Sunday, October 21, 2012

Our Quest Into Art Snobbery (Part 2 - Lisbon)

Since our introduction into the world of art and culture went so swimmingly in Madrid, we figured that we should press on and explore more museums in Lisbon. After arriving at 5:30 am on an overnight bus and sitting on a bench in a park outside of our hotel for a couple of hours waiting for McCafe to open, we were quite possibly not in the best of moods to be wandering around a museum. However, our decision to fight the urge to sleep on the couch in the common room of our B&B, and instead bravely wander through Lisbon in the sweltering heat (34 degrees!) turned out to be a very good one.

Useful Information:

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum - open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5:45pm; entry cost varies depending on exhibits, but museum entry is 4 euro; FREE on Sundays;closest metro stations are Sao Sebastiao or Praca de Espanha

Berardo Museum - open every day 10am-7pm; FREE entry; take Tram 15 out to Belem, it's just past the park in front of the Jeronimos Monastery (you can't miss it)

The reason we decided to ignore our tired feet and brains was to take advantage of the free entry day to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. We weren't sure what to expect as we had only read about it about 5 minutes before deciding to go, but it was free and close to our hotel. The museum is split into two sections, a modern art collection with rotating exhibits and the main collection, with a lovely botanical garden right in the middle. Additionally, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation provides everything from art lessons to free concerts to guest lectures on a variety of topics.

The Exterior of the Contemporary Art Museum at the Gulbenkian Museum

We spent a few minutes in the Modern art building, but again had a hard time getting our heads around the stacks of wood and palettes of floor tiles that were supposedly "art". We quickly headed through the gardens to the building that houses the main collection, and were immediately impressed.

Some of the "Art" that confuses us.

The personal collection of Calouste Gulbenkian (the person responsible for making the oil of the Middle East available to North American Markets) is stunning. It spans everything from ancient archaeological artifacts to furniture to jewellery to art, and consists of over 6000 pieces (about 1000 are on display). Perhaps even more impressive than the sheer scope of the collection is the quality of the individual pieces - there is a quote inscribed in the museum from Callouste Gulbenkian himself that states "only the best" - and this is definitely evident while walking around the museum. 

The layout is very open and visitor friendly.

The highlights of the museum for us included the gold mask of a mummy nearly 3000 years old, the vast collection of rugs and carpets from the middle east, the collection of pottery from various Chinese dynasties that looks like it was painted yesterday, the various gilded and painted bibles and books, the sculptures by Rodin and Houdon, the paintings by Rembrandt, Monet, Rubens, and Manet, and of course, the room of Rene Lalique jewellery that alone would be reason enough to visit.

Some highlights of the collection...

Head of Sensuret III (c. 1860 BC)

Far Eastern pottery collection

A Classical Grandfather Clock
Edgar Degas - Portrait of Henri Michel-Levy (via)

Rene Lalique - Serpent hair tangle (via)

Rene Lalique - Dragonfly corsage (via)
Jean-Antoine Houdon - Diana, purchased from Catherine the Great (via)

Although we were tired and sore, the museum captivated us from the moment we entered. There were criminally few people there, and this, combined with the layout and placement of the pieces, allowed us to peruse and examine the collection at our pace.

After an amazing sleep at the Lisbon Dreams Guesthouse (which definitely deserves a mention), we decided to spend our second day in the suburb of Belem, home of the Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, and the second focus of this post, the Berardo Collection.

The Berardo is Lisbon's Modern Art Museum and is ranked 50th in the world for visitors, not too shabby for a museum that only opened 5 years ago. They had a number of pieces of Pop Art that we were interested in seeing including pieces by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Pollock - and these did not disappoint.

The entrance to the Berardo

And the rest of the museum was...interesting. From the Helio Oititica works of Tropicalia, where you walked around in a room with caged parrots, sand pathways, cabanas, and other tropical beach related items; to the "Cocaine room" where you had to take off your shoes and then walk around in a blue room with a soft foam floor, 60s music, and flashing black and white images; to the weird "self-hatred" art where shapes loosely based on humans had videos of human faces projected onto them and screamed "NO...NO...NO" at you - at the very least we had a fun time.

Andy Warhol - Colored Campbell's Soup Can

More Andy Warhol works

Salvador Dali - White Aphrodisiac Telephone (via)

Helio Oititica - Tropicalia (via)

Roy Lichtenstein - Interior with Restful Paintings (via)

We were very happy to spend a few hours at each museum in the end, and the fact that the museums were free makes it all the more enjoyable as we felt that we only "needed" to see what we felt like.

By Travis Huyghebaert with No comments


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Hey there!

Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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