Lisbon’s Museo do Chiado has put forward an interesting initiative: under the title “Avant-garde and neo-avant-garde” (June 17, 2016 – June 17, 2017), it has elected to display the 20th– and 21st-century artworks of its collection, despite being almost exclusively known for its 19th-century pieces. However, at the risk of provoking my Portuguese friends’ outcries, I will say I was deeply bored visiting the rooms leading up to 1965. Not that I am not interested in movements like Futurism, Cubism, Surrealism or abstract art —far from it. But at the Chiado I saw mere adaptations, variations, imitations. I looked in vain for some unsettling, stimulating instances of creativity, only encountering earnest, well-rounded artworks that might have encapsulated what each of these movements were about, but that never really stood out on their own. (In the adjacent rooms, there is a dithyrambic exhibition on Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, “greatest artist of the century,” a hidden gem finally revealed —like at the Grand Palais, I couldn’t appreciate it without taking into account the historical and cultural context.) Is this informed by Parisianocentric disdain for provincial follow-the-leader endeavors? Maybe, but then again I don’t have the same feeling of déjà-vu in front of Italian artists of this era, for instance.
Helena Almeida’s exhibition, shown in Porto at the Serralves Foundation (October 17, 2015 – January 10, 2016) under the name “My work is my body, my body is my work”, is travelling to Paris: it will be presented at the Jeu de Paume, titled “Corpus” (February 9 – May 22, 2016). Finally, the body is addressed by the contemporary Portuguese art scene, which almost never does so, focusing instead on the concept, on humor, on history, and thus neglecting embodiment, and the (very few) artists who have made the body the focal point of their work (Helena Almeida, Jorge Molder also, and the occasional young artist, including Brazilians living in Portugal, like Lizi Menezes…). And this goes beyond contemporary art: I visited the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga with a friend a few days ago, which obviously features bodies in its collections of classical paintings and sculptures –but are those bodies naked? No way! In searching dutifully every nook and cranny of the Museum, I found one and only one female breast outrageously naked (save for a few Virgins breastfeeding, a few damned souls in hell, and a tiny allegory on ivory), by a Dutch painter. No Venuses, no Graces. Granted, this beautiful museum features, on the other hand, some Bosch, and more daring temporary exhibitions, but what a strange national puritanism in visual arts, not only concerning nudes but more simply the reluctance to give prominence to bodies (but this is not true for dance or film –if anyone can clue me in…). Continue readingStandard