Que horas são que horas: uma galeria de histórias at Porto Municipal Gallery

Que horas são que horas: uma galeria de histórias, curated by José Maia, Paula Parente Pinto and Paulo Mendes, at Galeria Municipal do Porto, is an exhibition about the history of art galleries in Oporto, between 1940 and the present. It is a reflection that allows us to understand the relationships between artists, cultural spaces and audience, something reflected in a scenography surrounded by an archival environment filled with characters, artistic practices and different documents.

In 2001, when the city of Porto was the European Capital of Culture, the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art organised the exhibition Porto 60/70: Os Artistas e a Cidade. In the catalogue, the curators Fátima Lambert and João Fernandes called for a more developed study of the decades presented, especially the “life and history of institutions, structures and cultural associations”. Now, with some research on this theme already conducted, Que horas são que horas is not only an anthological project, but, as the text of the exhibition indicates, a discourse based on the following statement: “Against the regime or with its support, in an institutional vacuum or while feeding the museums, isolated or globalised, central or peripheral, heir to a conservative social context without critical discourse and resistant to new generations of artists, the historical landscape of art galleries in Oporto is made by citizenship and commerce, of an art that is not only cult-like, but one that carries an exchange value: a gallery made of stories.”

Que horas são que horas is a retrospective portrait, whose scenography is typical of the work of the visual artist and curator Paulo Mendes. We feel like we are standing in front of a sort of archive, full of transport boxes that support several photos, art magazines or videos of inaugurations. The journey takes us in different directions, with several artistic practices displayed in the galleries. But there is also documentation, such as catalogues, promotional material, or contact prints, presented in industrial structures, in addition to a chronology where we understand the spaces, works and artists that are part of the history of Porto, including Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, Ana Hatherly or Mauro Cerqueira. The moving image is also important, displayed in a blackbox, screen or projector. The highlight is Manoel de Oliveira’s O Pintor e a Cidade (1956), his first colour film, where he shows the Oporto from that time, screened all over the gallery’s back wall, in great drama while relating the exhibition to the city’s history. The work of Mafalda Santos also deserves to be highlighted, having been purposely created for this project: a panel, with a map of the institutions and protagonists of the narrative being told.

The title of the exhibition, taken from a series of paintings by Álvaro Lapa, can be read according to one’s imagination. Que horas são que horas (What time is what time). Time of the pandemic, social and economic crisis. Time of isolation, silence, emptiness. A time when cultural venues are closed. A time when support for culture is relegated to the background. A time when we cannot allow the “few” cultural structures to close permanently.

The exhibition at the Municipal Gallery, which in the past has assembled projects about the city’s artistic life, such as Musonautas, Visões & Avarias (2018), or 100 Tesouros da Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto (2016), shines a light on a pressing field of study, where we think about Porto’s culture. It’s about reflecting on the history of art galleries, since returning to the past and questioning the present is also building and creating proposals for the future. Finally, a quote from Fernando Pernes, in Memórias Imprecisas, from the catalogue of the aforementioned exhibition at Serralves Museum: “The rest will be silence, which only future judgments will perhaps shatter. While the humiliated and offended contemporaries of a time still near, but already past, grow old and sad”.

The Galeria Municipal do Porto will reopen on 6 April and the exhibition Que horas são que horas will be extended until 25 April.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) PhD student at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto, holds a master’s degree in Art Studies – Museum and Curatorial Studies at FBAUP, with the dissertation “O Cinema Exposto – Entre a Galeria e o Museu: Exposições de Realizadores Portugueses (2001-2020)” and graduated in Cinema from the ESTC of the IPL and in Heritage Management from the ESE of the IPP. She was a researcher at the Projeto CHIC – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the integration of artist films into the National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the FBAUP Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists. She also received a scholarship from inED – Center for Research and Innovation in Education, providing support in the areas of production, communication and advice on cultural events. She collaborates in the field of Art Direction in cinema, television and advertising. She is one of the founders and curators of Coletivo Hera. She writes for Umbigo magazine.

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