Inaugurated in June 1999, the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, in the North of Portugal, has been seen by the world over its more than twenty years of existence as a serious case of exceptionality in its multiple aspects. Designed by the award-winning Porto architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1992, the building is located in a privileged area, at the heart of a garden of over 18 hectares, next to Pinhais da Foz. This green lung in the middle of the city centre is one of the most sought-after places to buy a house in the city. It is there, between Boavista and Aldoar, that you can find several luxury villas and developments, with apartments that benefit from a sea view over Foz do Douro. Now, the Serralves Museum, was also elected by the tourism and leisure website "European Best Destinations" as one of the best museums in Europe to visit in 2022, appearing in 10th place, alongside The Museum of Broken Relationships, in Zagreb, Croatia. In terms of contemporary art, Serralves is in third place.
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"Serralves is the leading contemporary art museum in Portugal, with a unique location on the grounds of the Serralves Estate, which also includes a Park and a House," the website summarised. "Through its collection, temporary exhibitions, shows, educational and public programmes, editorial initiatives and national and international collaborations, the Museum promotes the understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and culture. Presenting the work of today's most important artists to diverse audiences, strengthening ties with the local community and stimulating reflection on the relationship between art and the environment that is intrinsic to the Serralves context are central to the Museum's mission", reads the document that lists the other museums distinguished, namely the Prado, in Spain, the British Tate Modern and the British Museum or the French Centre Pompidou and Louvre.
The Foundation, which houses the Museum - "It was an almost impossible museum, because it couldn't impact on the street or the garden. Being a large building, it would have to respect its surroundings, which is a residential area of two-storey houses, and it would have to harmonise a high-quality garden", explained Álvaro Siza at the time -, has not stopped expanding the initial project. The exhibition area is about to be increased by 40%, through the construction of a new building, which will be designed to respect the area of the park. The work, which includes a house that will be developed over three floors, consisting of a basement and two exhibition spaces, should be concluded in June 2023. By then, the Museum will have a total of 6,280 square metres of exhibition areas, compared to the current 4,484.90, which is seen as fundamental for its international affirmation on a new level. "In recent years, we have been reinforcing the work around the Serralves Collection. And we have been attracting various deposits and collections. And the collection is, without doubt, the soul of the museum. And it needs space to be on permanent display", explained Ana Pinho, current president of the Foundation.
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Furthermore, in 2019, the Manoel de Oliveira Cinema House was also inaugurated. It is a project that repeats the signature of Siza Vieira, and which quickly became a reference hub in the field of Cinema, but also a unique place to access the extensive work of the director and master Manoel de Oliveira (1908-2015). The House is composed by two blocks, which expand the landscape: the first, more discrete, starts from the reconversion of the Count of Vizela's old garage, and inspires the second block, to which it is connected through a bougainvillea corridor. But the house that represents a real journey back in time, and which underwent restoration work in 2021, is the pink house, a unique example of Art Deco architecture dating back to the 1930s, where even the bathroom doesn't spare a visit. With the main entrance to the property via Avenida Marechal Gomes da Costa, this property, whose interior was designed by Jacques Ruhlman, one of the great masters of French furniture and interior architecture, is a must-see.
The Serralves Park, designed by the architect Jacques Gréber in the 1930s and comprising gardens, woods and a traditional farm, now also has a magnificent Tree Top Walk, a wooden walkway that leads us not only through the treetops (oaks, cypresses, sequoias, etc.), but also through an imaginary that can travel around the world. At this time of year (from June to October), the Park also offers its award-winning festival of light, an immense and meticulous installation, spread over three kilometres, which annually provides an unforgettable nocturnal experience.
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