advertisement

Despite its name, the permanent collection of the National Museum of Contemporary Art actually covers Portuguese painting and sculpture from 1850 to 1975. It shows an overview of the country's art from Romanticism to '70s Op Art. Many of the works are familiar treasures for Portuguese art lovers, like Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro's vast 1885 group portrait of friends at the Leão de Ouro (Golden Lion) beer house (where you can still sink a cold one with a plate of shrimp downtown), Amadeo de Souza Cardoso's wildly colored Cubist faces, or the eccentric 1960's landscapes of Joaquim Rodrigo. The museum is housed in a former convent that was converted into a cookie factory in the 1830s. Soaring brick arches from the factory form a dramatic entrance for the museum and a row of industrial ovens are a backdrop for the frequent temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists. The museum was completely renovated in the 1990s, but lack of space means works are shown in rotation with only around 100 of the 5,000 pieces in the collection on view at any one time. There are plans afoot for an expansion into a neighboring building, perhaps as soon as 2015.