XXII Cerveira International Art Biennial: We Must Take Action!

In 1978, the history of the Cerveira International Art Biennial began because of Encontros Internacionais de Arte em Portugal organised by Grupo Alvarez, Egídio Álvaro, and the magazine Artes Plásticas. After the First Meeting, in 1974, at Casa da Carruagem, Valadares, the event took place in Viana do Castelo (1975), Póvoa do Varzim (1976), Caldas da Rainha (1977) and the last and Fifth Meeting in Vila Nova de Cerveira, the origin of the Ceveira Art Biennial, held every two years, in a more comprehensive format and with foreign guests. Promoting the connection between art and urban space, the contact with local inhabitants and a diversified public, the oldest biennial of the Iberian Peninsula has a strong presence in the national contemporary art map, in a model that features an international competition, tribute exhibitions to acclaimed artists, guest artists, curatorial projects, artistic residencies and parallel programming.

Forty-four years after the first edition, organized by Egídio Álvaro (1937-2020) and Jaime Isidoro (1924-2009), the programming and curatorial layout of the XXII Cerveira International Art Biennial has innovations that reinforce the desire to exist in the future, notwithstanding its historical importance and seniority. Under the theme WE MUST TAKE ACTION! / DEVEMOS AGIR, an invitation to action is made, stimulating artists to think about the world and reflect on global emergencies such as the environment and sustainability. This is a challenge not only to the artistic community, but also to the public. With the artistic direction of Helena Mendes Pereira (1986) – the first woman to hold the position after Jaime Isidoro, José Rodrigues, Henrique Silva, Augusto Canedo and Cabral Pinto -, and with the same format adopted in the first edition, BIAC allows several artistic interventions to debate and stimulate education and cultural mediation. According to the current director, it is important to act and ask the question: can art change the world?

The Cerveira International Art Biennial wants to reward, unveil avant-garde movements, and present emerging artists. Hence, one of this edition’s highlights is the curatorial decision to exhibit separately the works of the International Competition and those of the Invited Artists. These are different curatorial approaches, which value the pieces and their authors. The works of the Invited Artists are distributed throughout Fórum Cultural de Cerveira, the recently opened Galeria Bienal de Cerveira, Biblioteca Municipal de Vila Verde, Museu Municipal de Caminha and – from September – Museu de Pontevedra; Fórum Cultural de Cerveira houses all the works of the International Competition, which this year enjoyed a record number of 1164 works by artists from 50 countries, 96 works by 77 artists from 18 nationalities being presented.

We single out the tribute exhibition to Helena Almeida (1934-2018), EGO_ERGONOMIA, curated by Helena Mendes Pereira, at Fórum Cultural de Cerveira. Ten works by the artist reveal her interest in the body (which registers, occupies, and defines space) and its performative encounter with the world and dialogue with ten works by invited artists. The exhibition takes place forty years after Saída Negra (1982), work for which Helena Almeida was awarded a prize in 1984, at the Fourth Cerveira International Art Biennial, becoming part of the collection of Fundação Bienal de Arte de Cerveira. At Fórum Cultural de Cerveira, among the Curatorial Projects, we highlight Da Afirmação à Conta-corrente, a proposal by Jaime Silva; and Viagem pelo Esquecimento, an artistic project by Ana Mesquita, João Gil and Mia Couto, where the public is invited to travel through the most delicate aspects of History, in a call to memory based on video art, music and poetry.

For the first time, the Cerveira International Art Biennial presents Japan as a guest country, with the exhibition Plenitude e Vazio, at Biblioteca Municipal de Vila Nova de Cerveira, from July 16 to October 1, curated by Filipe Rodrigues.

As usual, the Cerveira International Art Biennial is also at Convento de San Payo, where we visit the exhibition dedicated to Father Himalaya, perhaps the first Portuguese environmentalist, entitled Himalaya: lugares das estórias de um inventor; and Alfândega da Fé, specifically Casa da Cultura Mestre José Rodrigues, with the exhibition De Casa para um Mundo, curated by Maria de Fátima Lambert (1960), resulting from creativity during the lockdown period.

Cultural decentralisation has always been one of BIAC’s objectives. Therefore, we must emphasize the promotion strategy of art and contemporary artists developed by the Biennial, as well as its contribution to the democratization process of access to culture in the public and the territory, as indicated by the Programme of Residencies and Artistic Interventions, curated by Mafalda Santos (1980). This covers the municipality’s fifteen parishes and is one of the novelties of this edition. There are more than thirty projects and fifty artists, creating moments that allow us to think the world and act. And, besides this, there are studios, guided tours and the rebirth of Casa do Artista Jaime Isidoro.

With an activist edge, the XXII Cerveira International Art Biennial wants to break down walls and borders, establish bridges and dialogues, sharing ways of doing, thinking, and acting in an event that goes from Alto Minho to Galicia. It wants to be once again an outstanding cultural event at a national and international level, which we can visit until December 31.

Mafalda Teixeira, Master’s Degree in History of Art, Heritage and Visual Culture from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. She has an internship and worked in the Temporary Exhibitions department of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. During the master’s degree, she did a curricular internship in production at the Municipal Gallery of Oporto. Currently, she is devoted to research in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art, and publishes scientific articles.

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