Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto
The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves is a museum of contemporary art in Porto, northern Portugal, designed by famed Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza Vieira.
Opened on 6 June 1999 and located in the Parque de Serralves, an 18-hectare park in central Porto designed in the 1930s by French landscape architect Jacques Gréber, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves is one of the most important museums in Portugal exclusively dedicated to domestic and international contemporary art.
Cover image: the patio of the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves. Photo © Fernando Guerra / FG+SG.
Siza Vieira designed the museum so as to minimize its impact on the surroundings and fully integrate with the historic Serralves Park. Therefore, the architect conceived a 12,670 square-meter / 136,400 square-foot building consisting of a 3-story main volume – containing the atrium, an auditorium, a central exhibition hall, educational and multipurpose rooms, a library, and various visitor facilities – from which two parallel wings with exhibition rooms extend southward, with a patio containing a magnolia tree in between, resulting in a U-shaped plan. A long, covered walkway connects the entrance gate to the atrium of the museum.
“The exhibition area was developed in a “U” shaped layout, in order to enable the garden to enter inside the museum and minimize the building’s environmental impact.” Alvaro Siza
Overall, the museum building contains fourteen galleries with a total floor area of 4,485 square meters, the galleries are rather diverse in height, size, and morphology in order to adapt to a changing program of exhibitions and events, as well as to different types of artworks; yet, most of them share expansive views towards the garden and a skillful combination of natural and artificial lighting.
Together with a well-thought-out relationship between architecture and landscape, the materials used by Siza Vieira – concrete and steel for the building structure, granite and white plaster for the exterior cladding, oak wood and marble for the floors, and white-painted gypsum plaster for the internal walls and ceilings – contribute to the relaxing and intimate atmosphere of the museum.
Ground-floor plan, and sections. Images Alvaro Siza Vieira.
Aerial view and a detail of the west facade; photos © Fernando Guerra / FG+SG.
A view of the museum from the covered walkway that connects the entrance gate with the museum lobby. Photo courtesy of Serralves Foundation.
Marble, wood, and white plaster are the material that characterized the building’s interiors. Photo Paulo Valdivieso.
Along with the museum building, Alvaro Siza Vieira, in collaboration with fellow architect Carlos Castanheira, also designed a spectacular treetop walkway in Serralves Park. Inaugurated in 2019 and mostly built of timber, the new walkway runs high above the ground, meandering through the park’s trees, offering breathtaking views of the natural landscape of the park.
TheTreetop Walk, completed in 2019 after a design by Alvaro Siza Vieira and Carlos Castanheira. Photo courtesy of Serralves Foundation.
Collection of contemporary art and program of activities
Focused on contemporary art from the 1960s to the present day, the collection of the Serralves Foundation consists of about 4300 works by Portuguese and international artists including Vito Acconci, Helena Almeida, John Baldessari, René Bértholo, Christian Boltanski, Fernando Calhau, Alberto Carneiro, Manuel Casimiro, Lourdes Castro, Didier Faustino, Anselm Kiefer, Ana Hatherly, Álvaro Lapa, Albuquerque Mendes, Mario Merz, Cildo Meireles, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Gerhard Richter, Julião Sarmento, Robert Smithson, Ângelo de Sousa, and Antoni Tàpies. Works from the permanent collection are usually presented on a rotational basis through semi-permanent exhibitions.
The museum also holds, on long-term loan, the Miró Collection of the Portuguese State which comprises 85 works – paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages, and tapestries – by the famous Spanish artist.
The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art also comprises a sculpture park with works by Dan Graham, Angelo de Sousa, Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Maria Nordman, Veit Strattman, Francisco Tropa, Alberto Carneiro, Aristide Maillol, Fernanda Gomes, and Richard Serra.
The program of Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves comprises several changing exhibitions a year, featuring leading Portuguese and international contemporary artists including, in recent years, Olafur Eliasson, Louise Bourgeois, Gonçalo Pena, Joana Vasconcelos, Juan Muñoz, Julião Sarmento, and Yoko Ono, to name just a few.
Along with exhibitions, the program of the museum also includes guided tours, concerts, film screenings, conferences, talks, educational and family activities, and special events.
Fully accessible, the museum building, together with exhibition spaces, also contains an auditorium, an art library, educational spaces, three restaurants, a gift store, and a bookshop.
A view of the Wooden Room gallery, photo © Fernando Guerra / FG+SG.
The Sala Central gallery, photo Mark & Andrea Busse.
The South-facing Marble Room gallery; photo Mark & Andrea Busse.
Olafur Eliasson, Y/Our Future is Now, July 2019-September 2021, installation view; image courtesy of Serralves Foundation.
The library; photo by Cjreddaway.
The main entrance of the museum from the end of the covered walkway; photo Paula Soler-Moya
The sculpture garden of the museum with Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen
Plantoir, 2001. Image courtesy of Serralves Foundation.
The Left Wing of the museum, view from the patio; photo Cjreddaway.
More about Alvaro Siza Vieira
Alvaro Siza Vieira
copyright Inexhibit 2021 - ISSN: 2283-5474