History and museums
Serralves is a cultural institution located in Porto, Portugal, and one of the most important of all the country. It includes a Contemporary Art Museum, a Park and a Villa, each one an example of contemporary architecture, Modernism, and Art Deco architecture. The Museum, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, is now the most visited museum in Portugal (more than 300,000 visitors per year) and one of the most relevant in the contemporary art circuit in Europe.
Serralves Foundation (Fundação Serralves) is an art foundation whose “mission is to raise the general public's awareness concerning contemporary art and the environment, via the Museum of Contemporary Art, Park and Auditorium”.
Serralves Foundation has extremely valuable heritage assets, constituted by the Museum, designed by the architect, Álvaro Siza Vieira, who won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992, the Villa (Casa de Serralves), a unique example of Art Deco architecture, and the Park which won the “Henry Ford Prize for the Preservation of the Environment” in 1997.
The buildings of Serralves - Casa de Serralves, Park, Museum of Contemporary Art, Auditorium and Library - were jointly classified by the Portuguese State as a "Building of Public Interest" in 1999 and as a "National Monument" in 2012.
Serralves develops its activities around 5 strategic axes: Artistic Creation, Audience Formation and Awareness-Raising, The Environment, Critical Reflection on Contemporary Society and The Creative Industries.
The Foundation management model conciliates partnerships with Founders and cooperation with the State. There are currently 181 founders, including companies, private individuals and other institutions. Special Patron Status is reserved to Founders who stand out because of their ongoing commitment to Serralves, embodied through their contribution to the Annual Fund.
The actual President of the Foundation is Luís Braga da Cruz, former Portuguese Finance Minister.
During the immediate period after the 1974 revolution, the city of Oporto hosted several social movements that demanded the creation of an exhibition space in the city, in order to exhibit art produced at that time. The importance of several initiatives - in particular the Centre of Contemporary Art, that was managed from the outset by Fernando Pernes and which remained in operation until 1980 - played a key role in consolidating the artistic universe in Oporto. These achievements were recognized by the Secretary of State for Culture, Teresa Patrício Gouveia, when she chose the city as the location for the future National Museum of Modern Art.
The State acquired the Serralves Estate in December 1986 for this purpose. On this date, and prior to creation of the Serralves Foundation in 1989, a Founding Committee was constituted, whose members were Jorge Araújo, Teresa Andresen and Diogo Alpendurada. Serralves Park and Villa were opened to the public on May 29, 1987. The creation of the Foundation, via Decree-Law no. 240-A/89, of July 27, signaled the beginning of an innovative partnership between the State and civil society - encompassing around 51 public and private sector bodies at that time.
The Foundation signed a contract in March 1991 with the architect, Álvaro Siza, who was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1992, to design the Museum building. The Museum was inaugurated on June 6, 1999.
To house the art collection of Serralves (estimated in more than 4,000 works in 2014), the Foundation promoted in 2008 an international competition for the architectural design of Pólo Serralves 21, a multifunctional building and museum branch in Matosinhos on the former grounds of EFANOR (Northern Manufacturing Company), owned by Sonae the company founded by Belmiro de Azevedo. The winner project was designed by the architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the Japanese studio SANAA (Pritzker prize in 2012). However, the project was canceled in 2010 due to lack of funding and agreement with the local government of Matosinhos.
In September 2014, an enlargement project was presented by Alvaro Siza to expand the premises of Serralves by transforming the garage of the Villa in the new Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira.
Serralves Museum opened in 1999 in order to endow Porto with a space dedicated to contemporary art. The programming combines in-house production of exhibitions with co-productions with distinguished international institutions, enabling circulation of works by both Portuguese and foreign artists.
The exhibitions - normally three parallel exhibitions – are organized on a quarterly basis.
Since the inauguration of the Museum building in 1999 a total of 4.6 million visitors -of all ages and from all parts of Portugal and the world - have visited the various spaces of the Foundation. These results position the Foundation in first place amongst Portuguese Museums and amongst Europe’s most highly visited contemporary art museums with similar characteristics.
In pursuit of its statutory objectives, the Serralves Foundation signed a contract in March 1991 with the architect, Álvaro Siza Vieira, in order to draw up an architectural project for the museum. Construction began five years later on the former vegetable gardens of the Serralves Estate. Siza was invited to design a museum project that took into consideration the specific characteristics of the physical setting and the need for integration within the surrounding landscape. The Museum is the Foundation’s primary exhibition space and establishes a direct interaction with the Park, where several installations and sculptures may be found.
