It’s been almost a year since the empire founded by Bernardo Paz began to crumble. In September 2017, the former mining mogul-turned-art collector was convicted to nine years in prison for money laundering and tax evasion. He was found guilty of using Inhotim, the contemporary art museum he envisioned, to avoid paying taxes. His illegal money transfers amounted to at least USD 95 million, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Paz’s debts with the authorities neared BRL 2 billion – between the BRL 470 million owed to the state government of Minas Gerais and the BRL 1.5 billion due to the federal revenue service. Bit by bit, his art legacy is being scrapped to pay for his crimes. Back in May, he signed a contract transferring the property of 20 Inhotim artworks to the state of Minas Gerais. Now, Mr. Paz has reportedly offered authorities the land on which Inhotim was erected.
Inhotim is a half-museum, half-botanical garden located on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais. Newsweek called it “an Eden for contemporary art.” Its lush botanical gardens are spread across 5,000 acres and were designed by the late landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, who was involved in the construction of Brasília. Inhotim is arguably home to the world’s largest collection of palm trees – over 1,500 different species – which serve as the backdrop for 500 works of art from 100 artists coming from 30 countries. Since 2006, the art complex has attracted roughly 250,000 visitors each year.