Rising from the ashes of economic downturn like a creative phoenix, art in Lisbon is now in the midst of a startling rebirth
The golden age of art in Lisbon may have happened back when Vasco da Gama was still strutting around town, but the city looks like it’s poised on the cusp of a new one. Rising from the ashes of economic downturn like a creative phoenix, art in Lisbon is now in the midst of a startling rebirth.
Not solely confined to museums and traditional galleries, Lisbon’s artistic nature is visible in the streets, where street art and colourful graffiti isn’t just scrawled on walls, but immortalised on officially commissioned “exhibition spaces”. The city’s start-up incubators hail digital revolution while its new generation of contemporary Lisbon galleries, cool concept stores, and creative hubs in the area of Alcântara, draw artists from across the globe. Art in Lisbon is fully its own creation. Get knee-deep in colour – figuratively, we think – at the city’s thriving creative corners.
Sorry Vasco, these days, it’s all about the contemporary Lisbon galleries and emerging artistic voices. In the trendy Chiado neighbourhood, the 3+1 Contemporary Art Gallery showcases both local and international artists, while the Alecrim 50 Galeria de Arte celebrates rising stars in the Portuguese art world. But not all Lisbon galleries have traditional formats: the Montana Shop & Gallery is a vibrantly urban celebration of street art, with cans of spray paint and on-trend clothing sold alongside the paintings on the wall.
The ex-industrial area of Alcântara tells its own microcosmic story of the city’s regeneration and the revolution in avant-garde art in Lisbon: once full of crumbling factories, the area is, these days, one of Lisbon’s creative hubs. It’s here that you’ll find LX Factory – and, given its titanic scale, it shouldn’t prove difficult to locate. Inside the complex you’ll find a sprawling network of design firms, bars, bookshops, restaurants, boutiques – and, surprise! – graffiti. Another of the creative hubs is the Fábrica do Braço de Prata, which offers a similar scope: though it was once an artillery factory, these days it comprises gallery spaces, book stores, and places to dine, and also draws young and creative crowds with concerts and evening performances.
Enjoying art in Lisbon doesn’t have to be passive – in Lisbon’s concept stores you can take home a piece of the city’s ineffable style. Príncipe Real – currently anointed as the city’s coolest neighbourhood – hosts 21pr, a concept shop that hones in on Portuguese craft products, from clothing and chocolates to jewellery and gourmet hampers. Nearby Embaixada, meanwhile, spreads its so-called “Conceptual Shopping Gallery” across two venues in the neighbourhood, one of which is the Ribeiro da Cunha Palace, a 19th century local landmark. Between the two, shoppers will find capsule collections of jewellery, fashion, alongside art galleries and dining en plein air.
Is it even possible to muse on the city’s artistic aesthetic without imaging the bold shapes and primary colours present in Lisbon street art? Here, graffiti is elevated far beyond vandalism or temporary scrawl. The city’s de-facto “open air galleries” (i.e., spray-painted streets) are always worth a browse. The Amoreiras Wall features an ever-changing tableau of works by big-name street artists, while the Galeria de Arte Urbana commissions celebrated Portuguese street artists the likes of Add Fuel, Pedro Matos, Wasted Rita, and Dwelle. Don’t feel like making a quest? Simply keep your eyes peeled for art in Lisbon: works by artists like Os Gemeos, Blu, and C215 abound on building sites, old industrial spaces, and, well, pretty much everywhere else.