The 13,000-square-meter building, which includes 4,500 square meters of exhibition space in 14 galleries, opened its doors to the public in 1999, with the old Casa de Serralves serving as the foundation’s head office. In 2000, an auditorium was added.
The building is built in a longitudinal manner from North to South, with a central body divided into two wings, separated by a patio, thus creating a U-shaped structure, complemented by an L-shaped construction, which creates a second patio between the latter building and the main building. This patio serves as the main access to the Museum, with connection to the underground car park and gardens.
The Museum has exhibition rooms and store rooms for works of art, distributed across three floors. The upper floor is the location of the cafeteria/restaurant, esplanade and multi-purpose rooms, the entrance floor has exhibition rooms and a bookshop and the lower floor houses the library and auditorium. Access to these spaces is facilitated via a square-shaped atrium located next to the reception, complemented by a cloakroom and information area, in an area adjacent to the Museum entrance. The Museum building also has a workshops area and another area for activities of the Educational Service, together with complementary areas such as a shop and a large terrace overlooking the Park.
As in most of Siza’s buildings, the furniture and fittings were also designed by the architect, including lighting fixtures, handrails, doorknobs, and signage. Materials include hardwood floors and painted walls in gesso with marble skirting in the exhibition halls, and marble floors in the foyers and wet spaces. Exterior walls are covered with stone or stucco.
The museum opened with a proposal of works for the collection, most of which were bought in the subsequent years. Since 2003, the library has featured Mario Pedrosa (2003), a site-specific ceiling installation composed of 77 manufactured glass globes by Tobias Rehberger. Today, the collection is constituted by direct acquisitions by the museum, works deposited by the State and private collectors and also donations. From the beginning, the collection and the various exhibitions have focussed on the period following 1968. There are no permanent exhibitions, but the museum hosts five exhibits from invited artists every year. In recent years, the museum has organized exhibitions by Franz West, Roni Horn, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Richard Hamilton, Christopher Wool, Luc Tuymans, and Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Serralves shares exhibition costs with the likes of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Whitechapel Gallery or Museum Ludwig, among others.
The symbolic start-date for the collection is 1968, but it refers specifically to the socio-cultural events of the second half of the 1960s which, in addition to consecration of pop art, witnessed the launch of the bases of dematerialisation of art works, mingling of formal genres, the use of film, photography and text to underpin conceptual projects and blurring of the lines between art and life, accompanied by widespread agitation for new political and social ideas. In Portugal, the late 1960s paved the way to the experimentalism of the 1970s and the beginning of a dialogue that was more informed by international experiences and relationships between Portuguese artists and their foreign counterparts.
First director was Vicente Todolí (born in Valencia, Spain, in 1958). After his position as Chief Curator (1986–88) and then Artistic Director of IVAM (Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno) 1988-96, he joined the Museu Serralves as its founding Director in 1996, participating in Siza's new building project for the Contemporary Art Museum, inaugurated in 1999. His last project at Serralves was the first Francis Bacon exhibition in Portugal, "Caged-Uncoged".
In 2003, Vicente Todolí was appointed as Director of the Tate Modern in London and João Fernandes, who had been with the museum since its opening in 1999, succeeded him as director until 2013. Under Fernandes, exhibitions at the Serralves included "Robert Rauschenberg: Travelling '70–'76" (2008) and "Bruce Nauman: One Hundred Fish Fountain, 2005" (2008).
In 2013, British art historian Suzanne Cotter, former Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's curator, replaced João Fernandes.
Casa de Serralves is a villa and museum located inside the park of Serralves. Owned by the Serralves Foundation, the house was built by the second Count of Vizela, Carlos Alberto Cabral and designed by the architect José Marques da Silva. It is a unique example of Streamline Moderne architecture in Portugal.
Casa de Serralves - in addition to serving as the Foundation’s head office - is an important extension of the Museum of Contemporary Art, used for presentation of temporary exhibitions. Originally designed as a private residence, the Villa – which is a unique example of Art Deco architecture – and the Park – inspired by the modernists – were commissioned by the 2nd Count of Vizela, Carlos Alberto Cabral. With its façade overlooking the Rua de Serralves and the main entrance located in the Avenida Marechal Gomes da Costa, Casa de Serralves is a significant example of Art Deco style. The building was constructed on the outskirts of Porto between 1925 and 1944, combining neoclassical, romantic and art deco elements.
