Lisbon, artfully yours

Lisbon offers the visitor grandiose vistas from its seven hills, gastronomic pleasures from the sea, Old World charm, friendly people, fado music and relatively mild weather. For the art seeker, Lisbon’s most iconic artform – hand-painted tile or azulejos – is in plain view. However, tapping into the contemporary art scene takes some sleuthing. I did some digging and uncovered some real finds.

PART I : SKIN DEEP

Lisbon owes much of its charm to the tiles that grace the exterior and interior walls of its buildings. Turn down the alleyways of Chiado or Baixe and the tilework will take your breath away.

The infinite variety of imaginative graphic designs are reminders of the city’s early Moorish influence when the Berber and Arab armies conquered Lisbon in 714 AD.

Christian crusaders invaded in the 12th century, bringing their traditional aesthetics that were eventually reflected in tile art over the next few centuries.

Unfortunately, Lisbon was totally destroyed in 1755 by an earthquake and tsunami. All the wondrous tile facades around the city therefore date back only to the mid-18th century yet they still impart the city’s eclectic history.  I was told that Lisbon’s current mayor encourages international graffiti artists to add their contemporary marks on the city’s ancient walls.

(I didn't need too much prompting - the clothing stores were pretty funky!)
(I didn’t need too much prompting – the Lisbon clothing stores were pretty funky!)

PART II : BEYOND THE WALLS

A visit to the Coleção Berardo Museum of Contemporary Art in the Belem district is like walking through a visual Cliff Notes of 20th century art – the line up was impressive: Giorgio de Chirico, Tom Wesselman, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Torres-Garcia, Morandi, Philip Guston, Rothko, Jean Tinguely, and ad infinitum.

Striking a pose in James Turrell's 1969 Fargo, Blue, one of the early works that set the precedent for experiential viewer participation that is the greatest art trend of the 21st century to date.
Striking a pose in James Turrell’s 1967 Fargo, Blue, one of the early works that set the precedent for experiential viewer participation that is the dominant art trend of the 21st century to date.

The Gulbenkian Foundation is a must-see for its twin museums (modern and contemporary) located within a lushly landscaped property in the center of the city. It appears to be a favorite Sunday outing for Lisbon families and it was lovely to see kids on scooters and little tricycles riding past some seriously avant garde art.

Crawling out of an interactive exhibit. The things I do for art's sake....
Crawling out of an interactive exhibit. The things I do for art’s sake….

Although I highly enjoyed these museums I was beginning to despair of finding some fresh new galleries and underground art scene. I lucked out at a restaurant one night when a fellow diner pointed me in the direction of Galeria Graça Brandão in the sleazy bar and night club area. The gallery represents young local artists working in installation and video. From there I was directed to the little known Carpe Diem, a magificent, crumbling palace whose ornately detailed rooms now house cutting edge conceptual works.

Floor installation, Carpe Diem
Floor installation, Carpe Diem
Painting installation, Carpe Diem
Painting installation, Carpe Diem

I’ll wrap up with a few recommended galleries in the Xabregas enclave : Murias Centeno, Baginski, Filomena Soares and Ar Solido. In the Campo de Ourique district, check out Caroline Pages Gallery and Bajinsky.  A reminder to any readers who have favorite art haunts in Lisbon – please share. And to the beautiful city of Lisbon and the cute airbnb apartment I stayed in, I say, obrigada!

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The gift that keeps on giving

MAGIC Carved plate 3.5
MAGIC Carved plate 3.5″ Lilianne Milgrom

I won’t deny that selling my artwork is rewarding, but the real value I get from having my art out there is knowing that it is appreciated and that I have enhanced people’s lives in some way. In the past two weeks, thanks to unsolicited and unexpected feedback, I have been amply reminded of just how much satisfaction and joy this gives me. Art really is that magical gift that keeps on giving.

It began with a recent trip to my gynecologist’s office.  As my doctor breezed into the exam room to perform my annual checkup she told me that she thought of me every day. This sparked a dreaded moment of anxiety – was she referring to  some ominous test results I was unaware of?

gyno office

I need not have worried. She was referring to a hand made ceramic mug I gave her a year ago when I learned that she had completed her yoga instructor’s course. I had totally forgotten about that mug, aptly decorated with an image of a cross-legged woman meditating. It turns out that she drinks her morning joe out of that cup every day.

A few days later I received an email from a woman in Australia who identified herself as the person who had purchased my small, award-winning portrait Le Parisien about five years ago.

5x5in_acrylic_2013 (2)

She took the time to write the following words and, bless her, it made my week:

Dear Lilianne, Just wanted to touch base and let you know I purchased a tiny painting of yours from the Mortimore Prize in 2010. For such a tiny painting it fills the room. It was a Christmas present to my husband after he expressed it was his favourite painting in the show, it was also a stand out to me, we love it! Just wanted to let you know it came to a good home. 

And then, to top it off, I received another email from another total stranger who had come across my contributing artwork in the Women of the Book project currently on exhibit at the Jerusalem Biennale.

womenofthebook illustration (9)

This gentleman really understood what I was trying to capture with my visual expression of the Torah portion Ki Tavo. He wrote:
Dear Lilianne, It looked like simplicity was a prime virtue of the work until I looked more closely and realized the skill and complexity. It really does convey the sense of a deeply willing offering. What excellent work! Would you mind if I used it as a screensaver, reminding myself to be in that place of acceptance and offering?

It’s been a gratifying couple of weeks in the life of this artist – I have also been commissioned to paint a series of portraits for the AARP and just found out that Dreamtime, the work I featured in my last blog, received an award at the opening in NY.

awardIf you have any comments about art that has touched people’s lives or art that you cherish, that inspires you or beautifies your home or simply makes you feel good, I’d love to hear your story.