International director Maria Ana Pimenta recently inaugurated a collaborative summer exhibition programme alongside galleries Madragoa and C L E A R I N G in Comporta, south of Lisbon, as part of the gallery's ongoing presence in Portugal.
Originating from Porto herself, Pimenta points to natural links between Brazil and Portugal, as well as the expansion of Lisbon's international community as two reasons behind the gallery's engagement with the city's art scene, which she delves into in this interview.
You grew up in Portugal amongst great artists, curators, and collectors. What are your formative memories of this?
I grew up in Porto in northwest Portugal, and my parents started collecting more or less when I was born. They started mainly with Portuguese artists, then Brazilian then international, but the connection with both Portugal and Brazil was the focus.
They were also very involved with local institutions, and were very passionate and dedicated. So I grew up with artists and curators at home pretty much all the time. Artists and their works such as Lygia Pape, Cildo Meireles, Julião Sarmento, Paula Rego, Tunga, Mário Cesariny, Adriana Varejão, and Rui Chafes, among so many others, were regular in my childhood.
In hindsight it was quite exceptional, but as a child it was just what I knew, and of course it was absolutely fascinating. I understood there was something important going on; something worth learning from.
Do you remember that feeling quite international?
I suppose it felt international. There were definitely a lot of Portuguese artists because that was our scene, then the Serralves Foundation opened in 1996—led by Vicente Todoli and João Fernandes—and had a super exciting programme.
I remember seeing fantastic shows by Francis Bacon, Nan Goldin, Pierre Huyghe, Marlene Dumas... The institution played an important part in my formative years. Plus, when we travelled it always involved seeing a show, or visiting a gallery, studio, or bookshop...
So, the local felt very global and it all felt natural. It's one of the beautiful things with being exposed so young and with no specific interest or objective—we would just take it all in and I remember hearing some pretty heated conversations that certainly gave plenty of food for thought.
Although you grew up in Porto, you have spent plenty of time in Lisbon. Can you tell me about how Lisbon has evolved over the last decade or so and how this has impacted Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel?
When we decided to open an office in Lisbon, with myself based here, there was already an expansion happening, so it made sense.
The city was going through big changes, attracting a large international community—Brazilians being a significant chunk—much of it thanks to its rich culture and history. So the idea of this growing platform and exciting interchange was something that we looked forward to being involved in.
There is a constant flux of people and projects and it helps that it's a very practical city to travel from and use as a base. The gallery has also had long-standing ties with Portugal. Many of our artists have shown here, and we also represent Portuguese artists Julião Sarmento and João Maria Gusmão, and recently we showed a dialogue in our Rio space between Adriana Varejão and Paula Rego.
In 2021 you began co-hosting summer exhibitions with other galleries in Comporta, south of Lisbon. Where did this idea originate?
The pandemic was challenging in some aspects and inspiring in others. This project came out of that moment and a necessity of doing something local.
Putting up a show in Comporta made sense. There was a significant community that had settled in that area, and I'd find myself having constant conversations about how everyone missed seeing art, so we agreed, why not put up a great show!
It's also a place I know very well and that I've been going to all my life, so I made this proposal for an exhibition in this wonderful, historical rice barn and cinema. I discussed this with the gallery partners, invited Luísa Strina and Sé to join us, and everyone was super enthusiastic.
This year's exhibition is a collaboration between Brussels-based gallery C L E A R I N G and Lisbon-based Galeria Madragoa. Could you tell me a bit more about the thinking behind this year's iteration?
The principle of collaborating and working closely with our colleagues has always been a model of operation that makes sense for us in a global and particular ecosystem such as the art world.
It offers new possibilities for shared economies and reaching a wider public. We wanted to connect with galleries whose rosters could generate interesting dialogues between them, who share a likeminded attitude in representing artists and creating a beautiful, meaningful exhibition. Plus, a summer show is always a bit lighter and more fun!
How did you land upon the theme of the exhibition?
The title of the exhibition, I Could Eat You, came from something I overheard someone say to a baby. Although it was said affectionately, it actually sounds quite violent and cannibalistic.
I thought it was a really interesting dichotomy, fanning out into a series of references, from ingestion to physiological cravings, food, desire, affection... We discussed this a lot between us, and then decided to create a display that had the walls covered in traditional Portuguese tablecloths, adding another layer to the show.
There have been a lot of younger artists and gallerists moving to Lisbon recently. As an established gallery, what role do you see Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel having in supporting this younger scene?
It's hugely important to support younger artists and galleries. We see ourselves as forever young and we're always looking to take on new artists, recently adding Yuli Yamagata, Anderson Borba, and Márcia Falcão to our programme.
In a city like Lisbon that's small and has a tight-knit community, it's essential to engage as much as possible. It's very important that we keep it fresh and interconnected between the established players and the new ones. There is an increasingly rich and diverse scene with artists moving and galleries opening, so there is a lot to be done. A bit of competition also raises the bar, which is never a bad thing.
What does the future hold for Lisbon?
We're living in uncertain times with everything that's happening globally, but I feel that Lisbon has proven to be a very stable city, that's safe with a good quality of life and a cultural offer that's growing more and more.
What's next for the gallery?
We're focusing on planning our autumn activities. In September we have Independent NY with a solo on Ivens Machado, and that same week Rivane Neuenschwander will open a solo exhibition at the Serralves Foundation and Valeska Soares will feature in the Lyon Bienniale.
Then our exhibitions of course, including a group show curated by Raphael Fonseca, a dialogue between Barrão and Joshua Callaghan opening 3 September, Julião Sarmento who recently passed away in October, and Marina Rheingantz in November. Finally, the international fairs—Paris+ and Art Basel Miami Beach in December. —[O]
Main image: Exhibition view: I Could Eat You, Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, Madragoa, and C L E A R I N G, Casa da Cultura de Comporta (5 July–28 August 2022). Courtesy Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel. Photo: Eduardo Ortega.