Discerning palates satisfied, the eye is next – and the architectural gem as intriguiging as the works inside is doubtless Oscar Niemeyer’s Museu de Arte Contemporanea Niteroi. The saucer shaped building includes wraparound windows, a Hall of Exhibitions and a viewing gallery, while the breathtaking views of the surrounding sea and mountains is as memorable as its impressive collection of contemporary art. Its highly unusual design creates a distinctive space that magnifies the effect of the artworks: a true example of architecture and life in mutual effort.
New arts spaces such as Galeria Movimento and the Bhering Factory are seeking to bring the market exciting newcomers to the Brazillian art scene: Movimento, in particular, has been a pioneering gallery in the region for street art, a form rapidly growing in critical attention and in collector value. Located in the infamous Copacabana district, the pinnacle of Rio’s luxury scene, the gallery provides ample opportunity to enjoy, and maybe even discover, the next big names poised to take the Latin American art world by a storm. In the nearby area of Avenida Atlântica, a refreshing drink at the laid-back luxe poolside café Pérgula inside Rio’s historic Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel is enough to make anyone feel the playful days past of this vintage holiday spot. Indeed, dining, music and art often go hand-in-hand in Rio: to continue the old-world glamour, head to an Avenida Atlântica classic like the Restaurante La Fiorentina, where celebrities and artists let their hair down for a pasta or pizza evening. The vintage charms of Rio’s days gone by are ever-present in the black-and-white photographs of past diners include Rita Hayworth and Brigitte Bardot.
Your evening may see you return to the bohemian Lapa district for the authentic sounds of Brazilian samba, or opt for the more lively hotspots like Studio RJ in Ipanema. Who knows – the night is always young in this vibrant city, and its cultural scene is just as buzzing.
Experience Rio’s up-and-coming art scene while you discover its finest quality wines with Uncork Brazil. See under The Sybarite: Experiences for details.