Portugal Arts Part II

In this disappointing panorama, however, it is necessary to remember a series of exhibitions of contemporary Portuguese art that was possible to realize in a short period of time in Europe and Brazil, something that had been prevented by the New State regime, since the 1940s, by the lack of sympathizers international openings but also by the resistance of the best artists. In prestigious locations, in Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, Barcelona and Munich – and then also in Brazil, once the political restrictions in his choices, including cultural ones, were removed – selections of painters were sent. The national collaboration in the great exhibitions promoted by the Council of Europe to which the new regime had access was, on the other hand, compromised by the errors of the institutes that had to officially deal with it.

The exhibitions held abroad did not correspond to the launch of a study on Portuguese artists, a deficiency that has always been found in Portugal. An exception is given by the retrospective dedicated to A. Pedro (1909-1966) in 1979 at the FCG, where, among other things, the first, and until 1993 only, exhibition dedicated to an artist was held in 1972. of the nineteenth century, in this case A. Carneiro (1878-1930), master of Portuguese symbolism. A positive and exemplary fact was the creation, in Oporto, of a Center of Contemporary Art, from which was born not the expected National Museum of Modern Art (legally created in 1979 and then forgotten) but the Serralves Foundation, half of which private, which carried out in the capital of the North of Portugal a considerable activity, often in collaboration with the Gulbenkian Foundation. We still have to remember the official foundation of an international drawing biennial which, unfortunately, was interrupted after its first edition in 1979. Other biennials, more adventurous and of different cultural value, took place, again starting from the seventies, at the inside the country, thanks to private initiatives, in a questionable decentralization process.

An ” aesthetic operation ” that has had considerable importance, namely the Alternative Zero exhibition, created by the critic and filmmaker E. De Sousa (1921-1988), was designed against the backdrop of the creative landscape then represented, in painting, by artists established themselves previously and only rarely came to the fore in those years (as was the singular case of J. Guimaraes – b.1939 – who had a wide international projection, thanks also to the guessed critical support of G. Dorfles), and which nevertheless in sculpture he had registered a significant failure in 1979 precisely in the competition for a monument to the liberation movement of ” April 25 ”: an artistic panorama that saw the paths already begun previously explored, from land art to echo-art, to minimal art, to body art, to installations.

According to ezinesports, an exhibition open to various avant-garde horizons, Alternative Zero assimilated, reflected and proposed what was and would have been possible in Portugal after 25 April, recalling Documenta of Kassel. “Alternative Zero because there is no other”, he said to himself then, and in this position of contestation and joy, the exhibition was, at the same time, a sort of explosive bomb, a catalyst and an impasse in the context of an uncertain situation. A sort of final symbol of the present lived in the ” democratic ” second half of the seventies, in its improbable social possibilities.

The Eighties took place in times now harmonized by the ” centrist ” balance of a power set towards a European horizon, which was to be defined in 1993. Unfortunately, however, once again only poor cultural results were drawn in the field. artistic, due to governmental uncertainty or incompetence.

Among many criticisms for its setting and for the ” brutalist ” style of castle-fort, a large cultural center was built in Belem, near the Tagus, at the western end of Lisbon, without however proceeding to a prior study of the utilities and programs. This work, designed by V. Gregotti and inaugurated in 1993, was contrasted by the vast complex of the Caixa General dos Depositos in the north of Lisbon: also intended to host cultural, musical and artistic events, in a strange and criticized mixture of architectural styles, with its columns and its decoration the complex recalls the imperialist architecture of A. Speer and the American taste of the thirties. Neither building satisfies an aesthetic discourse which, during the 1980s, Amoreiras in Lisbon (1982) marked an important date in the architecture and urban thinking of the capital.

Among the activities carried out in the field of artistic culture of this period, the exhibition of Portuguese art of the 19th century deserves particular credit, presented at the Petit-Palais in Paris in 1987 and the following year in Lisbon, which was absolutely the first exhibition organized with a responsible historical-critical commitment. This was followed in 1992 by the well-structured set of exhibitions presented in Brussels and Antwerp as part of Europalia, which received a positive official reception. In the same year, the exhibition of the Portuguese Baroque of the eighteenth century in relation to Roman art took place in Rome (partly revived in Washington), based on good historical criteria, thanks to the Italian contribution.

Portugal Arts 2