Museu de Arte Moderna
Although you can walk there, it’s safer to take a quick taxi ride up the coastal road, past the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Conceição and Bahia’s swanky marina, to one of the city’s finest and most beautifully situated museums, the Museu de Arte Moderna (Av. Contorno, tel. 71/3117-6139, www.mam.ba.gov.br, mam [at] mam [dot] ba [dot] gov [dot] br, 1 –7 p.m. Tues.–Sun., until 9 p.m. on Sat.).
Known by its acronym, “MAM,” as well as its original title, the Solar do Unhão, this 17th-century complex hovering over the Bay of All Saints was originally a sugarcane plantation complete with mansion (solar), slave quarters, and chapel. In the ’60s, the well-preserved ensemble got an inspired refurbishment courtesy of reputed São Paulo modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi. This is when it was transformed into Bahia’s Museum of Modern Art.
Aside from a permanent collection that boasts token works of major Brazilian modernist painters, the museum showcases temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists from all over Brazil.
Even if the art itself doesn’t grab you, the buildings and setting are truly captivating. The adjacent sculpture garden featuring works by local talents such as Carybé and Mario Cravo Jr. winds up and down a shady path overlooking the sea. In the late afternoon, the wooden pier above the ocean is a magical place to have a drink and watch the sun setting behind the Ilha da Itaparica.
A small cinema operates, and live music shows often take place on the cobblestoned courtyard, through which tiny mico monkeys leap and chatter. If you’re in need of serious sustenance, the museum restaurant offers good Bahian food. Be aware that the nightly buffets complete with “typical” musical shows attract plenty of sunburned tourists on packaged tours.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition