Visit Lisbon and you’ll notice right away that there’s a new dynamic that fills the air with vigor and purpose. The Portuguese capital is busily reinventing itself. With Inês Grosso, curator and
manager of programmes and international projects of newly opened art museum MAAT and a smart BRABUS fortwo cabrio, we visit her favorite spots in the transforming city.
The Bridge of April 25th looks like the Golden Gate’s twin. Just past it, on the sheer endless embankment of the Tagus River, crouches a futuristic swooping structure, gleaming white against the blue sky like the crest of a wave. On its roof, visitors mill about, admiring the view. This latest attraction is MAAT – the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. The space has only had a soft opening but is already drawing the crowds. Inês Grosso is one of three curators who are busy filling the unique space with spectacular art. But today, Inês is taking some time out to show us her side of Lisbon aboard a top-of-the-range smart BRABUS fortwo cabrio.
Bom dia, Inês, I love your Louboutins. Where did you get them?
Inês Grosso: (laughs) I’m glad you noticed – I love wearing them. I bought them at Fashion Clinic just the other day. It’s the place to go if you’re into designer wear.
New job, new museum, and new shoes – happy days!
Inês Grosso: Yes, I am excited to work on this project for MAAT. I’ve come here from Inhotim, the iconic sculpture garden in Brazil. This new building, designed by Amanda Levete, is not only a work of art in itself – it also has 7,000 square meters of exhibition space to fill. It’s a fantastic space for our team and for the city.
What’s greater: your respect of the task ahead of you or your drive?
Inês Grosso: I do respect what’s ahead, but it’s also a great opportunity to work on a project that is brand new; to be the first to bring this space to life. We have a signature space, the Oval Gallery, which plays host to specifically commissioned installations or adapted large-scale works by renowned artists such as Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, who is currently on view. Furthermore, we will feature temporary exhibitions where contemporary art enters into dialog with architecture and technology.
Does a good network help?
Inês Grosso: Definitely. We want to develop or establish key partnerships with other European institutions that will allow us to host important traveling exhibitions – as we did with Vitra Design Museum, Barbican and Whitechapel Gallery.
What direction do you see for MAAT in the near future?
Inês Grosso: Our goal is to maintain a certain constancy and balance between commissions from major international artists, exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art from Portugal and traveling exhibitions. MAAT will be a space to develop intercultural exchanges, and, thus, a space for the production and dialogue between Portuguese and international art. What’s most exciting in my opinion is that projects like the Oval Gallery commissions enable us to build long-term relationships with the artists.
In other words, you co-create together with them.
Inês Grosso: Exactly.
What a great job!
Inês Grosso: Yes, it is. I love what I do. But it can also be tiring. I am continuously visiting museums, biennials, and art fairs all over Europe to scout for interesting artists and art works.
As you already hinted, the architecture of MAAT makes it an attraction in its own right.
Inês Grosso: Absolutely. People come here to see the architecture, and that gives us an opportunity to engage them. We aim to reach out to a wider audience. As we all know, museums nowadays involve lots of functions and uses. It is definitely important to also think and reflect on their relationship with the city and the urban context.
Great. Let’s go exploring. Driving along, you see lots of cranes and construction sites everywhere. Is there a bit of a revival going on?
Inês Grosso: Yes. The mood is really changing. Before, there was this really heavy atmosphere – we were in the midst of a serious financial crisis. Now, we still don’t have a lot of money but you can see that people are investing here and moving to Portugal.
There are a lot of foreigners, too – you can hear a lot of French being spoken in the streets.
Inês Grosso: Lisbon is becoming very cosmopolitan. The other day, my neighbor had some people over for dinner. Out of 20 people, only two were Portuguese. Portugal is proud of its tradition, but we know we need foreigners. There are so many reasons to live and invest in Lisbon. It’s the closest European capital to the US and to South America and offers frequent connections to several African countries and the most important cities in Europe. The economy and tourism are growing quite rapidly. The weather is great, we have stunning beaches and cheap public transport. It’s a friendly and safe city. Besides that, Portugal has pioneered services in science, innovation and technology, such as renewable energies. EDP is one of the world’s largest wind energy providers. MAAT is part of the EDP Foundation.
Is this cosmopolitanism also reflected in the art scene?
Inês Grosso: Yes. And that not only has to do with the many attractions of Lisbon. We’re part of Europe, it’s not too expensive here, and you can rent very affordable studio space while being a mere two or three hours from London or Berlin. Artists can’t afford to live in London any more.
So where is an up-and-coming area where you could afford setting up shop as an artist?
