Embodying the dramatic shifts (both cultural and physical) currently redefining the city is the former Bhering chocolate factory in Santo Cristo (alongside the port region, north of Centro), 20,000 square metres of abandoned German iron and steel construction now taken over by a flock of artists and divided into workshops. Impressive in its raw, industrial innards, all the drama of a once powerful, now ruined factory remains, providing a unique type of inspiration. "Artists are attracted to the abandonment, the history,” explains sculptor and painter Alexandre Rangel. “Artists like to humanize what has been left behind, to be the storyteller, to rail against the normal.”
There is also the fact that the redevelopment of the ports has actively encouraged the reoccupation of the surrounding buildings, and the small matter of a stunning view out to Guanabara Bay from the top floor to welcome the creative pack, the occasional thundering of a boat’s horn a clear reminder of where you are. Among the artists worth a visit are Rodrigo Villas, with his beautifully naive, graf-inspired work and the intricate restorations of Brigida de Murtas, each studio a perfect reflection of its inhabitant.
After ten years lying dormant, the population has now reached around 40 painters, sculptors, designers and video artists, has its own gallery space and book publisher, and an itinerant bunch of creative folk forever coming and going, all drawing on the surrounds for their own blend of creative juices. Of course, there is little to guarantee who will be in and open to visitors, but the first floor also houses an impressive, reclaimed-wood furniture store, Trapiche Carioca, and a clothes shop if you want to kill some time.