Openings Brazil

Rio gears up for World Cup and Olympics

Host of museum projects underway but will they be ready in time?

Design for Rio’s planned museum of sound and images

RIO DE JANEIRO. As eyes turn towards Rio de Janeiro in the run up to the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, the cultural scene in the Brazilian city is hotting up with spectacular new art museums planned. They are due to be ready for 2014 but it is by no means guaranteed that all of the city’s ambitious projects will be finished in time, with funding uncertain or delayed by bureaucracy. The city’s concert hall, Cidade da Música, was supposed to take two years to build. Ten years on it is still unfinished and its cost has soared from $48m to $300m.

Construction of the Museu de Arte do Rio, which is being built on the site of a former modernist bus terminal and hospital in the central port area, is well underway, with the façade due to be unveiled this month.

Groundwork has also begun on the Museu da Imagem e do Som, a film, photography and music museum which will overlook Copacabana beach. A $78m, Santiago Calatrava-designed science museum is due to rise on the site where the Jean Nouvel-designed Guggenheim Rio was going to be built, before the plan was scrapped. In Ipanema a museum dedicated to bossa nova music is in the pipeline.

Paulo Jacobsen and Thiago Bernardes, the architects working on the Museu de Arte do Rio, say they are not being given enough money to complete the $27m project. “The building was falling to pieces, now the entire structure is being fortified,” says Jacobsen. He called working on the project “a constant tug of war between us and the city hall,” adding, “they want to lower the prices and we as architects want to get our ideas across.”

The Fundação Roberto Marinho, which was set up by the family that owns the biggest television network, and several newspapers and online news portals in Brazil, is leading efforts to secure funding for this and other projects from the city and state government.

Meanwhile, Leonel Kaz, the curator of the football museum in São Paulo, is due to be appointed the curator at the museum, which does not have a permanent collection but aims instead to borrow works from the city’s private collections for its temporary exhibitions.

A similar funding struggle is happening between local government administration and the directors of the Museu da Imagem e do Som, who cannot agree on its budget or the time table for its completion. It was originally estimated that the building, which has been designed by New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, would cost $42m. But that amount is now being revised upwards.

So far, the only visible progress is the gaping hole left on the Copacabana seafront where its most decadent nightclub once stood, leaving barren ground for the new museum.

The Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in Rio, which holds a comprehensive collection of Brazilian art, has been hardest hit by funding problems. It has only just received money to restore its galleries five years after flooding left parts of the museum in a ruinous state.

Plans for an extension to the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes so that it can display more of its 22,000-strong collection have been postponed indefinitely. “We’re strangled in the space we have right now,” says Mônica Xexéo, the museum’s director. But before even thinking about expanding the museum, she needs another $4.2m to repair one of the domes crowning a top-floor gallery. Meanwhile, several other galleries in the early 20th-century building are currently closed to the public.

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