The Serralves Foundation (Fundação de Serralves)

The Serralves Foundation, known in Portuguese as Fundação de Serralves, is a renowned cultural institution in Portugal. It’s located in Porto and includes a contemporary art museum, villa, house of cinema, and a large park.

Established in 1989, Serralves has become a pivotal cultural and artistic hub. Its mission is to promote contemporary art and raise environmental awareness. The foundation hosts various exhibitions, educational programs, and cultural events.

Serralves is recognized internationally for its contribution to contemporary art. Its unique blend of art, culture, and nature attracts visitors from around the world. The foundation’s commitment to contemporary art, cinema, and preservation of architecture makes it a unique destination.

Tree in the park in Fundaçao Serralves, Photo by Conquilha (Flickr)

Serralves Museum

The Serralves Museum is a cornerstone of the Serralves foundation itself and the premier destination for contemporary art in Portugal. The museum’s core mission is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and culture. It achieves this through various means: showcasing its collection, hosting temporary exhibitions, and engaging in performance, education, and public programs. The museum is also active in publishing and collaborates nationally and internationally.

Its primary goal is to introduce significant contemporary artists to a wide audience. This effort helps strengthen local community ties and spurs discussions about art’s relationship with the environment, a theme deeply rooted in Serralves’ context.

The museum frequently changes its exhibits, featuring both monographic and thematic presentations. These include works from established and emerging artists, as well as pieces from the Serralves Collection. The Serralves Villa and Park serve as exceptional venues for special exhibitions, commissions, and displays. They also host traveling exhibitions in partnership with various cultural entities in Portugal and internationally.

In addition to visual arts, the museum has a dynamic program that includes cinema, contemporary dance, music, and performance. These events take place in the Auditorium and other museum spaces. The Auditorium and the Museum Library are also venues for public interactions, including conversations, lectures, and symposia. These events focus on contemporary artistic and cultural topics, inviting public participation in discussions and debates.

History

The Serralves Foundation signed a contract with the architect Álvaro Siza Vieira in 1991. Construction of the Serralves Museum started in 1996 and opened to the public in 1999. The building occupies the former vegetable garden of the Serralves Estate and quickly gained international acclaim.

Architecture

The Serralves Museum contains over 13,000 square meters and includes 4,500 square meters of exhibition space. Notably, it houses 14 galleries and serves as the main exhibition space of the Serralves Foundation.

The Museum’s design is unique, featuring a longitudinal layout extending from north to south. The architecture forms a U-shaped structure with a central body and two wings, separated by a patio. Additionally, there’s an L-shaped construction creating a second patio. This patio is the main entrance to the Museum, linking the underground car park and gardens.

The Museum’s interior is thoughtfully designed across three floors. The upper floor hosts a cafeteria/restaurant, esplanade, and multi-purpose rooms. The entrance floor comprises exhibition rooms and a bookshop. The lower floor contains a library and an auditorium. Central to these spaces is a square-shaped atrium, adjacent to the reception with a cloakroom and information area.

Álvaro Siza Wing

In October 2023, the Serralves Foundation opened the Álvaro Siza Wing, which expanded the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition area by 40%. The new wing honors its architect, Álvaro Siza, a Pritzker Prize winner in 1992. Siza’s involvement with Serralves spans over thirty years, making this project a testament to their enduring relationship.

Siza described the new building as seamlessly integrated with the existing structure and likened it to “a void that the imagination tries to fill.”

The construction of this wing, costing ten million euros, started in May 2022. It received 4.2 million euros in community funding. Spanning three levels, including a basement and two exhibition spaces, it represents a significant expansion. The wing is set to open in early 2024. It will host two major exhibitions: one showcasing the Serralves Collection and another dedicated to Siza’s work.

Fundaçao Serralves, Photo by Gabriel Fernandes (Flickr)

Serralves Villa

Serralves Villa, Photo by Krzysztof D. (Flickr)

History

The Serralves Villa was commissioned by Carlos Alberto Cabral, the 2nd Count of Vizela, in Porto. Originally a private residence, it was built on Cabral’s family’s summer residence grounds. Construction spanned from 1925 to 1944, and the villa represents a prime example of Art Deco architecture.

