I came to know Julião Sarmento’s work through a remarkable film that he co-directed with the film-maker Atom Egoyan. Close, from 2001, is as special as all the works and series of works Julião produced throughout his life. It is a projection of cinematic proportions, which can only be seen after passing through a narrow corridor and stopping directly in front of an image. The image becomes overwhelming and it is very difficult to see it as a whole. A conceptual and tactile artist in equal measure, his work is as sensual as it is intellectual, but it is also a mark of the irreverent youthfulness of this wonderful man, this immensely generous friend, who thought only of art: that of others, which he collected with passion, as well as his own, which he was also wont to collect. During our last conversation, ten days before he left us, Julião told me about all the works he never wanted to sell, which remain in his neatly organised studio.
Today I recall our work during the autumn of 2019, and again in the summer of 2020, to prepare an exhibition that I could never have imagined would be posthumous. I also remember his participation in a photo-sharing project (one photo a day), which I organised in the spring of 2020 to keep in touch with all those who found themselves confined to their homes, reduced to migrating around their rooms as a result of the pandemic. Each morning I would await the photograph of the immense cacti in the Estoril garden, set against an ever-changing sky, which he would diligently and surreptitiously capture before leaving for his studio. This will be one of his final works: a series of 89 instant photographs taken with his mobile phone, which Julião wanted to display in a series planned for one of the walls at the Casa das Mudas in Madeira, our joint project that sadly he will not see, but which began with Close, the wonderful video installation that marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Rest in Peace, my friend. We miss you so much, already, but we are blessed with all the great and inspiring work you have entrusted the world with.
05 May 2021
A year has now elapsed since the passing of Julião Sarmento, on May 4, 2021. In honor of his memory, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian is restaging “Marie” (2015), a sculpture we acquired in 2015, which was first displayed in Paris. “Marie”, who is dressed by Felipe Oliveira Baptista, will remain in front of the foundation’s art library until it can be permanently installed in the new gardens of CAM. This spring, we have also placed one of the foundation famed truck-library next to the sculpture, where visitors to our gardens have access to a selection of publications by the artist, to familiarize themselves with his work.
CAM is also glad to announce that it has acquired Close for its permanent collection.