Friday, 15 June 2012

Serralves, Old and New

Fundação de Serralves is a cultural foundation based in Porto in northern Portugal concerned with the communication of the value of contemporary artforms and the environment. The foundation does this through exhibitions and events held in Parque de Serralves, a landscaped park that is home to Casa de Serralves and Museu de Serralves, a contemporary art museum. The park and original house were commissioned by Carlos Alberto Cabral, Count of Vizela in the 1920s (completed long after in 1944). The house in particular, designed by José Marques da Silva, is considered one of the best examples of art deco architecture in Portugal, and it's easy - even from the outside - to see why. I've visited Parque de Serralves twice now, but have yet to make it inside the art deco house. Hopefully third time's a charm...

Complimenting the original house, the museum itself was built in 1997 by one of Portugal's most well-regarded contemporary architects, Álvaro Siza Vieira. Though I have experienced many gallery spaces that just don't seem to quite work, either as newly-built spaces that shout over the art or adapted spaces that don't quite work for their newfound purpose, Museu de Serralves is a space I quite like seeing art in. The architecture leads you through the various exhibition spaces in a way that isn't disorienting or requires backtracking but the building's interior never fights for your attention, either. Its exterior is an impressive series of blocks, arches, passageways and protrusions, but little of that irregularity of the exterior pushes its way inside.

Visiting Parque de Serralves deserves a long afternoon on a sunny day - I didn't give it that this time around (I had no control over the rain and had to run off to Primavera Sound after a short time). Along with the buildings the park is beautifully landscaped and home to a number of outdoor artworks. If you're in the area you should definitely make a trip.

(Images via 1 | 2 | 3 | 4)