Serralves was originally the summer residence of the Cabral family, residing in the centre of Porto since the early 19th century. Diogo José Cabral, a textile manufacturer whose industry lay in Vale do Ave, came into the property on his marriage to María Emília Magalhães. This signaled the start of a number of alterations to the property, in which Diogo José Cabral Jr., first Count of Vizela (1864-1923), played a key role. He was a reference in the industrial modernization of the country and received his title in 1900.
As Quinta de Lordelo, in one of the expansion areas of the city, it had featured in the topographical map of Porto by Telles Ferreira (1892). It was situated between terraced buildings in Rua de Serralves, their rear courtyards extending down to woods and fields.
Pre-1925 photographs still exist of Quinta de Lordelo, highlighting the image of a 19th-century upper-middle class home with its romantic garden. After the death of Diogo José Cabral Jr., in 1923, his son Carlos Alberto Cabral (1895-1968), second Count of Vizela, then aged 28, took over the industry with which he was familiar, and also inherited the family state on Rua de Serralves.
When Carlos Alberto Cabral, second Count of Vizela, inherited what was then Quinta de Lordelo, it was much smaller than it is today. This originated a number of purchases and exchanges which enlarged it to its current 18 hectares. In the interim, the property changed its name to Quinta de Serralves. It is a referential work and a unique testimony of the first half of the 20th century, embodying the avant-garde social and cultural aspirations of its first proprietor.
Steeped in the visual culture of his day, Carlos Alberto, a scion of the restricted industrial elite that prospered after World War I, favored the artistic currents prevalent between the 1920s and the 1940s, in particular French architecture and French decorative arts, encouraged by his visit to Paris to the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925. There he met the people who were most in tune with the pragmatism of his class, including Charles Siclis (1889-1942), an architect whose 1929 watercolors are behind the referential image of the Villa, Jacques Émile Ruhlmann (1879-1933), decorator and architect, and Jacques Gréber (1882-1962), the architect who was invited to design the new garden.
With the aid of the Porto architect José Marques da Silva (1869-1947), the author of the first drafts for the Villa and the Park, Carlos Alberto Cabral gradually put together the different views and contributions. This can be seen in an annotation in a programmatic plan, proving his desire to keep only what was essential by integrating the structure of the existing gardens in the new plans. This plan also contains sketches of ideas that would later materialize in Gréber’s plans for the Park.
Gréber had designed several gardens in Europe and North America. His plans for Serralves date from 1932, constituting a break with the Portuguese context of the time.
The garden plans were based on Marques da Silva’s drafts, according to which “ the predominant law is always to compose the garden for the house to which it is the requisite companion”,
Completed in the mid-1940s, Quinta de Serralves is the result of almost twenty years of designs and the vision of its creator. As a nonconforming member of the Porto bourgeoisie and an enthusiast of French culture, Carlos Alberto Cabral brought together a number of agents in unplanned phases, Serralves standing as the image and representation of an era and its aspirations. The House of Serralves is considered to be one of José Marques da Silva's greatest achievements.
In the post-war environment of 1953, however, affected by the failure to adapt to industrial progress and upcoming times, Cabral was forced to sell his property, letting go of the project in which he is recognized today as the main author. All that remains of that period is the photographic record from Casa Alvão, commissioned by the then owner.
“The view of the property of the Count of Vizela offered by the photographs of Foto Alvão gives way today to voyeuristic curiosity about another life and other times, constructing a possible interpretation of the desire that was materialized, very briefly, in this place, in the second half of the 40s. (…) It is not the portrait of an era, for the idealisation of Serralves belongs neither o the time nor to the geography of its setting – Portugal and the second quarter of the 20th century – but rather to a unique moment of a particular coming together of knowledge will and capacity to realize.”
Like the first owner, the second owner of Serralves, Delfim Ferreira, inherited and consolidated the textile empire of his father, Narciso Ferreira, whose career raised him from textile worker to one of the great industrialists in northern Portugal in the late 19th century.
