Niterói Contemporary Art Museum – Niterói, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

Niterói, Brazil

An art museum with an eclectic design and a scandalous past. 


Designed by Oscar Niemeyer with the assistance of structural engineer Bruno Contarini, the Niterói is one of the most popular landmarks in Rio de Janeiro.

While all is currently well at the UFO-shaped museum, its beginnings were rife with scandal. In a shady real estate deal in 1996, the sub-mayor convinced the owner of the land adjacent to the museum that city council had hopelessly locked the property from building anything new. After purchasing the land from the hoodwinked owner, the mayor, only a few days later, sent in a proposal to build in the site, which was immediately accepted. After personally inaugurating the Niterói, bumping the surrounding land up astronomically in price, they then sold the property what would equate to over $2,000,000 US currency.

Due to the winter timing of the dirty dealings, the scandal was referred to as the politician’s “Christmas Present” to themselves.

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