Situação 21: Stories with tomorrow – a solidarity mapping of the galleries’ relevance in Porto

The project Situação21, curated by Miguel von Hafe Pérez, co-produced by Porto City Hall, wants to make the city’s commercial galleries more visible, after a long lockdown. The aim is to emphasize their historical and current importance as decisive cultural agents for the art market, capable of encouraging artistic production, public and private collecting, and allowing the internationalization and dissemination of national contemporary art.

Situação 21 has six exhibitions in six galleries in Porto, each one with a different curator, until 5th June. Miguel von Hafe Pérez says this about the project: “This should be a sign that the whole sector will get back on its feet in the face of the current difficult situation (…) Culture is not accessory or disposable”. The exhibitions show the potential dialogue between artists of various generations, whilst allowing to reflect on the artistic production of these venues and the current and future circumstances of the artists.

We started the tour at Galeria Nuno Centeno, visiting Os Conviventes curated by Pedro de Llano. A “kind of meeting of presences and absences, in a grouping of bodies and ghosts”, as the curator says. In the exhibition space, we noticed the coexistence between Silvestre Pestana’s Biovirtual records (1986) and Gretta Sarfaty’s photographs, with both having a performative side. In the series by Fernando José Pereira and the work of Mauro Cerqueira, despite the absence of a body, the way Pereira works the cinematographic screens and the way Cerqueira involves the different materials in a game of mirrors allows the figure of the spectator to be projected.

Then, we went to Rua Miguel Bombarda, the Porto’s artery with the most commercial galleries. We entered Galeria Fernando Santos and went through Contemporâneos Extemporâneos, curated by Andreia Garcia. In the exhibition, we highlight the installation environment by Mariana Caló and Francisco Queimadela, where stalagmite-like sculptural objects, with the incidence of a strongly contrasting green light, refer to a cavernous place, making us aware of these ecosystems. The paintings by Hernâni Reis Baptista explore the colour embedded in a material that seems to be skin, dialoguing with a plinth coat and displaying the fluidity of the body and the contemporary being.

In the same street, we went to Galeria Quadrado Azul, with Ária do encanto – uma flor que talvez não distinga o céu e a terra, by curators Luís Pinto Nunes and Luís Albuquerque Pinho. If the first part of the title asks us to sharpen our hearing and experience the sublime, the second shares the name of the drawing by one of the most important artists in the city – Álvaro Lapa –, who invites us to enter the space. Along the way, we hear the rhythm of the different geometric shapes of the sculptures by Ângelo de Sousa, Zulmiro de Carvalho or the photographs by Pedro Tropa. But also the expressiveness of Alberto Carneiro’s landscapes and the plasticity of animal fabulation in the works of João Pais Filipe, Mariana Barrote, or Musa Paradisíaca.

To conclude the tour through Bombarda, we visited Galeria Presença, where we were surprised by Pontas Duplas / Split Ends, curated by Aida Castro. According to her: “In this exhibition, split ends were reactivated (…) unexpected encounters that are established between gestures, touches, vapours and weights”. And we agree. In the exhibition space, there is a line that weaves through No vazio (2020) by Carlos Mensil, where the circular movement of metal spheres produces drawings that take us to Desceremos à gorja mudos (2021) by Gustavo Sumpta, endowed with a rhythm composed of geometric shapes that contrasts with Booliana – Poema não-binário semi-fluído (2020) by Mafalda Santos, aligned with the works of Helena Almeida and Álvaro Lapa.

Then, we went to the riverside area to see UTEROPIAS at Kubik Gallery, curated by Samuel Silva. An exhibition that “seeks to think of roots not only as an archetypal source of a uterine past, but as outcrops in the present (…), with utopia on the horizon”. Halfway through, we highlight Escuto o calcanhar do pássaro (2021) by the artist/curator. We see wood like the roots of a tree embedded in the ceiling, corroborating the curator’s statement, in a dialogue with the artistic practices of adjoining rooms, taking into account contemporary issues, particularly identities, utopias or paradoxisms.

Walking from Miramar to Alfândega, we conclude this wander in We Want Electricity, curated by Susana Lourenço Marques, at Galeria Pedro Oliveira . An exhibition which uses the venue’s archive and which, in the words of the curator, is “an ode to its persistence and irreverence, which claims the sonic universe of many of its choices to connect art, music and eternal youth”. We are enveloped by photographs, moving images or drawings that evoke the rock and the electricity that a music show or music festival transmits to us.

The project Situação 21, which will continue, brought new visibility to the commercial galleries of Porto. We hope that, with this boost, these cultural agents will regain sparkle, develop more exhibition projects, feed the dialogue with young artists and have a closer relationship with the community.

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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