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Brazil to get Disneyland of art

world Updated: Oct 11, 2011 01:05 IST
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He is one of Brazil's most successful businessmen, a shy mining entrepreneur who made millions selling pig iron to China. Now Bernardo Paz has a new dream: to erect a "Disneyland" for art lovers in the countryside.

In a rare interview this week, Paz, 60, unveiled plans to build a mecca for contemporary arts fans around the Inhotim Cultural Institute, a sprawling rural estate in the hilltops of Minas Gerais state, already one of the most talked-about and unusual arts destinations in Latin America, if not the world.

The blueprints outline the construction of 10 luxury hotels, a restaurant run by Alex Atala, one of Brazil's most celebrated chefs, a theatre and a conference centre. "I want to create a place where people can come and work without being in a hurry, [where they can] live surrounded by birds, have fun, a place they can bring their lives to," Paz told O Globo newspaper. "It's like Disney, which began life as a park and expanded. Only here it is something serious."

Located in Brumadinho, a sleepy mining town around 40 miles from the state capital Belo Horizonte, Inhotim began life in the 1980s when Paz bought a 3,000-acre ranch with part of his fortune. He transformed the site into a stunning botanical garden with the help of his friend Roberto Burle Marx, a landscape architect.

In 2006 it opened to the public, rapidly becoming a reference point for the arts in South America, with 300,000 people visiting this year.