Arts, Culture and Heritage

Portugal, the land of Azulejos!

Thursday, 12 October 2006 20:52

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The azulejos (tiles) of Portugal encompass styles and languages of all periods and fill any visit with color. Al-zuleique is the Arabic word from which the Portuguese azulejo originated. It meant the ‘small smooth, polished stone’ used by the Muslims in the Middle Ages. The Portuguese kings liked the way they used azulejos to decorate floors and walls, so they began to be produced in Portugal in the late 15th century. They became an important feature in architecture over the centuries, and can be said to have been adopted in Portugal as in no other European country. In the 18th century, the azulejo "invaded" churches and convents, palaces and houses, gardens, fountains and stairways. With geometric patterns, telling stories of the lives of saints or with profane themes such as La Fontaine’s fables, sometimes with captions like an old version of the comic strip, the azulejo became one of the main Portuguese decorative features.  As you travel around the country you will find an authentic living museum of azulejos, but the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon gives you a unique chance to discover their complete history and technical and artistic evolution, from the early days to contemporary production. Even in the 21st century, the azulejo is still used by avant-garde artists, leaving its mark on public art. It is essential to visit the stations of the Lisbon Metro to see works by world-famous Portuguese artists such as Vieira da Silva and Júlio Pomar. Tour the world of the azulejo and experience the fascination of this art. More information at  and

Ellipse Foundation Contemporary Art Collection announces new exhibition space and study center in Cascais

Thursday, 12 October 2006 20:44

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The Ellipse Foundation’s Contemporary Art Collection has just built a new 20,000-square-foot exhibition space and study center devoted to the acquisition and exhibition of contemporary art. This state-of the art facility, designed by Lisbon-based architect, free-lance critic and curator Pedro Gadanho, is housed in a converted warehouse located in Cascais outside of Lisbon. The Ellipse Foundation was established in 2004 to support contemporary artists through a variety of initiatives, including acquisitions and commissions as well as residency, scholarship, and educational programs. The Collection currently includes more than 300 works in a variety of mediums—painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film-and-video, and installation. The Ellipse Foundation will continue to collect art within three main categories: seminal artists active since the 1970s, mid-career artists, and emerging artists of the twenty-first century.  It began as a collaboration between Dr. João Oliveira-Rendeiro and the Banco Privado Português.  Dr. Oliveira-Rendeiro began collecting art in the 1980s, initially acquiring key works by important modern masters and contemporary artists of Portugal. He has since expanded his focus to develop an international collection of considerable scope. He has donated significant works to the Serralves Museum, Porto and, with his wife Maria, to Museu do Chiado – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea in Lisbon.  More information is available at  


Portugal has museums as diverse as the country

Thursday, 12 October 2006 20:38

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Renowned museums include Lisbon’s National Museum of Historic Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), the Modern Art Center (Centro de Arte Moderna) and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – each with extraordinary classic and modern collections.  There is also the Museum of Contemporary Art in nearby Sintra. For strictly Portuguese art, travelers aim for Lisbon’s Chiado Museum and the Serralves Museum in Porto.  Lisbon itself boasts the National Coach Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Ethnological Museum, the Decorative Arts Museum, the Military Museum, the Municipal Museum and many more.  Each city also has its own great museum, from the Machado de Castro Museum in Coimbra to the Sacred Art Museum in Funchal. But even outside of museum walls, visitors can take in authentic local art like Portugal’s delicately painted tiles ("azulejos"), which date to the Moorish occupation. For more information visit:

Iberian Mask Festival in the city of Porto

Thursday, 12 October 2006 20:21

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The ritual masks of the Lazarim (Lamego) region of Northeast Portugal as well as several adjoining provinces of Spain are the theme of a new book and exposition called Iberian Masks. The exposition includes more than 60 types of masks, including, a culinary festival and a grand parade of masks in the city of Porto. The exhibit will be on display at the historic Ferreira Borges market in Porto until the 5th of November.  The book of the exposition is edited by Hélder Ferreira was released to coincide with the opening of the exposition last month. Picasso was influenced by Iberian masks, as were other artists of the early 20th century. The Iberian mask project is sponsored by Progestur (The Portuguese Association for cultural tourism), and underwritten by Solverde with the support of the Instituto de Turismo de Portugal, Portuguese ministry of culture, Xunta de Castilla e León, Junta da Galiza, Inorde, Diputacion de Ourense e de Zamora, and with the help of the Rei Afonso Henriques Foundation, City of Porto among others. For more information click here.

Contemporary Photography Exhibition on the River Douro

Saturday, 07 October 2006 10:54

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As part of the commemorations of the 250 anniversary of the Douro Wine Demarcated Region new exposition of contemporary photography of the Douro river area is now on display until October 27th at the municipal Museum Vila Nova de Foz Côa in the western Douro area. It features the works of photographers Duarte Belo, José Manuel Rodrigues, J. Paulo Sotto Mayor and Renato Roque. After, it will also be on display at the Casa do Douro in Régua and at Tourism office in Vila Nova de Gaia until the end of the year. More information:


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