7 February 2020

Artists’ Journeys in the Modern Collection

A new exhibition itinerary and recent acquisitions and donations mark the changes in the Modern Collection

Armando Ferraz. Untitled (Plane Room); from the series Blue and Uneventful (detail). 2000. C-print on paper. Modern Collection

From 30 January, the Modern Collection of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum will present its annual changes, including the display of 80 works of installation, sculpture, painting, drawing and photography. This renewal of the collection, the last before the building closes for renovations, offers a new exhibition itinerary that includes pieces by Portuguese artists which were incorporated into the collection in 2019, including important donations by Jorge Pinheiro, Maria Gabriel and David de Almeida, and newly acquired works by Rosa Carvalho, Ana Léon, Ana Jotta, Mónica de Miranda and Eugénia Mussa.

Highlights include works by tutelary figure Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992), whose graphic work is exhibited for the first time in a dedicated room, including a set of 17 prints, from burin work and aquatint to the series of lithographs and serigraphs developed mainly in the 1960s and 1970s, when the artist was definitively based in Paris and had become a naturalised French citizen following her forced exile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (where she lived from 1940 to 1947).

The theme Artists’ Journeys can be noted throughout the galleries of the Modern Collection, where visitors can find stories of travellers and their voyages, as well as fictitious relationships between the gaze and landscape, including remarkable photographs by Augusto Alves da Silva and António Júlio Duarte.

The condition of being physically and/or metaphorically ‘out of place’ and the juxtaposition of mobility and immobility are starting points for this new exhibition itinerary, which begins in the hall of the Modern Collection with the installation of the work Hidden Pages, Stolen Bodies by António Ole, which explores the theme of slavery associated with colonial violence and the encounter between European and African cultures.

The exhibition itinerary moves from Baudelairean flâneurie to the notion of ‘possible escape’ from political and social reality, reflecting the deep sense of claustrophobia experienced by some artists during the Estado Novo period, but also the return of others such as João Cutileiro, Menez and Lourdes Castro, who, as Gulbenkian Foundation grant holders, produced the works presented here in both London and Paris.

Indeed, cities that were and which remain fundamental centres for the Portuguese and other artistic communities – including Paris, London, Macau, Berlin, Luanda and New York – stand out in the development of several artistic avant-gardes, offering a significant cultural opening for most of the artists represented in this exhibition.

As dynamic movement that provokes encounter with other geographic, cultural and social realities, travel is also a driver of self-knowledge, with the subject who returns being different from the one who originally left, representing the search for more complete and authentic planes of existence. In this sense, though they maintained a constant connection to Portugal, artists such as António Dacosta, Fernando Lemos and Vieira da Silva belong to a group of permanent exiles.

In the large display case on the lower floor, some of Vieira da Silva’s catalogues are featured alongside individual exhibition catalogues of the ‘KWY’ group from the 1960s and exhibits by Manuel Cargaleiro and Fernando Lemos, in a substantial collection of publications belonging to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Art Library.

Between February and July this year, the Founder’s Collection will receive a new work from the Modern Collection every week (recent acquisitions and donations). These pieces will remain in the Founder’s Collection galleries while the Modern Collection building is closed for renovations.