Carpe Diem Art and Search
“The palace is the ‘senior curator’ and the curators and the resident artists are its assistants”
I always was a frequent visitor of Carpe Diem Arte e Pesquisa (CDAP). In each new exhibition, the thrill of looking and thinking about the proposal of those artists who, after an intense dialogue with the Palace – in which Marquis of Pombal was born – uncover the relationship that they maintained throughout the extension of their residences. An organic relationship between the curator, the artist, the spectator and this historic casing of the 17th century.
The artists have found in Carpe Diem a fertile structure to put ideas to test; and in its tone there is creative freedom in which they are able to foster a relationship with a building from the 17th century, aiming to produce an adaptable work under a palace specific logic, as they say. In most processes, the artists must stay in that space, in order to perceive its limitations and surpluses. The curatorial program always has to go through this relationship maintained between the artists and the building, as if the Palace was a living organism. According to what Gabriela Vaz-Pinheiro states in the book Curadoria do Local, Algumas Abordagens da Prática e da Crítica “the significant progress made by the site-specific forms of minimalism, and by the discourses that supported them in the 60s, is undeniable. It was the vindication for the term site-specificity itself”. In her analysis of artworks whose location is placed outside of galleries, something that started to occur after the 70s, in the book Sculpture in the Expanded Field in The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modernist Myths, Rosalind Krauss introduces the notion of “expanded field” and provides a critique on the historicist justification of the artwork’s location.
We have a mechanical movement, according to modernism, and a palatial structure from the 17th century abides by a protocol to which most artists and audiences are not used to cope with. According to Lourenço Egreja, CDAP’s artistic director, “in the past nobody stepped inside a palace as we do today, people were carried by a coach or a paso. My curatorial discourse is going after the old protocol through art and have the artists establish a dialogue with the wallpaper, the plaster, the odor, the light, the temperature and what is left of the tiles. I want them to decipher it and make it part of their art”. As Lourenço wrote in 2010 in a text published on CDAP’s website, “the Palace hence demands a questioning about a modus operandi that is self-aware in what concerns historical preservation, developing at the same time new cross-sectional languages in contemporary art (…) The palace is the ‘senior curator’ and the curators and resident artists are its assistants”.
Salon of Multiples
Carpe Diem has become more complex, it does not confine itself to exhibitions anymore, it publishes editions, has a cafeteria and a room of multiples in which one can find 120 works which totally cover its walls. These are editions which have stemmed from the artists’ experiences inside the palace, who have spent two to three months in the building, and after the exhibition they produce a brand new image that is donated to CDAP. Such proposal came to life in 2010, during the 5th Exhibition Program (June-September), a period during which Paulo Reis (teacher, curator and CDAP’s founder) proposed to the artist Rodrigo Oliveira the creation of a piece from which 30 multiples would be made. Posteriorly, they applied for a scholarship of the General Direction of Arts, aimed to support internationalization; they achieved it and started by doing a tour that visited seven cities. It was there that they met partners who received the exhibition of those editions. “They are usually exhibited in several places, from art galleries to architecture studios or private houses. It’s a good way to take Portuguese artists abroad”, says Lourenço. They have carried out exhibitions in Barcelona, La Coruna, Madrid, Brussels, London, Berlin, New York, Washington, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Buenos Aires and Stockholm. In London and New York they held an exhibition in a private house and an art bookshop was used in Stockholm for that effect. Then, the pieces are sold. There are 30 editions available for sale, in addition to three artist’s proofs, two for the creator and one for Carpe Diem. They have a pair of collectors in Brazil, who detain the whole collection, and a Portuguese who bought it all but actually prefers to remain anonymous.
From the Pombal Palace to the Yellow Palace
The Palace which once detained a significant amount of artistic proposals, different from the remaining national sites that are focused on contemporary art, has had to reinvent itself since January of the current year. CDAP reduced its 1.2000m2 (two floors + basement) to five exhibit rooms, with 25m2 each. Such took place due to a decision communicated by Joana Gomes Cardoso, the president of EGEAC, who reaffirmed the need to attract new audiences to the Palace, thus fostering more activities. The remaining 75% are currently occupied by Teatro Maria Matos, city council galleries, the exhibition of the Architecture Triennale and other events, such as the ARCOlisboa art fair. Due to these, Carpe Diem started to have a new goal, the programming of Palácio Amarelo (Yellow Palace) in Portalegre, where, on a quarterly basis, contemporary art is transferred from Pombal Palace to an audience that is less familiar with these proposals. Lourenço thinks that it’s fascinating to “be able to show in Portalegre artists who had never had the chance to do an exhibition in the city before”. The future is now and Carpe Diem, despite its current contingencies space-wise, has extended its art to a new city, a new Palace and a new audience!