The Zona Portuaria earns a striking new art institution to tell the city's story from a myriad of angles and perspectives
On 1 March 2013, the first fruits of Rio's enormous Porto Maravilha urban intervention were inaugurated by the President, fittingly, given that much of the subject within is the Cidade Maravilhosa itself, the date of the city's 448th birthday. The Museum of Rio Art is just one of several new cultural centres planned for the region which will remain something of a building site until 2015 at the earliest, rendering MAR's gleaming façade considerably more imposing even before the wave-inspired structure on the roof drifts into eyeshot.
Formed of two buildings - the eclectic-style Palacete Dom João VI is joined by a fifth-floor walkway to the modernist Escola de Olhar - MAR's eight exhibition halls house an ever-growing archive formed from donations and private collections. The presence of the school also makes explicit the educational intentions behind the project, and an underlying desire to encourage in Rio's citizens and visitors constructive critical thought about their city. The museum's opening also provides an excellent excuse to come to what was until recently a gritty, dangerous part of the city and witness first-hand its ongoing transformation and a slice of carioca history being made, before the final vestiges of the seedier side of traditional port 'entertainment' are banished forever.