I’d read about the collection made by a Madeiran Joe Berardo (maybe a friend of Chris Rinaldo) of twentieth century art bought directly from the artists in many cases. I’d also read that the museum closed at 14:00 on Christmas Eve. So I set off with my travel card on the Blue Line and Green Line metros to Cais da Sodre where I needed a suburban train to Belem. I failed to read the signs and flew past Belem Station, the Berardo Collection and the tower of Belem to the first stop at Alges. Fortunately a train in the opposite direction soon arrived with the word TODAS illuminated on its front. This delivered me to Belem where I walked through a pleasant park to the Monasterio de Jeronimos that reminded me a bit of Budapest Houses of Parliament in its gothic splendour. I was struck by the fact that all the circular stone motifs above the windows were different but didn’t have time to visit and discover their story on this trip.
Just across the road is the Cultural Centre of Belem which houses the Berardo Collection. It’s a fabulous building dating from 1992 in pink marble with a water garden and wide airy galleries with an permanent collection with an array of surrealist, dada, pop, expressionist and other art of the last century with most of the major names represented – Picasso, Miro, Warhol, Pollock, Rothko, Moore among them. It is so well curated that I was able to spend a couple of hours without getting the gallery glaze that so often comes over me. I was struck by a Henry Moore that had strings attached which seemed to reference the nearby suspension bridge and rigging of the boats in the marina.
On a lower floor was a series of temporary exhibitions including a piece called Purple by John Akomfrah which is a thirty minute video installation using six huge screens. I’m not prone to sit through such artworks but this was captivating, using brilliantly manipulated imagery, archive footage and a surround sound track that kept me there to the credits. It’s based loosely on a quote from Tennyson “Oh Earth, what changes hast thou seen?” and looks at years of pollution filmed across ten countries with recurring haunting images. It was co-commissioned by the Barbican where it played early this year and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston among others. Surprising, shocking, stimulating.
Outside I walked to the river front to view the Tower of Belem, deisappointingly small for such a frequently used icon of the city and then along to the monument to the Discoverers a much more impressive piece of work.
I followed the river bank with detours for marinas and harbours back to the centre of town and the district known as Baixa. The Museum of Beer called from on corner of the Comercio Square and I finally sat down nearly four hours after my bum was on a train seat. I then explored the local area with its chain shops, a few individual boutiques and some restaurants, few of which would be open tomorrow it seemed. As I approached Rossio Station I had to hide my head in shame for protesting yesterday about the paving of the city. Here was a sculpture dedicated to the brave and talented pavers of Lisbon. They do produced some fine mosaic effects but I’m still looking for a new set of suitcase wheels!
This led me to the Avenue of Liberty a long tree-lined rambla with cafes and I imagine very popular area for a stroll in summer. It ends in the square (why don’t we have a different name when they are round?)named for the Marquis of Pombal the minister who redesigned central Lisbon after the earthquake. As I made it to the north side I knew that it was truly Christmas.
A walk uphill past the many kiosks brought me to an exit for Parque station which is five minutes from the hotel. I had used a metro and a train to get to Belem but walked all the way back so decided to eat nearby again in a restaurant that billed itself as Portuguese with a Japanese accent. It was one of the worst meals I’ve ever struggled to eat and I won’t be recommending Tsubaki on Tripadvisor. Not a good end to an otherwise most enjoyable day. The one drawback about my otherwise fine hotel is that it’s WiFi is very poor so creating these blogs is a very painful affair with many “upload failed” messages. Please bear with me – your messages are very important to me.