New Kengo Kuma-designed CAM announces September opening

Leonor Antunes is revealed as the headline artist in the opening exhibition programme, with a large site-specific project in dialogue with women artists from CAM’s art collection.
23 feb 2024

CAM-Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian will reopen to the public on 20th September 2024 following an extensive reimagining led by acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, marking the architect’s first completed project in Portugal. Conceived by British architect Sir Leslie Martin, the original building opened in 1983 to house one of the world’s most significant collections of modern and contemporary Portuguese art. Currently undergoing a significant transformation, CAM is nestled within the verdant grounds of Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation, a multi-disciplinary campus comprised of iconic 1960’s buildings immersed in an 18-acre woodland, the legacy of the prolific collector and philanthropist, Calouste Gulbenkian (1869 – 1955). Highlights of the opening programme include a major exhibition featuring a site-specific installation by Berlin-based, Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes presented alongside a selection of works by women artists from CAM’s Collection, as well as three days of live arts events free for the public to attend.

CAM will continue to house a major open collection of almost 12,000 artworks spanning paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, prints, photographs and films by some of the country’s most renowned artists, such as Helena Almeida, Paula Rego and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. CAM also holds a significant collection of works by international and British artists, including Robert Delaunay, David Hockney and Bridget Riley. Bringing together the modern and the contemporary, CAM plans to explore and revisit segments of its expansive art collection through multiple perspectives.

For CAM’s new iteration, Kengo Kuma’s contemporary transformation seamlessly connects the building with the surrounding gardens and city.

Defined by a 100-metre-long sweeping canopy, composed from ceramic tiles made in Portugal, the architecture and interiors have been conceived by Japanese architecture firm Kengo Kuma Associates. The building’s redesign by Kuma draws from the Engawa, a sheltered walkway typical of Japanese dwellings, considered neither totally inside nor outside. Incorporating this typology, the architecture has been integrated into the surrounding gardens of the Gulbenkian Foundation – a nod to Kuma’s vision for ‘soft and humane architecture’ and in response to CAM’s commitment to establish a greater connection between the building, the garden and the city. Accessed through a new entrance, the  gardens have been extended to create a fluid and dense urban forest conceived by landscape designer Vladimir Djurovic. For CAM’s next chapter, design studio A Practice for Everyday Life has developed its new visual identity, inspired by the organic lines and sheltering nature of the Engawa and the building.

Architect, Kengo Kuma comments: “In our vision for CAM, we craft a seamless fusion, where architecture and nature converse in harmony. Inspired by the essence of the Engawa, we unveil a new outdoor narrative, inviting visitors to slow down and make this space their own. The idea of softness and transition is extended to the CAM interior where we created new spaces by subtraction, replicating the building connection to the garden and exterior light .”

Headlining the opening programme, Leonor Antunes will stage a site-specific installation  in CAM’s main gallery space, comprised of a large walkable floor sculpture and a series of sculptures, presented in dialogue with works by women artists selected by Antunes. Titled ‘on the persistent inequality of Leonor’s days’, the exhibition aims to question the invisibility of women in the canon of modern art history, such as Sadie Speight, a British architect and designer who contributed to the first architecture plan for CAM conceived in the 1980s. Alongside Antunes’ new work, the project explores the almost unknown or forgotten practices of women artists from CAM’s Collection, from the 1960s to the present day.

Leonor Antunes comments: “I’m delighted to be part of this new chapter for CAM. I accepted Benjamin Weil’s invitation to curate an exhibition of works from CAM’s collection at the same time as my solo show. The project makes sense for me, not only as it aligns with my practice, but I can also be surrounded by artists who have been and continue to be important in terms of my development as an artist”.

In the new Collection Gallery, Tide Line – inspired by a Hamish Fulton mural of the same name – evokes the convergence of two currents in the high seas. A two-year long presentation including over 90 works from CAM’s Collection, spanning different disciplines, Tide Line reflects on nature, our inner lives, imposed borders, destruction and revolution.

An exhibition of Portuguese-Brazilian artist Fernando Lemos will explore his relationship with Japan in the 1960s, where the artist was granted a scholarship by the Gulbenkian Foundation to study Japanese calligraphy and learn photography techniques. His drawings and photographs will be displayed alongside works by other artists from the CAM collection and Japanese prints from the Gulbenkian Museum Collection.

CAM will also feature spaces dedicated to sound art, works on paper, education and live arts, as well as a new sunken gallery. A restaurant spearheaded by David Jesus, the former sous-chef at Lisbon’s Michelin star restaurant Belcanto, will offer a fast daily menu and slow service, with locally-sourced ingredients championing regenerative food practices. Contemporary Portuguese design will be showcased in the shop, with an emphasis on sustainable materials, as well as arts and culture publications and prints.

Benjamin Weil, Director, CAM – Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian comments: “This fall, CAM returns in a completely new iteration. Building on 40 years of history and an extensive art collection, it aims to be a haven for the most daring art projects and a place where people can integrate art into their everyday lives. Research and collaboration with the wider campus will be fundamental to shape our audience-driven programme, as will including other voices such as CAM’s Youth Advisory Group, to help foster societal changes.” 

Set within the Gulbenkian Foundation’s expansive woodland, CAM is expected to be at the epicentre of Lisbon’s vibrant cultural scene with a new, ambitious programme featuring contemporary artists and works from its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. Inspired by the notion of the Engawa that characterises the new building, CAM plans to create an immersive experience, with accessible ticket pricing, a new live arts programme, experimental exhibition displays, and gardens open year-round to the public.

CAM will open on 20th September 2024 with a three-day live arts programme and the exhibitions will be free to visit during the first month. 

CAM is supported by the following patrons: Vanguard Properties, Brisa, PLMJ, Fundação PLMJ, KPMG, BFF Banking Group, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Canon, Corticeira Amorim, Julius Baer, Fundação Ramón Areces and El Corte Inglés.

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