Since the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology commandeered the site of the Tejo Power Station in 2016, it has established itself at the cutting edge of Portugal’s contemporary art scene. It’s here that the country’s rising talent and creative heavyweights converge in provocative large-scale shows. Curating the MAAT exhibition programme is Inês Grosso, who also manages the gallery’s international projects. Here, she tells us why Lisbon is such a thrilling hub for artists and collectors alike.
Which MAAT exhibitions are you most excited about this year?
The EDP Foundation’s New Artists Award is one of our programme highlights this year. The prize was founded almost 20 years ago and has played a very important role in the Portuguese art scene, revealing new and emerging talent and bringing national and international attention to the artists.
Which shows should we look out for?
MAAT’s May exhibitions with the ARCOlisboa art fair. It’s an occasion to see young, emerging Portuguese talent in dialogue with established international artists. Alongside the great Portuguese artist Carla Filipe, we have a video installation by the Danish artist Jesper Just, and a site-specific sound intervention by the Portuguese artist Pedro Tudela in the Boiler Hall. And, of course, there’s the EDP Foundation’s New Artists Award exhibition at MAAT, too.
What’s your favourite piece in MAAT’s permanent collection?
It’s difficult to say which work is my favourite, because it depends on my mood, what I’m working on and my current research. Since 2016, we’ve been showing the collection through a program of temporary exhibitions, each with a specific theme or conceptual approach. We do have an extensive collection of over 1,200 works by several generations of more than 250 Portuguese contemporary artists. I think we – the curators at MAAT and the artists – are lucky to have such a great collection of Portuguese contemporary art being updated every year.
Which of MAAT’s exhibition galleries do you like best?
I really like to work in the Boiler Hall. It’s always a challenge to find a balance between the space and the project—not to compete, but to create a dialogue with the architecture and machinery of the space. I also find the Oval Gallery a great challenge. I love commissioning large-scale projects. I like to work on a project for a specific space and in permanent dialogue with the artists. I like to arrive in an empty room, see the artist’s face looking at the space and be in the position where I can simply say, “What are we going to do here? Any idea?” When you are involved in a project from the very beginning, it’s fantastic.
Which up-and-coming local artists should we look out for?
There’s a new generation that I’m very interested in. Names such as Tiago Alexandre, Horácio Frutuoso, Sara Bichão, Rita Ferreira, Maria Trabulo… but there are also a few names that don’t have the international visibility that they deserve. I really recommend and encourage everyone to look for João Pedro Vale + Nuno Alexandre Ferreira and Luísa Cunha.
What can you tell us about the art scene in Lisbon?
The art scene in Lisbon is getting more interesting every day! We have so many new galleries – including artist-run galleries and alternative art spaces – opening up that it becomes almost impossible to follow. We also have international collectors and artists moving to Lisbon, and this has had a tremendous impact on the artists’ work. It’s so different to 10 years ago, when most of the younger generation, including myself, left the country. Of course, we still have a lot to do in terms of supporting cultural activities and projects. We definitely need investment in our culture, decentralisation of cultural policies, internationalisation, gallery and museum collaborations, funding for marginalised artistic communities, professionalisation of certain roles, promotion of new talents and initiatives, and we need to open our minds and be more receptive to others’ ideas and ways of looking at things. We are on the right track.