Art Market

The Brazilian mega-collector Bernardo Paz was cleared of money laundering charges.

Justin Kamp
Feb 28, 2020 5:27PM, via ARTnews

Bernardo Paz. Photo by Nelson Almeido/AFP via Getty Images.

The Brazilian collector and mining magnate Bernardo Paz has been cleared of money laundering charges, according to a ruling passed down by a federal appeals court in Brasília. In 2017, Paz was sentenced to jail for nine years and three months for money laundering related to Instituto Inhotim, the museum and sculpture park Paz founded in 2006. Paz’s sister, Virgínia de Mello Paz, who was originally sentenced to five years, was also acquitted in the new ruling.

Paz’s 2017 conviction came as a result of a criminal complaint by Brazil’s federal prosecutors, the Ministério Público Federal. The complaint alleged that between 2007 and 2008, Paz used $98.5 million in funds deposited to a company called Horizonte, which was set up to benefit the nonprofit Instituto Inhotim, to pay expenses and debts related to Paz’s mining business, rather than support the museum.

Paz told ARTnews:

I’m glad the truth came out and for being officially exonerated. Now I hope to be able to focus my attention exclusively on my companies and on art, which is what really matters to me.

After the 2017 ruling, other allegations about Paz’s business practices came forth, including claims of child labor. In May 2018, Paz resigned from Inhotim’s board. Shortly thereafter, he ceded ownership of 20 of Inhotim’s works to the state government of Minas Gerais, where the park is situated.

Paz’s art world fame came as a result of his collecting in the early 2000s, when he bought large quantities of contemporary works for Inhotim’s 700-acre campus. After the park opened in 2006, Paz began commissioning artists to make work for the site. Inhotim’s collection includes pieces by international stars like Olafur Eliasson and Robert Irwin as well as Brazilian artists including Tunga, Lygia Pape, Cildo Meireles, and others. In September, Inhotim will open an installation featuring work by Irwin, David Lamelas, Paul Pfeiffer, and Yayoi Kusama.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Bernardo Paz’s name. The article has been corrected.

Justin Kamp