Some 200 works by 40 Portuguese female artists from the early 20th century to today feature in a large, free-of-charge exhibition, as part of the Cultural Programme for the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Resonant names such as Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Lourdes Castro, Paula Rego, Ana Vieira, Salette Tavares, Helena Almeida, Joana Vasconcelos, Maria José Oliveira, Fernanda Fragateiro, Sónia Almeida and Grada Kilomba, to name just a few, are represented in this show through paintings, sculptures, drawings, objects, books, installations, films and videos, providing considerable insight into their respective artistic universes.
The iconic self-portrait by Aurélia da Sousa, painted in 1900, is the starting point for reflection on the creative context which for centuries was almost exclusively male. The exhibition follows a number of paths that reveal a desire for affirmation on the part of the artists in the face of the dominant consecration systems: the gaze, the body (their own body, the bodies of others, the political body), the space and how they occupy it (the home, nature, the studio), the way in which disciplinary boundaries are crossed (painting and sculpture, but also video, performance, audio) or the determination with which they advance towards the utopia of a transformative construct, both of themselves and their surroundings.
The show’s title, “All that I Want — Portuguese female artists from 1900 to 2020”, takes its inspiration from Lou Andreas-Salomé, a writer who produced one of the most noteworthy reflections on the place of women in the social, intellectual, sexual and love-related space in recent centuries; it places the selected artists in a spirit of subtlety, affirmation and power. Against all obstacles, these artists of various generations and different sensibilities conquered their own space, through the quality of their ideas. Celebrating that conquest means resisting the illustrative approach that a generic (female artists) and national (Portuguese) representation would suggest. But it also requires that one not forget that, in the midst of the 21st century, nothing has been secured as far as gender equality is concerned, and that these works are moments from a long collective struggle for the right to full existence as an artist.
Proceeding from that position, this exhibition serves to underline the importance of strengthening the European social model, one of the central priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Achievement of that goal also involves combating inequalities and appreciation of the value of the Female Artist.
Curated by Helena de Freitas and Bruno Marchand, this exhibition is an initiative by the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, with the curatorial project provided by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Shown now for the first time on the occasion of the Portuguese Presidency, it will also be presented at the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré in Tours, as part of the general programming for the France-Portugal Season.