Delfim Ferrerira (1888-1960) enlarged the estate he inherited and diversified his activities and investment, particularly in construction and dam operations so that, unlike the count of Vizela, he was able to rise above the constraints of a failing industry in a world of galloping change. Accordingly, Serralves serves as a reminder of the tardy industrialisation in Portugal and the social transformations that meanwhile took place.
Although Carlos Alberto Cabral only enjoyed Serralves for seven years, the fact that Delfim Ferreira bought this property enabled it to remain intact, as part of the commitment made by both, until it was purchased by the State in 1987. A unique project was preserved, ensuring that its character, initially private, attained a public purpose.
The need to establish a space for contemporary thinking and its artistic manifestations led the State to acquire Quinta de Serralves in October 1986.
An ad-hoc committee was then charged with managing the heritage and executing the necessary measures to adapt the space to a public purpose. This process was crowned when Casa de Serralves opened to the public on 29 May 1987.
Serralves Foundation was incorporated on 27 June 1989 by Executive Act nº 240-A/89. Its articles of association establish the “promotion of cultural activities in the field of all arts”, perceiving its space - the Villa and the gardens – as an indivisible whole, opening it to the public, preserving its character, guaranteeing the survival of the principles that lay behind its conception, not giving in, however, to a static, dated image but rather attempting to adapt the space to the living structure provided by the framework of its time.
In 2004, Serralves Villa was subject to a restoration initiative by the architect, Álvaro Siza. With a total area of 900 square metres, 700 square metres are used as exhibition spaces, which was why the conservation intervention, in particular a restoration intervention, was necessary.
The building’s interior is distributed across three floors: a basement floor, which includes the kitchen, pantry and service areas; a ground floor including all the living rooms, dining rooms, atriums and library; and a first-floor which corresponds to the private quarters. Visitors entering the Villa through the main entrance from the street, that is relatively dark, will gain their first impression of the building’s structure and its relationship with the garden, from the impressive two-storey central hall. Looking in front, through the vast exterior window, they will see the central parterre and park. Looking to the right, they will see the vast salon which extends via the window to the lateral parterre. The Villa’s private quarters can be sensed rather than seen, via the first floor gallery around the central atrium. To the left, with a slight difference of floor levels, there is an elegant dining room that overlooks the garden and a billiards room, on the other side, that looks over the street. Beyond them we see a wrought iron gate designed by Edgar Brandt, which separates this social zone from the Villa’s private quarters on the first floor and also the library and service areas on the ground floor.
The Villa’s interior architecture and decoration perhaps makes it the most notable example of Art Deco style in Portugal. This was a comparatively late intervention, in comparison with the majority of Art Deco buildings in Europe - explained by the many visits and contacts made by the owner and also the delays that occurred in construction of the building itself. Indeed, the 2nd Count of Vizela first became acquainted with the canons of this style in France, where he lived, and he visited the leading Art deco exhibition held in Paris in 1925. He then invited some of the leading figures from the international artistic panorama of that time to work on the project. Émile-Jacques Ruhlman designed the dining room, hall, salon, cloakroom and billiard room. Alfred Porteneuve, who worked in the same atelier, endowed Serralves with its charismatic pink colouring. René Lalique designed the large skylight of the main hall’s ceiling, on the first floor.
The Foundation’s current collection of furniture only includes a small part of the Villa’s original furniture, given that many of these items were sold at auctions and thus dispersed, prior to acquisition of the property by the Portuguese State. The main exceptions are: the dining-room furniture (repurchased by the Foundation) and the interior architecture equipment (doors, embedded cupboards, doorknobs, bathroom furniture, etc.). During the restoration process of the Villa, overseen by the architect Álvaro Siza, the latter items were preserved with great care. Part of the Villa’s furniture was acquired from leading interior decorators of the period. Several items were brought from the Count’s residence in Biarritz. He also added antiques, which he inherited from the family, thus creating an overall eclectic style. Ruhlmann and Leleu design several items of furniture and Silva Bruhns designed the carpets. Edgar Brandt designed a wrought iron gate of the hall and several wall lamps. Jean Perzel designed the lamps. Other refined aspects of the Villa’s interior decoration include the blue limestone and exotic hardwood floors; the marble-lined bathrooms, with stone-carved bathtubs; the geometric patterns of the plasterwork; and the curved form of the library staircase.
