Porto’s Serralves Contemporary Art Museum – Art Without Interference

Serralves Museum Exterior Auditorium Wall. Photo courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

As you enter from the street a first-time visitor is clueless at how quickly the museum grounds beyond this entrance transport you into a visually aware mindset

 

It was as recent as 1999 when the striking minimalist Serralves Contemporary Art Museum building was opened. 

 

One of the most striking aspects of the museum exhibits is how uncluttered they are

 

When you visit the museum it's advisable to check the website first for information on when English language tours will be conducted of the current exhibits

 

Actually, “soothingly stark” may be a better descriptive than “minimalist”.  

 

Exterior Birch Glade. Photo courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

All white and rectilinear- this architectural design by Pritzker Prize-winning Alvaro Siza-Viera more than works. 

 

Exterior Entrance. Photo courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

It is difficult to think of any other modern art museum in the world that so perfectly frames its art exhibits simply by getting out of the way. 

 

Exterior LIbrary Wall. Photo by Filipe Braga and courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

It is the art you see here—and not the edifice. 

 

There are only temporary exhibits at the museum, rotated every three to four months

 

This exhibit showcased "arte povera"-- i.e. art made with low-cost materials that reflects the democratic views of the art

 

Giorgio Griffa's work hadn't been seen in Portugal before

 

Here and there windows let peeks at the lovely grounds come in- but those too feel like touches of alternate framing.

 

The window views juxtaposed to certain exhibits give an added dimension to your visual experience. Photo by Filipe Braga and courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

With no permanent exhibits, but with rotating temporary ones, Serralves creates a conversation about art. 

 

Our tour guide, Paolo Jesus

 

With tours, docents, community and educational activities, it aims to engage. 

 

View above the library study area

 

Why just say "Men" and "Women" when restroom signs can be so fun?

 

What was first striking about the museum was how its reputation proceeds it.  Talk to someone from Porto about the city’s highlights, and mention of the Serralves Contemporary  Art Museum seems to be near the top of their short list recommendations.  How many other modern art museums can boast such a claim? 

 

A Vietnamese artist made a copper replica of the Statue of Liberty, and then breaking it into pieces such as this sculptural display

 

One secret of this popularity might be its yearly festival on its beautiful 18-hectare surrounding landscape that includes manicured gardens,

 

The tree-lined walk from the museum building to the gardens

 

View of the English gardens

 

A polygon shaped motif in the garden was repeated with great effect

 

 

You walk away from very manicured gardens into those that feel more like natural forest

 

wild forest areas,

 

Serralves is also involved in efforts to breed animals that are in danger of extinction

 

Educational signs teach you about the gardens' flora

 

and a farm that in part is dedicated to preserving species in danger of extinction.  

 

Your experience of the museum, and especially the grounds, will likely change a great deal depending on whether you visit at a quiet time, as we did...

 

..or join 100,000 fellow visitors during the early June Serralves Festival

 

Serralves Park, empty when we visited, is a big attraction to locals. Photo courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

If you are planning to tour Porto make a strong mental note that you can join 100,000+ others for this 40+-hour festival of performance, art, food, and more in early June.  

 

Back view of the museum, returning from the gardens

 

A 1,500 year-old olive tree

 

Classic rose gardens

 

A long trellis separating what you can think of as garden halls, more than garden rooms

 

Fun sharks sculpture. This and other park sculptures are the only permanent collections in the museum

 

Schedule permitting, a picnic on the beautiful grounds (Landscape Architect:  Jacques Gréber) would definitely be a highlight of any more leisurely Porto tour.   

 

Serralves Villa. Photo by Filipe Braga and courtesy of Serralves Museum

 

An afternoon’s visit to the museum and surrounds is equivalent to a meditation retreat

 

For more information visit the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum website.

 

Photos:  Peter Kachergis, unless otherwise indicated

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