In 1996, the Villa was designated a Building of Public Interest. By 2012, it gained the status of National Monument. French architect Charles Siclis and Portuguese José Marques da Silva were key in the Villa’s design. Carlos Alberto Cabral, Jacques Émile Ruhlmann, and Alfred Porteneuve also contributed. Renowned European designers like Ruhlman and René Lalique enriched the interior.

Carlos Cabral and Blanche Daubin lived in the Villa from 1944 for a few years. In 1955, they sold it to Delfim Ferreira with a no-alteration clause. Much of the original furniture was auctioned off.

In 1987, the Portuguese State acquired the estate for a modern art museum. The Villa opened for public exhibitions in 1987. In 1999, the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, was inaugurated. Siza supervised the Villa’s restoration in 2004. The Villa now hosts exhibitions and artists’ projects, and its architecture and design are definitely worth a visit.

Architecture

The design of the Serralves Villa is primarily credited to Charles Siclis and José Marques da Silva. The Villa, characterized by its elegant façade, faces the Rua de Serralves and overlooks a garden.

This Villa spans three levels. The basement houses the kitchen and service areas. The ground floor features living, dining, and lobby spaces. The first floor contains the bedrooms. Unique design elements include a glass canopy over the main entrance and a built-in patio at another entrance. This patio plays a key role in the spatial organization of the Villa.

Internationally renowned designers contributed to the Villa’s interior. Émile Jacques Ruhlmann designed several rooms, including the dining room and salon. The skylight above the first-floor hall was created by René Lalique. Edgar Brandt crafted the distinguished wrought iron gate. Other designers like Ivan Da Silva Bruhns and Alfred Porteneuve influenced the color scheme of the Villa. Unfortunately, much of the original furniture has been dispersed through auctions.

Park

History

Serralves Park’s history begins in 1923 when Carlos Alberto Cabral, 2nd Count of Vizela, inherited Quinta do Lordelo, then a family summer home. The park’s evolution encompasses three periods: the late 19th-century garden contours, Jacques Gréber’s design for Serralves Villa, and the landscaping for the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The original garden at Quinta do Lordelo reflected late Victorian styles, with organically shaped flower-beds and ornamental species. Initially smaller, the estate expanded to 18 hectares by the 1940s. This expansion included acquiring Quinta do Mata-Sete, which had buildings like a hunting pavilion and an olive press.

Carlos Alberto Cabral, inspired by the 1925 Paris International Exhibition, commissioned Jacques Gréber in 1932. Gréber’s design blended Art Deco and classical elements, influenced by French 16th and 17th-century gardens. He integrated existing features like the lake and farming structures.

Gréber’s creation, the Serralves Garden, became a prominent example of early 20th-century Portuguese gardening art. It was a unique private landscape architecture project in Portugal at the time.

In the early 1950s, the park was sold to Delfim Ferreira, Count of Riba d’Ave. The park’s structure has largely remained the same since. After the Portuguese State acquired it in 1986, landscape architect Teresa Andresen led restoration efforts. The park opened to the public, gradually revealing its historical and artistic significance.

Architecture

Serralves Park in Porto stretches over 18 hectares. Designed by architect Jacques Greber in the 1930s, it features formal gardens, woodlands, and a traditional farm.

Visitors can explore various circuits with different routes and durations. The park also showcases about 200 tree and shrub species including native and exotic ornamental plants. Sculptures from the Serralves Collection are also on permanent display throughout the park.

The park also includes a Treetop Walk. The walkway was a collaborative effort by architects Carlos Castanheira and Álvaro Siza Vieira reflecting a commitment to environmental awareness and nature conservation. It’s supported by the Serralves Foundation and the Portuguese State Environmental Fund. This initiative has gained recognition nationally and internationally.

House of Cinema

History

The House of Cinema, also known as Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira, started with an exhibition in 2008 by the Serralves Foundation. This event celebrated the 100th birthday of filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira. Following this, a protocol was signed on April 20, 2009, between the Serralves Foundation and Oliveira himself.

