A collection of artworks spanning nearly 50 centuries, from Ancient Egypt to the Impressionism, is housed at the Eva Klabin Foundation, by Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio de Janeiro. Eva Klabin (1903-1991)'s wish to make her collection public materialized into a foundation in 1990 and officially opened by then Minister of Culture Francisco Weffort in 1995.
Born into a wealthy clan of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants - her father, Hessel, and his brothers Maurício and Salomão founded the Klabin paper conglomerate - Eva and her sisters Mina and Ema lived in Europe for some years and were exposed to fine art from an early age. Ema also amassed an important art collection, open to the public in the Ema Klabin Foundation in São Paulo.
Eva's collection started with two small landscapes by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Glauber which she acquired while still a teenager (and are preserved at the Foundation). She dedicated a major portion of her world travels to the search for new art pieces.
Eva and her husband Paulo Rapaport, an Austria-born and naturalized Brazilian lawyer and journalist, bought the house at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in 1952 and lived in it for 30 years. The house's Norman style was the trend when it was built in 1931 by the shores of the newly urbanized lagoon.
Though Eva and Paulo considered tearing down the house and building a new one - they even ordered a project by Italian architect Gaetano Minnucci - the idea didn't materialize. In the 1960s, however, now a childless widow (Paulo died in 1957), Eva immersed herself in a seven-year home renovation aimed at better accommodating her massive collection, a project which she personally oversaw in every detail. During that time, she lived in her apartment on beachfront Avenida Atlântica, in Leme.
After moving back into the Lagoa house, Eva Klabin became one of Rio's most famed hostesses, with flower arrangements for her parties designed by her friend Burle Marx and Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Juscelino Kubitschek and Shimon Peres among her illustrious guests. On the other hand, she greatly enjoyed the silent, introspective contemplation of her treasures; among the house's nine main exhibit rooms, the Renaissance and English rooms were special favorites of hers.
In the English room, one of the highlights is a study by Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) for the oil on canvas portrait Lady Caroline Howard (1778), which is part of the collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
While a top attraction for Rio travelers interested in the various periods of art history represented in the permanent collection, including Greco-Roman, Dutch and Flemish, Asian, and Pre-Columbian art, and in house museums at large, the foundation is also a superb stop for temporary exhibits and occasional musical performances. Moreover, it's an important center for contemporary art interventions, thanks to Projeto Respiração (the Breathing Project).
The Breathing Project
A house-museum is circumscribed by the personal perception of the owner/collector. The Breathing Project aims at bringing a new wind - hence its name - to the collection at the Eva Klabin Foundation by challenging today's artists to establish new layers of meaning with the Foundation's artworks.
"The intention was to openly create language frictions between the celebrated art of the past, incorporated to the patrimony, and contemporary expressions," according to the curators.
The project has featured outstanding artists such as José Damasceno, Ernesto Neto, Chelpa Ferro, Nuno Ramos, Daniela Thomas and Carlito Carvalhosa. A 360-page book about it, Projeto Respiração (Cobogó/Fundação Eva Klabin) was released in September 2012, during ArtRio. The publication comprises photos and texts about 18 interventions since the project's inception in 2004. Contact Eva Klabin Foundation for more details about the book and keep up with upcoming interventions on the official website.
Open to guided visits only, Tue-Sun 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: R$10. Free for children 10 and younger. R$5 for students and senior citizens (60 and older)
Address: Av. Epitácio Pessoa 2480 - Lagoa - Rio de Janeiro - RJ