Contemporary tiles

Azulejos PedroIf you’re an art lover, make sure to visit Ratton, a wonderful art gallery in Lisbon that commissions works in azulejo (the Portuguese word for glazed tiles) from contemporary artists.

When Ana Viegas opened the gallery in 1987, tiles were no longer considered an art medium; they were made cheaply for utilitarian purposes. To convince artists to create works for azulejo, Viegas procured the finest clay and searched for artisans who could paint and glaze tiles by hand, using techniques perfected in the 18th century. Soon, she had great artists like Paula Rego, Julio Pomar, and Menez working for Ratton. Today, you can see the gallery’s azulejos all over Portugal and as far away as Russia or Brazil.

The photo shows a piece by Lourdes de Castro inspired by the “invitations figures” that were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. These panels of azulejos with life-size images of footmen, nobleman and aristocratic women were placed in stairs and patios to welcome visitors. Castro used her own silhouette, as if she is inviting us to experience her art.

It is this interplay between inspiration from past and present that makes the work exhibited at Ratton so unique.

Ratton is located on Rua da Academia das Ciências, 2C, tel. 21 346 0948.

Contemporary art in Cascais

If you’re interested in contemporary art, be sure to visit the Cascais museum devoted to the Portuguese painter Paula Rego. Her work is housed in a striking building designed by Eduardo Souto de Moura, a Portuguese architect who received the Pritzker prize in 2011. Rego uses ordinary faces, objects, and landscapes from Portugal to paint unusual scenes that challenge visual and social conventions.