The Serralves Foundation

Jul 4, 2019Porto, Portuguese culture and lifestyle

Porto’s inhabitants have a very close relationship with the city. Not only the city itself but with some specific places. Serralves is one of them. It’s a love-hate relationship with this structure. 

It’s a museum and a park. The Museum is in the list of the most visited in Portugal and is one of the most relevant in the contemporary art circuit in Europe. The park is one of the most well preserved in the country. 

Learn more about this wonderfully romantic and artistic place and let yourself be seduced!

Serralves Estate

What started out as a requalification project for an old countryside house, resulted in a work of grandeur and luxury never before seen in Porto. Serralves was not as big as it is today. 

Located on the outskirts of the city, along with the financial capacity of Carlos Cabral (the owner), made it possible to build something unique in the city of Porto. The set of lands, as we know it today, is the result of a complex process involving inheritance, acquisitions, and renovations. Nevertheless, the proximity to Carlos Cabral’s initial vision is a determinant factor to the final outcome.

The renovation project of a family country home turned into an ex-libris of Art Deco in Porto, where the decoration, the house, and the gardens interact in harmony, constituting a unique space, an example of luxury construction, as it happened in central Europe.

In 1989 the Serralves Foundation is formed, as a result of a public and private partnership. The dissemination of culture is its main goal and its agenda is filled with a wide range of events for all ages and public.

The Contemporary Art Museum is born in 1999, by the hand of Álvaro Siza Vieira, the most well-known architect in the city and winner of a Pritzker Architecture Prize, a Royal Gold Medal, an Alvar Aalto Medal, a UIA Gold Medal, a Wolf Prize in Architecture, just to name a few.

Serralves Gardens are one of the most important green spots in the city of Porto and are unique, in the city’s landscape.

Casa de Serralves – The Villa

Designed and built between 1925 and 1944, the Villa is considered the most notable example of Art Déco in Portugal. In 1996 it was classified as a ‘Building of Public Interest’ and in 2012 the Serralves estate was listed as National Monument.

The Villa is the result of the work of two architects: Charles Siclis and José Marques da Silva, who developed, altered and executed the project. The owner, Carlos Alberto Cabral or Duque de Vizela, Jacques Émile Ruhlmann and Alfred Porteneuve also influenced the project.

Perspective of Serralves Villa – drawing by Charles Siclis, 29 Dec 1929

Interiors were enriched by some of the most prominent European furniture designers: Ruhlmann, René Lalique, Edgard Brandt, Ivan da Silva Bruhns, Jules Leleu, Jean Perzel, and Raymond Subes. As you go through the different rooms you will notice exquisite details and recognize some of the styles and their authors.

The first projects by Ruhlmann, in 1930, based on Marques da Silva (architect) designs, include five rooms: the vestibule, the hallway, the dining room, the parlor, and the billiards room. All the rooms have their special charm and all have natural lighting. The most charming views are, of course, the ones facing the gardens.

Carlos Alberto and his wife, Blanche Daubin, lived in the house for a very short period, after which the estate was sold to Delfim Ferreira, under one condition: the property could not suffer any type of transformation. This agreement was entirely implemented. The furniture, on the other hand,  was auctioned and is spread by several locations.

Interior and hall of the Villa of Serralves – Foto Galvão

In 1987 the Portuguese Government bought the property to Delfim Ferreira’s heirs. The goal was to create a Modern Art Museum. The Villa opened its doors to the public in that same year as a venue for modern and contemporary art exhibitions. In 1999 the new Contemporary Art Museum, designed by  Álvora Siza Vieira was inaugurated.

Take the time to visit the Villa. It is an incredible work of art. Look closely at the decorative details. Let your imagination flow and imagine how luxurious the decoration was. How wonderful it could be to seat and read by the window, overlooking the charming gardens.

The Gardens

When you walk around the gardens at Serralves it is undeniable that there was a concern, from the start, with the harmony between the Villa and its surroundings. The rectilinear shapes along with the romantic lake and the choice of flora, this set is unique (nationwide) and it was a rupture with the traditional gardens of the city of Porto. These gardens are one of the biggest green areas in town. Its flora is varied, exotic and abundant.

The rose garden is one of the main attractions, as it is one of the most beautiful corners of the property and one of the most perfumed. There’s a small farm, open to public visits, especially to school groups, where the children can interact with the animals and learn more about the farm life.

The Contemporary Art Museum

As previously mentioned, the Museum was inaugurated in 1999. It was designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, who made an effort to integrate the new building in the property and in harmony with the surrounding buildings. Visiting the exhibitions is mandatory as it is to appreciate the building in itself. It is a work of art, both on the inside and out.

This venue welcomes people from all over the world, of all ages. It is an inviting space for adults and children, families and lonely visitors. The inaugural exhibition, ‘Circa 1968’ highlighted the 1960s and 1970s, a period of political, social and cultural change around the world, which also played an important role as new paradigms in art-making emerged and it marked the beginning of the post-modern era.

In the Foundations’ own words, ‘the Serralves Collection aspires to further distinguish itself through its focus on contemporary art´s relationship to performance, architecture, and contemporaneity in the context of a post-colonial and globalized present. While resonating with the art and ideas of our recent past, the Collection aims to reflect on how the art of today also anticipates its future.

Serralves is a place of art, reflection, creativity, and peace. It’s part of the city and its inhabitants and its doors open to a world of recollection but also to mind openness. There, we can find the roost of art and all its ramifications, at the same time that we can let ourselves be involved by nature and the simplest things it has to offer.

Let us take you on a visit to Serralves estate. It is one of our favorite places in the city. Will it be love at first sight for you?



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