O Inesperado e Esplendoroso Salón (do Rego)

It is not a 19th century-style Salon. It is unexpected, yes, and magnificent too. Seven friends get together and two of them say “let’s make an exhibition.” This was the beginning of a lengthy process of experimentation, where work and fun combine to create this unexpected and magnificent Salón. Inside the studio of Nuno Sousa Vieira and Rita Gaspar Vieira there are works by José Loureiro, Mariana Gomes, Nuno Sousa Vieira, Pedro Valdez Cardoso and Rita Gaspar Vieira.

The curator is Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues who, rejecting the idea of the 19th century Salon, where the walls were crowded, the choice was to free them from any installation, challenging the group to propose something for a metal bookcase positioned in the centre. It rescues and inverts the idea of a cabinet of curiosities, transforming it into an open support that allows one to see what it contains on all its fronts and from where some of the pieces are projected, contaminating the surrounding area.

The exhibition leaflet, designed by Vera Velez, shows part of the exhibition’s sarcastic, amusing, and burlesque universe. We can read that the aim is to seek “new limits between the uncompromising experience and the novelty of fun, with no other pretensions than to seek, provoke and divert.” The exhibition is a provocation, a diversion that softens History’s turgidity, and can be interpreted as an installation that contains the work of all the artists.

An installation that is not alien to the place where it is located. Skewedly positioned in the centre, it draws a kind of pocket that invites us to enter, creating a close relationship with the enormous gap in the main façade, emphasised when it is opened and frames the street in front. The depth and formal dynamism between the two elements recalls Renaissance perspectives or the light in the interiors of Edward Hopper’s paintings.

The object stimulates unexpected and unusual relationships between the various works, which engage in dialogue between four levels, and from the centre outwards. Diversity is agglutinated through the industrial element of the metal bookcase, and our gaze is guided through a notion of frame, formally present in Mariana Gomes’ paintings and videos, and in the structures of old frames used by Nuno de Sousa Vieira.

There is no front or back. But rather a game based on the depth or reflection of the gaze, which surprises the observer through the echoes or reverberations between the works of a diverse nature of the various participants on their several fronts. Irony and sarcasm permeate the show through contradictory or complementary dialogues, which we find as the body moves and the eye moves between objects.

The two paintings by José Loureiro head the set and welcome the visitors. The countless eyes on the head of Loureiro’s portrait, together with the heads of Mariana Gomes that peek at us from multiple levels, intimidate and return our gaze in a dichotomy between seeing and being seen. The feeling of arriving home is suggested by Pedro Valdez Cardoso’s shoes “arranged” at the bottom of the bookcase.

Nuno de Sousa Vieira’s metallic structures, attached to the sides of the bookcase, invite us to go around the object and discover the pieces, at the same time reflecting through mirrors the works of other artists or the surrounding space. The body’s movement is blocked within the space generated by Mariana Gomes’ two paintings, set on one of the bookshelf’s edges. These, in dialogue with the edge of the studio, create a pausing moment.

The notion of duplication is also in Pedro Valdez Cardoso’s work Sem título (duplo). And Desenhos retirados do seu lugar by Rita Gaspar Vieira are put back in their original, horizontal position. This points to the primary archaeology of surfaces, through an accumulation of overlapping layers, material, and time, which conceal and reveal.

This is not a rigid structure, nor is it a settled, sealed object. This is a living organism that can be developed or altered over time, embodying an exhibition brimming with ambiguities, uncompromising but no less serious. In a joking and provocative tone, it sarcastically questions preconceived places, making us reflect on them.

The character, humour, and irony of O Inesperado e Esplendoroso Salón (do Rego) are contagious and engage the visitors, putting them in a good mood. The exhibition can be visited by appointment only until 30 November.

Joana Duarte (Lisbon, 1988), architect and curator, lives and works in Lisbon. She concluded her master in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura of Universidade de Lisboa in 2011, she attended the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and did her professional internship in Shanghai, China. She collaborated with several national and international architects and artists developing a practice between architecture and art. In 2018 she founds her own studio, concludes the postgraduate degree in curatorial studies at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas of Universidade Nova de Lisboa and starts collaborating with Umbigo magazine.

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