Portugal em Flagrante

Modern Collection permanently on display

March marked the conclusion of the cycle of the exhibition nucleus of Gulbenkian’s Museum Modern Collection. The central nave was occupied by Operação 3, dedicated to sculpture, objects, installations, films and other media. The director relied on a methodological process quite similar to the previous two shows, which were launched with the same generic title (one focused on archive documentation and painting). They share a semi-permanent profile, in which the temporary trait is diminished, falling short to the dynamism of the past, and ensuring an extensive timeframe as a whole, with one having the advantage of watching the artistic production unfurling throughout time, within a broader scope.

Classical Sculpture

Therefore, the old area of CAM is now deeply different from the time when it held anthological exhibitions, centred on a theme-sorted selection of pieces, as it is now endowed with the expression of another perspective, granted with new national and international qualities. This exhibition encompasses works that were ceded by ESBAL and the Chiado Museum, and it also has several ones from the Founder’s Collection. We are in the presence of a chronological and disciplinary approach, flaunting the most important moments in the social and political history, starting for instance with the 19th century statuary and also public monuments from the Estado Novo period, divided into chapters that place their spotlight on modernism, surrealism, the breakthrough social movements of the 60s and 70s; also on the 80s and 90s, and having the 21st century as its final stop, all this within a contemporary realm, providing a discourse on the history of sculpture. “It’s a way to communicate more freely about the relationship between the political structures, the art and the artists’ movement, in our country and also abroad”.

Among the wide array of works, there are several experimental efforts, such as wall sculptures, three-dimensional pieces from artists usually associated with painting. One of the points that should be emphasised is how the pieces from international authors are exhibited side by side with the national ones, hence establishing artistic ties and affinities between them, as the Portuguese creators do not work in isolation. By the end of the exhibition, we are confronted with two of the most recent museum’s acquisitions: an installation in the memory of the napalm bomb, authored by Miguel Palma and by the Brazilian Lúcia Nogueira. Penelope Curtis recalls that the vast majority of the works now in exhibition at Portugal em Flagrante were basically out of sight, as they seldom appeared in temporary exhibitions. The idea is to now show more unrestrictedly what was kept as a secret for a long time.

 I love the Founder’s Collection, it was one the reasons why I decided to apply

As a matter of fact, one of the main goals is to underline more strongly the acquis of the Gulbenkian Foundation’s Collection, being always at our disposal, showing the dialogues between both collections and understanding their reach and variety. She aims to show that the archive gathered by the founder is still able to unsettle us. Curtis enjoys the contamination between the ancient and the contemporary arts, and she talks about them as being an opportunity and a challenge, as they allow us to step inside the Founder’s collection, without changing it too much, and even having the chance to rethink it. It’s a challenge in the sense that one is aware of the risk there is when a dialogue with the present moment is established by force. “The trick is being aware of the connections that are already there”. I’m of the opinion that the sculptures of times long gone don’t mix that well with contemporary pieces in the same expositive room, particularly when we are confronted with the specific work of the sculpture installation. It seems to me a deeply bold gesture, both from a historical perspective, which comprises different periods, as well as in the view of the plastic and aesthetic discourse. By definition, these moments are hardly reconcilable, as they almost have antagonistic discourses, perhaps even contradictory.

The sculpture has given its place to languages that have distanced themselves from this discipline. After the appearance of the installation, one verifies a total departure from the monument where the concept itself begins to take shape, to the point where it subdues the aesthetic and plastic discourse. From the 20th century, contemporary art has engaged in different ways, given the complexity of its proposals, which do not match with traditional interpretations. Therefore, the statuary field is part of an iconography of a specific historical period, in which the works do not combine with avant-garde pieces; without calling into question the rigorous criterion that was used during the piece selection procedure, which undeniably has a qualitative value. The director openly assumes these contrasting interpretations, to the point of opening the exhibition with a twinned image of pieces that are placed in the garden (the one of Gulbenkian authored by Leopoldo de Almeida and the memorial to Azeredo Perdigão by Cabrita Reis).

Until november 18th 2017

Manuela Synek has collaborated with Umbigo magazine for over ten years. As the years go by, it identifies itself more and more with this consistent, ever-changing, innovative, bold and consistent design in its editorial line. She is a Historian and Art Critic graduated by the Superior Institute of Artistic Careers of Paris in Critique of Art and Aesthetics. She is also graduated in Aesthetics from the University of Paris I - Panthéon – Sorbonne and has the "Postgraduate Course in History of Art, Contemporary Art Strand", by Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Manuela is the author of books on authors in the area of Plastic Arts and has participated in Colloquiums as Lecturer related to Artistic Heritage; Painting; Sculpture and Design in Universities; Higher Schools and Autarchies. Lately she specialized in the subject of Public Art and Urban Space, with the analysis of the artistic works where she has made Communications. She writes for Umbigo magazine about the work of artists in the area of the visual arts who appear in the field of exhibitions and also the dissemination of emerging Portuguese values with new supports since installation, photography and video, where the body appears in its various aspects, raising pertinent issues.

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