Sampa’s pride, this museum possesses Latin America’s most comprehensive collection of Western art. Hovering above a concrete plaza that turns into an antiques fair on Sunday (and acts as a protest gathering point almost always!), the museum, designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi and completed in 1968, is considered a classic of modernism by many and an abomination by a vocal few.
The collection, though, is unimpeachable, and ranges from Goya to El Greco to Manet. The impressionist collection is particularly noteworthy. There are also a few great Brazilian paintings, including three fine works by Cândido Portinari. The permanent collection is housed in glass panels wedged in concrete bases, an original Bo Bardi design that was taken away in 1996 but returned in 2015. Regrettably, the museum seems rather neglected by its guardians, with public areas looking shabby in places. More shocking was the theft in 2007 of paintings by Portinari and Picasso, which revealed that a museum with a billion-dollar collection lacked motion detectors or cameras with infrared capabilities. Fortunately, the two paintings were eventually recovered.