Expressive creativity and natural surroundings at Serralves

Concealed behind modest walls, the Serralves Foundation might easily go unnoticed. Yet, this picturesque garden and contemporary art hub in Porto is an essential place to explore.

It all started in 1925 when Carlos Cabral, the 2nd Duke of Vizela, participated in the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris alongside architect José Marques da Silva. Upon his return to Porto, the duke envisioned constructing an Art Deco residence on his family’s land. To transform this vision into reality, he engaged Marques da Silva and a team of French architects, including Charles Siclis, who worked on the mansion, and Jacques Gréber, who created the gardens.

Siclis’ watercolor depiction of a rose-hued house on a hill served as the foundation for the graceful mansion we admire today. It wasn’t until 1944 that this sketch materialized into a tangible structure. The expense was so extravagant that in 1955, Carlos Cabral sold the property to Delfim Ferreira, a prosperous entrepreneur. To ensure the preservation of his dream estate, Cabral stipulated that the house remain unchanged.

In 1987, the Portuguese government purchased the property with the intent of transforming it into a contemporary art locale. For the first time, this residence, which had captivated Porto’s imagination, was opened to the public. Upon entering the manor, one feels compelled to don Saville Row tuxedos and Chanel gowns to match the elegance of the surroundings. The interiors of the mansion, with their intricate decorations and aesthetic coherence, are enchanting.

In 1999, the latest Museum of Contemporary Art, conceived by renowned architect Álvaro Siza, was inaugurated. Ever since, it has stood as a pinnacle of contemporary art in Porto. The exhibition program continually evolves, welcoming new artworks and artists to the collection over time.

In 2019, the House of Cinema, dedicated to filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira and other visionary directors, was unveiled. More recently, the Álvaro Siza Wing introduced new exhibition spaces where softly illuminated immaculate walls patiently await the showcasing of new canvases.

Encompassing 18 hectares, Serralves Park is adorned with sculptures amidst verdant foliage. Visitors can enjoy leisurely walks along the Liquidambar Promenade, experience the Treetop Walk offering breathtaking park vistas, or wander through the villa’s gardens.

Serralves is a serene environment where nature soothes the soul and art provokes thoughtful contemplation.

The Serralves Foundation can be found at Rua D. João de Castro, 210, Porto.

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Asraful Shohag

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