Inês Grosso: You could live right here. We’re just driving into one of my favorite places, the Chiado. Its location in the historic center makes it the perfect meeting place. The neighborhood is very authentic – the old way of life still endures here. And it’s still affordable, even for artists.
And it’s where you hang out, too?
Inês Grosso: Yes, I’m always here when I’m in Lisbon. For a quiet coffee, I go to Café no Chiado. As a university student, I used to do a lot of my work here. And of course, everybody meets outside the famous Art Nouveau café A Brasileira. Close by is the Bairro Alto neighborhood with all its bars – I love the mix of people there, even though it used to be a darker place when I was a teenager.
What about shopping?
Inês Grosso: Well, one of my favorite shops here is A Vida Portuguesa. It’s a pure nostalgia trip and sells all these Portuguese retro brands and products. They carry the hand cream my granny used to use (laughs). Whenever I need to buy a present, I buy a piece from Bordallo, like their jugs and ceramic sardines. As somebody who has lived in Brazil for more than four years, I guess I am very nostalgic and fascinated by Portuguese products and brands. In this shop, you can find wonderful traditional Portuguese filigree earrings from Minho, a region in Northern Portugal. When I was in Brazil, everybody asked where I got them.
Inês Grosso: Yes, but I also like down-to-earth stuff and bric-a-brac. Every Tuesday and Saturday, there’s the Feira da Ladra, a fantastic flea market in the oldest part of town, Alfama. You can find everything there, from clothes to furniture.
Where’s your favorite lunch spot?
Inês Grosso: It’s the Cervejeria Ramiro, no contest. When I did my Masters in Curatorial Studies, my lecturer always said: ‘Don’t take famous artists to posh restaurants – they’ll be bored! Take them to Ramiro’s!’ I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I know he’s right. This place has a real family feel and is very authentic, a place for everyone. And the traditional Portuguese seafood is simply delicious. I defy you not to clear your plate.
In which neighborhoods is the change most tangible?
Inês Grosso: An area called Martim Moniz – its future is looking bright: it’s diverse, close to the center and has fantastic apartments with high ceilings that are very affordable. In a few years, it will be transformed. Another neighborhood to look out for is Xabregas. It’s close to the docks and still has loads of empty warehouses available. Speaking of which, LX Factory by the docks in Alcântara is also a really cool hangout – an old textile mill turned creative hub complete with cafés, co-working spaces, little shops, galleries, and lots of graffiti.
All very hip!
Inês Grosso: True, but let’s also pay homage to our traditions. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo, housed in an old convent, is an impressive showcase for our famous blue tiles. And it also has a wonderful, secluded restaurant in its courtyard that almost no-one knows about. It was my favorite lunch spot when I worked in the area.
Now, where do I go for some great art?
Inês Grosso: MAAT of course, and the Museu Coleção Berardo. But for a little secret, check out the Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar. The museum preserves and promotes the work of Júlio Pomar, a key figure in 20th century Portuguese painting. It offers a very interesting program of temporary exhibitions. The museum is housed in a former warehouse from the 17th century – in front of Pomar’s private residence. It was redesigned by one of Portugal’s most celebrated architects, Alvaro Siza Vieira.
After so much buzzing around town, where do you end the night?
Inês Grosso: After a sundowner on the terrace of the Bairro Alto Hotel with my friends, I head for dinner at Kampai at least once every week. It may not look like much from the outside, but the cuisine is fantastic. The restaurant is known as the Portuguese sushi restaurant – the fish is from the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago.
And let me guess, you bring visiting artists here for dinner?
Inês Grosso: (laughs) How did you know?
After a four-year-stint as curator at Brazil’s spectacular sculpture garden Inhotim, Inês Grosso has returned to Lisbon, the city of her birth. She studied Art History in Porto before returning to her home town for her Master’s in Curatorial Studies. Inês is part of the curatorial team at MAAT, and lives in the Santos neighborhood of Lisbon.
Local Secrets Lisbon:
Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia
Av. Brasília, Central Tejo
Fashion Clinic (Woman)
Av. da Liberdade, Tivoli Forum 5
Café no Chiado
Largo do Picadeiro, 10-12
Rua Garrett 120
A Vida Portuguesa
Rua Anchieta 11
Feira da Ladra
Campo de Santa Clara
Av. Almirante Reis 1 H
R. Rodrigues de Faria 103
Museu Nacional do Azulejo
Rua da Madre de Deus 4
Museu Coleção Berardo
Praça do Império
Atelier-Museu Júlio Pomar
Rua do Vale 7
Bairro Alto Hotel
Praça Luis de Camões
Calçada da Estrela 35-37