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Submarine launching.

This June sees the opening of the Museu de Serralves, Portugal's first major museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art. Designed by renowned Portuguese architect Alvaro Silva and located in the northern-coast city of Porto, the institution is dedicating its permanent collection and exhibition programs to Portuguese and international art from the mid-'60s to the present. "Until now the international contemporary art community has not had a major permanent venue in Portugal," says Vicente Todoli. But Todoli, who made a name for himself at the Valencia Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) in Spain, where he served as chief curator and artistic director until 1996, has well-founded hopes that the new museum "will enable Portugal to become an important part of the international dialogue."

Owned and operated by the Fundacao de Serralves (a ten-year-old partnership between the government and a consortium of Portuguese businesses and benefactors), the museum is set on the grounds of a forty-four-acre park of formal gardens, pastures, and woods in the heart of Porto. In contrast to the foundation's home in the Casa de Serralves - a landmark Art Deco mansion of the '30s - the new Silva-designed building nearby is a striking construction of concrete, glass, and granite that Todoli describes as "reminiscent of a submarine half emerging from the green of the park." The new space provides 4,500 square meters of exhibition space, a 300-seat auditorium, and a restaurant. The museum, as Todoli sees it, is "one entity with three spaces: a historical building, the house; the new Silva building; and the chapel, adjacent to the house. All of these exhibition sites are situated within the park. The museum is the umbrella."

The museum's inaugural exhibition, "Circa 1968," will use all three buildings to explore what will become the basis for the permanent collection, featuring pieces from the Museu's holdings alongside loans from international institutions. With an acquisition budget of one million dollars a year for the next five years, the Museu's permanent collection already includes works by such heavyweights as John Baldessari, Christian Boltanski, Dan Graham, Jorg Immendorf, Bruce Nauman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Laurence Weiner, as well as by Portuguese artists such as Juliao Sarmento, Angelo de Sousa, and Ana Vieria. Mounting a program of twelve exhibitions a year, the Museu de Serralves already has slated, for the second half of 1999, shows of El Lissitzky, Merce Cunningham, and a survey titled "Visual Poetry and Portuguese Experimentation." "Our public is mainly a young audience, which is the future," Todoli explains. "We hope to grow along with them and also to integrate the museum into the cultural lives of new generations of Portuguese."

Museu de Serralves (The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art) open June 6.
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Title Annotation:Portugal's new Museu de Serralves in Porto; Preview Summer '99
Author:Buck, Louisa
Publication:Artforum International
Date:May 1, 1999
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