The EDP Foundation Portuguese Art Collection was started in 2000 to encompass several generations of contemporary Portuguese artists from the 1960s until today, as well as various forms of artistic expression from painting and photography to video and installation. Constantly evolving, the collection today consists of approximately 2,400 artworks by over 330 artists.
As part of the museum-wide architectural installation Beeline, designed by New York-based architecture studio SO – IL, which hosted the five-month-long programme maat Mode (18 May 2020 – 4 February 2021), the architects devised an “open storage system” made of 15 mobile and reconfigurable units whose interior is visually accessible through large portholes. Scattered throughout the space, their contents, including actual storage materials from the collection, are collectively titled The Peepshow, an intriguing previewing of part of the collection.
Francisco Vidal’s (Lisbon, 1978) work explores various media (painting, drawing, installation) interspersed with political, historical and transcultural themes. His “untitled workshop” consisted of a performance as a direct and immediate drawing exercise and addressed the issue of the new directions in portraiture as a useful tool for fair social change.
The word “peepshow” dates back to the 15th century and was used to describe a small device through which one could discover various objects or pictures by peeking through a small hole or magnifying glasses. Recreating this moment of discovery through the act of peeping, these structures are occupied by various crated and boxed works amongst which are displayed small and provocative installations by Portuguese artists represented in the EDP Foundation Art Collection. These unique presentations have all been realised with the idea of revealing artists’ workings, methodologies, intimate moments of creation, and thus represent very personal sneak peeks into their private worlds.
The painter Paulo Brighenti (Lisbon, 1968) unrolled a cooking session at maat, based on two recipes by the artist’s grandmothers, that he prepared in his workshop with the help of participants. “How does food activate the sentiment of memory and sharing? How can we have a conversation about cooking and, also, talk about painting, sustainability and, above all, heritage?”
In this sense, each of the interventions included in The Peepshow – Artists from the EDP Foundation Portuguese Art Collection aimed to examine a more personal side of their artistic practice. To do this, two public programmes unfolded during maat Mode 2020, the series of talks B-Side, and Untitled – Workshops with Artists around the relationship between art and reality.
Interventions by Catarina Botelho, Paulo Brighenti, Tomás Colaço, Luísa Ferreira, Horácio Frutuoso, Mariana Gomes, Pedro Gomes, André Guedes, João Louro, Maria Lusitano, João Ferro Martins, Paulo Mendes, Rodrigo Oliveira, Francisco Vidal, and Valter Vinagre.
In this puzzle with two overlapping alphabet books in the form of a poster, Horácio Frutuoso (Vila Nova de Famalicão, 1991) invited visitors to his workshop “Drawing with letters”: “Letters are not just for writing; they are forms that can be used to draw, and also have the potential to suggest movement and expression in the composition of a word.”
In her working space, Catarina Botelho (Lisbon, 1981) is surrounded by other spaces – those she photographs, those she has yet to visit, those that hold her gaze –, images she physically displays on her walls as concept proofs or prints. This personal universe was replicated in her intervention, challenging visitors to discover different and unknown spaces around the city of Lisbon with her: the waste lands of Belém and Ajuda as places that resist urban homogenisation and the experience of time.
In a small scenario deliberately built for this peephole, Mariana Gomes (Faro, 1983) plays with the scale of what is peeked by exploring the concept of the peepshow itself. Based on her stylistic references, such as illustration or cartoons, the painter also reveals the recurring way in which humour appears in her work. It was also this game of construction, taking the less conventional painting techniques as starting point, that the artist proposed for her workshop, in which she revealed how she creates, paints and works with materials.
A short video clip from “Répétition avant le crime (troisème version) travail en cours (1996/2018)” by Paulo Mendes (Lisbon, 1966) transforms the peephole into a screen. In his workshop, entitled “The truth of the lie”, Mendes examines contemporary artistic practice and the role of the artist from the perspective of art as a means of knowledge and an attitude towards reality — inferring that all art is inherently political.
All images: views of “The Peepshow – Artists from the EDP Foundation Portuguese Art Collection” by Francisco Nogueira. Courtesy of EDP Foundation.
Founded in New York in 2008, SO – IL is an architectural studio led by Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu that not only produces permanent buildings but also thinks about architecture in relation to time and duration.
SO – IL’s largest piece of ephemeral architecture to date, Beeline (maat, 10/06/2020 – 04/02/2021) is designed to host maat Mode 2020, an experimental participatory public programme of talks and other events. With architecture by SO – IL (Florian Idenburg, Martina Baratta, Yuanjun Summer Liu), "Beeline" was produced by maat in partnership with ArtWorks.