Stuart Forster explains what to expect at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal.
People from the Portuguese city of Porto are proud of their city’s industrial heritage and reputation for labouring long hours. After a hard week’s work you’ll see many strolling or sitting in the park of the Serralves Foundation, an institution with a broad range of cultural offerings, 4km west of the city centre.
The Serralves Foundation was established as recently as 1989. Within a relatively short space of time it has become recognised as one of Portugal’s leading bodies in matters relating to culture and contemporary art.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Serralves Museu de Arte Contemporânea, the ‘Museum of Contemporary Art’ when translated into English, hosts frequently changing temporary exhibitions. If you are going to Porto and want to find out what will be shown while you are in the city then check the listings on the Serralves Foundation’s website.
If you happen to be visiting while the exhibitions are being changed you can still pop into the park, museum shop and cafe. The gardens, which were landscaped by Joao Gomes da Silva, are a good place to appreciate the sleek white facade of the museum. It was built between 1997 and 1999 to a design by the architect Alvaro Siza Vieira.
The House of Serralves
Further on, past Claes Oldenburg’s huge red trowel sculpture, you’ll see the Casa de Serralves, the House of Serralves, a pink Art Deco style villa set within a formal garden, complete with water features and fountains reminiscent of those seen in Iberia during the Moorish era.
If you drop down the path towards the pond it’s like stepping through an invisible portal and being teleported out of the city and into the countryside. You can wander by pastoral farmland on which you’ll see cows chewing the cud. It’s a serene environment as traffic noise fails to penetrate the rolling landscape and woodland.
It’s easy to explore on your own but, if you’d prefer, guided tours of the Serralves museum and park are offered in English on Sundays at 4.00 pm. They last approximately an hour. English language tours of the museum’s exhibits take place on Saturdays, also at 4.00 pm. If you have a ticket to the museum you won’t have to pay anything extra to join a tour.
Concerts, Film Screenings and Dancing
The Serralves Foundation also organises cultural events, including musical concerts, dancing and film screenings. Again, it’s worth taking a look at the foundation’s website for listings. During the summer months jazz concerts are hosted in the park. If that’s your thing, look out for posters and flyers mentioning Jazz no Parque, meaning ‘Jazz in the Park’.
The museum itself is a joy to visit. The design is spacious and attractive in its own right. It has 14 exhibition rooms over three storeys. Works by Portuguese as well as international artists are shown in the Serralves Museum.
For anyone who doesn’t know the city, and the location of bus stops for lines 201, 203, 502 or 504, arriving at the Serralves Foundation by public transport can prove tricky. Unfortunately, none of the city’s Metro lines run here. Taking a taxi to the museum is a viable option if you a pressed for time.
See the Serralves website for details about opening times, entry fees and exhibitions.
Find out more about the city on the Visit Porto website.