This protocol formalized the deposit of Oliveira’s extensive documentary collection. He had amassed this over eighty years. It also outlined the plans for establishing the Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira. Renowned architect Álvaro Siza was tasked with designing the building. Additionally, António Preto was responsible for developing the museum’s program.

The project was publicly unveiled on November 15, 2013, detailing the Casa do Cinema’s objectives and structure. It also explained its integration within the Foundation’s organization. Construction began in January 2018, the Casa de Cinema Manoel de Oliveira was officially inaugurated on June 24, 2019. This marked the culmination of a decade-long effort to celebrate Oliveira’s cinematic legacy.

Architecture

The House of Cinema is an adaptation and expansion of the old garage of Serralves Villa, on the eastern edge of Serralves Park. Architect Álvaro Siza led the project, respecting the original building’s character and structure. The design acknowledges previous alterations by Marques da Silva, commissioned by the Count of Vizela. Siza’s work is notable for using granite slabs for the ground floor and concrete for the garage roof. The building’s facade features masonry around doors and windows.

A new section was added, matching the garage’s volume and alignment. This new unit has a flat and pitched roof, integrating seamlessly with the old structure. The design differences are mainly in the elevations and the new building’s zinc sheet roofing, unlike the original roof tiles.

Inside, the Casa do Cinema includes two exhibition rooms, a bookshop, and workspaces in the existing building. The new addition contains a 59-seat auditorium, an archive, research space, and educational service rooms. These are accessed through a long gallery offering views of the gardens.

Collections and Exhibitions

The Serralves Foundation boasts an impressive collection of contemporary art. The collection includes works from the 20th and 21st centuries, displaying a wide range of artistic expressions and styles.

The foundation regularly hosts temporary exhibitions featuring works from both established and emerging artists. The diversity of the exhibitions reflects the foundation’s commitment to contemporary art. The foundation also organizes cultural and educational events. These events aim to engage the public with contemporary issues and art. The foundation’s collections and exhibitions are central to its cultural mission.

Fundaçao Serralves, Photo by Gabriel Fernandes (Flickr)

Visiting Times & Tickets

If you want to purchase tickets for the museum, the ticket office is open from Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 7 pm and 10:00 am to 8 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

A general ticket costs 20€ and can be purchased online here. Other online options can be purchased here. This includes entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Álvaro Siza Wing, Serralves Park, Treetop Walk, Serralves Villa, and the House of Cinema Manoel de Oliveira.

Partial Discounts

Museum of Contemporary Art: 13€

Park (Treetop Walk included): 13€

Other Discounts

Residents in Portugal*:

General Tickets: 18€

Museum of Contemporary Art: 11€

Park (Treetop Walk included): 11€

*This is subject to presentation of ID document or residence card and is valid only at the Serralves Foundation front office. This does not apply to online or joint tickets.

Free entrance:

Members of Amigos de Serralves, BPI clients, and Children under 12

50% Discount:

12-17 years old, Students (Up to Master’s degree. Max. 25 years and upon presentation of proof), Seniors (65 and over)

Subject to presentation of valid ID document.

25% Discount:
Holders of CP Alfa Pendular and Intercidades tickets

20% Discount:
Porto-Card , Cartão-jovem (Youth card)

Group visits with a guide have a separate cost and are subject to prior booking. Holders of Yellow Bus, BlueBus e Douro Acima tickets have a 10% discount at the Serralves shop, bookshop and restaurant.

Museum Tours

There are two tours a day between Monday and Friday at 11 am (Portuguese) and another at 4 pm (Portuguese and English). Tickets for a tour cost 12€.

Final Thoughts

The Serralves Foundation’s unique combination of art, architecture, and nature makes it a must-visit destination. In 2023, the Serralves Museum is expected to attract over 1 million visitors, making it one of the country’s most popular destinations Whether it’s the contemporary art museum and its beautiful new wing which opened in October 2023, the expansive park, the classic Art Deco villa, or the house of cinema, a trip to Serralves is sure to be an unforgettable, full-day experience.

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