Descuradas: Obras da Coleção Norlinda e José Lima at Centro de Arte Oliva

Descuradas, held at Centro de Arte Oliva and curated by artist duo Sara & André, is designed to reveal the artistic productions of Coleção Norlinda e José Lima, which have never been presented to the public since they were integrated into the collection. This private collection, started in 1980, is one of Portugal’s largest contemporary art collections. Its continuity, multidisciplinary and chronological breadth is unusual in Portugal, stretching over a period of approximately one hundred years, focusing on the most recent artistic production and standing out for its variety of supports and media, including national and international artists, as well as emerging and established artists. Housed long-term in the municipality of S. João da Madeira since 2008, it is the foundation of Centro de Arte Oliva, which opened in 2013. Although it has been presented through a regular programme of temporary exhibitions at the São João Madeira institution, as well as through partnerships with the CCCB in Castelo Branco or the CAA in Águeda, to name but a few, more than three hundred works remain hidden from the public.

«During one of the first conversations – over the phone – that guided the materialisation of this exhibition, José Lima told us something like: “curators always go for the same, I have some Spanish ones, for example, that have never been shown and I’d really like them to be seen” …». The two curators explain, in the curatorial statement, the origin of the exhibition project’s conceptual structure. Indeed, Descuradasexhibits works that have not yet been shown, because they were not chosen by the curators invited previously, as well as new purchases, but also artistic productions from the collectors’ residency. According to the curators, not all of the works were exhibited in this show due to the sheer quantity of productions, but also because some were more illustrative, others regarded as academic, some as decorative arts and the rest in a limiting state of conservation, apart from one work by them as artists, due to a facetious rule that those who are artist-curators and vice versa should not exhibit their works in an exhibition curated by themselves.

This exhibition is similar to a museum or art gallery collection, with most of the works arranged on specific racks for the preservation of paintings. They are often superimposed, making it possible to scrutinise the crating of the canvases, with the authors’ writings, such as title, signature or date, alongside pieces hanging on walls that are painted in the style of the previously seen grids. Likewise, there are some sections, not according to a museological or chronological approach, but bearing in mind shapes, colours, typologies, figurations or themes. There’s one with a Pop influence, with works by João Nora or Nuno Viegas, another with a more landscape style, from the natural to the industrial and urban, with productions by Ana Marchand, Serse, João Falcão Trigoso, Tânia Ferrão, Susana Gaudêncio, Alexandre Farto (VHILS), followed by a group of abstract paintings, with works by José de Guimarães, or the aforementioned Spaniards Juan Navarro Baldeweg and Rafael Canogar, but also another of surrealist content, with sculptures by Cruzeiro Seixas. We would also like to emphasise a group dedicated to dogs, with works by Sofia Torres, Ana Cardoso or André Cepeda, a group devoted to geometry, with Manuel Caeiro, Fátima Santos or Joaquim Bravo, and an area highlighting photography, namely by José Maçãs de Carvalho, Daniel Malhão or Valter Vinagre. As well as Area (Program) (2019) by Diogo Pimentão, the iron and mirror sculpture Sem título (2005) by José Pedro Croft, and the section that includes Preguiça (n.d.) by Rosa Ramalho, Sem título (n.d.) by Álvaro Lapa and Bolor Pólen IV (1998) by Rui Chafes. We should also mention the reflection on the act of collecting in Sem título (I’m too poor to be a collector) (2021) and Sem título (Take care of your belongings) (2021) by artist, curator and writer Kenny Schachter.

Through the way it introduces an exhibition device resembling a museum collection, usually concealed from the general public, reflecting simply on the act of collecting, protecting and presenting works from an estate, independently of the content and not through a specific object notion, gathering a set of artistic practices to convey this idea, Sara & André’s curatorial act in Descuradas is part of a series of curatorial projects that the duo has been carrying out. O Colecionador de Belas Artes (Galeria Quadrum/ Galerias Municipais, Lisbon, 2022), the exhibition cycle Curated Curators (Zaratan – Arte Contemporânea, Lisbon, 2017), followed by Uma Breve História da Curadoria (Documenta, Lisbon, 2019), a reference to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s A Brief History of Curating (2008), or Inquérito a 263 Artistas (special issue of Revista Contemporânea, 2021), display an analysis of curating, exhibition design, but also the archive, as in Descuradas, which is specifically about the study, history and culture of museology itself.

The renowned Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist believes that «To make a collection is to find, purchase, organise and store items (…). It is inevitably also a way of thinking about the world – the combinations and principles that make up a collection contain assumptions, juxtapositions, breakthroughs, experimental possibilities and associations» [1]. Accordingly, collecting is a method of producing knowledge. When a collector purchase works for his estate, he chooses some to the disadvantage of others, positioning himself according to a certain viewpoint, way of thinking and way of being in life. American commissioner Seth Sieglaub compares a collector to a curator for the way in which they play a crucial role in the process of presenting artistic endeavours, making decisions on whether a collection or certain works should be given greater or lesser visibility [2]. Sara & André in Uma Breve História da Curadoria (2019) understand the curatorial act, in line with curator Jens Hoffmann, as something that «has been tied to the elaboration of original arguments through the presentation of objects and works of art» [3], while adding that curators have become authors. The exhibition at Centro de Arte Oliva is thus understood as an authorial project, whose conceptualisation is defining of what is presented, through a large number of works from Coleção Norlinda e José Lima, which have been overlooked until now, and which do not stand out on their own, but as an aggregating whole, in aesthetic, formal and figurative ways, enhancing an incisive gesture on the act of collecting and curating.

Descuradas is on show at Centro de Arte Oliva until September 17, 2023.


[1] Hans Ulrich Obrist (2015). Ways of Curating. Londres: Penguin Books.p.39.

[2] Hans Ulrich Obrist (2009). A Brief History of Curating. Genebra; Dijon: JRP| Editions; Les presses du réel.p.129.

[3] Sara & André (2019). Uma Breve História da Curadoria. Lisboa: Documenta Solar Crl.p.18.

Ana Martins (Porto, 1990) currently working as a researcher at i2ADS – Instituto de Investigação em Arte, Design e Sociedade, with a fellowship granted by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (2022.12105.BD) to atende the PhD in Fine Arts at Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto. Already holding a MA in Art Studies – Museological and Curatorial Studies from the same institution. With a BA in Cinema from ESTC-IPL and in Heritage Management by ESE-IPP. Also collaborated as a researcher at CHIC Project – Cooperative Holistic view on Internet Content, supporting the incorporation of artist films into the portuguese National Cinema Plan and the creation of content for the Online Catalog of Films and Videos by Portuguese Artists from FBAUP. Currently developing her research project: Cinematic Art: Installation and Moving Images in Portugal (1990-2010), following the work she started with Exhibiting Cinema – Between the Gallery and the Museum: Exhibitions by Portuguese Filmmakers (2001-2020), with the aim to contribute to the study of installations with moving images in Portugal, envisioning the transfer and specific incorporation of structural elements of cinema in the visual arts.

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