The chapel was given a new exterior covering that ensured that it would be visually integrated within the overall building. The chapel itself dates from the 19th century. One of the family heirs, Mário Cabral, remembered that the owner wanted to preserve the chapel: “The chapel wasn’t demolished; it was integrated within the overall construction. The part of the building including the chapel was built upon the pre-existing construction. The chapel was inserted within the overall design, but preserved in its original form; as a 19th century chapel. The chapel was used regularly in the local neighbourhood. The locals came to mass here and I think this influenced him and therefore he didn’t want to demolish it. That was a general idea shared between him and all the architects working with him... one of the amusing aspects was the manner in which they made the cross; the cross was essentially designed by Ruhlman...... which is quite amazing.”
The landscaped gardens designed by João Gomes da Silva, on the approximately 18 hectars of land, preserved the most important species already existing on the site. The new Serralves Park opened to the public in 1987, and was subject to a recovery and enhancement project initiated in 2001 and concluded in 2006. Currently on display in the park are sculptures by Claes Oldenburg, Dan Graham, Fernanda Gomes, Richard Serra, and Veit Stratmann.
Located in one of the highest points of the property, the Villa (Casa de Serralves) presides majestically over the Park, which opens out in front of it and either side. From its implantation site, it traces a long longitudinal axis - which extends to the pool at the other end of the property. In front of the villa, the central parterre establishes an element of continuity between the building’s geometric lines and the sobriety of its overall design. A second, shorter axis – marked by the long Sweetgum Alley - is designed at a right angle to the central axis defined by the Central Parterre. The alley leads into an octagonal clearing which faces the street and the main entrance to the property. Looking back one can imagine the visitor’s trajectory, from the street towards the building. On the western side of the building, the large door/window of the ground floor salon opens onto the lateral parterre, suggesting continuity between the interior and exterior spaces. Through the huge windows, the garden is an omnipresent feature of the villa (Casa de Serralves) on the ground floor, while the first floor windows offer panoramic views over the park, enabling a better understanding of the spaces and their inter-relations.
The implantation of the building observes an approximate sorthwest-southeast orientation in profound articulation with the garden. From the garden which circulates around the Villa from behind, visitors can observe the extensive facade, which looks out over the Rua de Serralves. The main entrance is formed by a semicircular widening of the exterior wall, framed beneath a glass canopy. There is also a side entrance via a patio encased between the main building and the chapel. From the street, the building has a relatively sober and closed appearance to the exterior. By contrast the facade overlooking the garden includes wide or long rectangular windows that accompany the rhythm of the sober lines of geometry that define the building’s overall form and volumetry. Viewed as a whole, the Villa is a testimony to art deco style, which came into vogue with the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. In the words of Eurico Cabral, the nephew of the Count of Vizela: “ In 1925 he visited the famous decorative arts exhibition in Paris. There he began to establish contact with various leading French artists, including Jacques Gréber - the landscape architect.”
Quinta de Serralves (Serralves Farm) was originally referred as Mata-Sete farm. It pertained to the Cabral family prior to 1932, and although excluded from Jacques Gréber’s project for the Count of Vizela, it was subsequently subject to an intervention by Gréber.
A long avenue of horse-chestnut trees cuts across the farming and pasture land, designing the axis that formally prolongs the Central Parterre to the estate´s southern extremity and culminating in one large pool, removed in the 1980s, which stylistically matched the pools in the Northern limit.
Originally interspersed by cypresses and demarcated by hedges, this avenue prolongs the garden, cutting into a landscape that is codified by picturesque and bucolic principles of staged rurality, apparent in the buildings included within the centre of the farm, designed by the architect Marques da Silva in the 1940s on a set of existing rural buildings (The Barn and the Olive Press)
Today the farm performs a pedagogical function, in particular for maintenance of effective livestock breeding, composed by indigenous species from Northern and Central Portugal, including Barrosã, Arouquesa and Marinhoa cow breeds and the donkey breed Asinina de Miranda.
Several artworks can be found within the area of the Quinta such as Maria Nordman intervention: For a New City.
Serralves em Festa is one of the largest festivals in Europe, covering a wide spectrum of the contemporary arts and family oriented activities including exhibitions, performances, music concerts, dance, theater, circus shows and fairs. It is a free entrance cultural event celebrated each year during the last weekend of May in a 40-hour nonstop party basis. Its first edition vas celebrated in 2004. Since then, it has reached an attendance of 103,000 visitors in 2010, with hundreds of artists, volunteers and exhibitions.