Exhibition of female Portuguese artists

The Ministry of Culture and the Gulbenkian Foundation are in June to present two hundred works by 40 female artists ranging from the beginning of the 20th century through to contemporary times.
Detail Self-portrait, 1900 (Aurélia de Souza, 1866-1922) ©MNSR/DGPC/ADF/Manuel Palma

All I Want – Portuguese Women Artists form 1900 to 2020 is an initiative from the Ministry of Culture with executive production and curatorial project by the Gulbenkian Foundation under the auspices of the Cultural Program of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Curated by Helena de Freitas and Bruno Marchand, this exhibition will bring together around two hundred works of art: painting, sculpture, drawing, object, book, installation, film and video, produced by 40 female Portuguese artists between the beginning of the 20th century and current times.

The iconic self-portrait by Aurélia de Souza, painted in 1900, represents the departure point for a reflection on the creative context that down through centuries has been almost exclusively masculine. In the words of the curators, “the set of works, gathered here, represents a document in itself to the right of their creators to express their own voice”.

The Minister of Culture, Graça Fonseca, stressed the importance of “boosting the visibility of women in the cultural and creative sector, one of the political priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, promoting equality in the representation of work by women in exhibitions, museums, galleries, theatres, festivals and concerts. This constitutes the only means of getting out of the rigid and confined roles of gender”.

In turn, the President of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Isabel Mota, declared that “in addition to contributing to offsetting some of the injustices in the national historiographic context, this exhibition seeks to grasp the leading role that female Portuguese artists have taken up in the second half of the 20th century, especially at international levels, with many of them holding longstanding connections with the Foundation, whether as grantees in Portugal or in cities like Paris, London or Munich”.

The title of the exhibition, All I Want – Portuguese Women Artists form 1900 to 2020, was inspired on one of the most notable figures in the field of reimagining the role of women in the social, intellectual, sexual and romantic spaces of the last centuries: Lou Andreas-Salomé, thus situating the place of the artists selected within the spirit of subtlety, affirmation and power.

It will feature renowned artists such as Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Lourdes Castro, Paula Rego, Ana Vieira, Salette Tavares, Helena Almeida, Joana Vasconcelos, Maria José Oliveira, Fernanda Fragateiro, Sónia Almeida and Grada Kilomba, among many others.

These artists are each depicted by a set of works that, more than merely signalling their presences or absences, is capable of providing the public with a broader insight into their respective artistic universes.

Initially scheduled to open on 25 February in Brussels, in the Palace of Fine Arts (Bozar), the exhibition was relocated to Lisbon following a fire earlier in year that prevented the exhibition in this venue, which has led to a delay in the opening of Histories of a Collection. Modern and Contemporary Art of the Gulbenkian Foundation.

In 2022, this exhibition will go on display in the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré, in Tours, integrated into the general programming for the Crossed Portugal-France Season.