Portuguese and Czech artists celebrate revolution


Portuguese and Czech artists will celebrate the democracy and freedom of expression won by the revolutions of the two countries in the exhibition ‘Cravos e Veludo’, which opens on April 29 in Prague, Czech Republic.

The contemporary art exhibition is an initiative of cultural exchange between Portugal and the Czech Republic which aims to promote historical and cultural relations, including the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974 and the Velvet Revolution on 17 November 1989.

The Municipal Gallery of the City of Prague, where the exhibition will be shown this year, indicated that in 2020, it will be presented in Portugal at the National Museum of Contemporary Art-Chiado Museum, with an opening scheduled for April 25.

Sandra Baborovska and Adelaide Ginga are curators of the exhibitions held in partnership as part of a project that builds on a collective exhibition of contemporary art, making a comparative analogy between Portuguese art and Czechoslovak art produced between 1968 and 1989.

Because of their peaceful character, both revolutions were associated with non-warlike symbols and designations, which inspired and gave a title to this project,” the curators explain in a text about the show.

In the exhibition “Cravos e Veludo“, curators highlight “surprising parallels, hitherto almost unknown, between these two countries located geographically at opposite ends of Europe.

There will be works by artists from the former Czechoslovakia in their various responses to the totalitarian regime, including Adriana Simotová, Eva Kmentová, Jirí Kovanda, Petr Stembera, Jan Mlcoch, Milan Knízák, Jirí Kolár, Václav Havel, Julio Koller, Lubomír Durcek, in dialogue with Portuguese contemporaries at the time, such as Helena Almeida, Lourdes Castro, Ana Vieira, Ana Hatherly, Fernando Calhau, Alberto Carneiro, Manuel Alves, Silvestre Pestana, among others.

In this dialogue, which proposes a reflection on the artistic expression and creative processes developed during a period of censorship and absence of freedom, it is possible to verify that despite the distance and the lack of knowledge of the art scene between the two countries, there are innumerable artistic affinities, at the thematic, formal, aesthetic or conceptual level, “maintain the curators in a text about the exhibition.

The exhibition will be presented in various media, from painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, installation, video and performance, and will also include a young generation of post-revolution artists who reflect on this recent past, such as Zbynek Baladrán and Ana de Almeida.

The project includes the publication of a trilingual catalogue – in Czech, Portuguese and English – with about 200 pages, bringing together images and scientific texts of the curators, and the Czech historian Pavel Szobi, who has studied the political-economic relations between Czechoslovakia and Portugal during the 1970s and 1980s.

The chronological delimitation defined for the project dedicated to Art and Revolution in Portugal and Czechoslovakia is based on three structuring dates: 1968, 1974, 1989.

The curators’ starting point was 1968, the spring year of Prague and the Marcellist Spring, “relevant moments of hope in a political reform that have been rendered ineffective, with particular constraint in Prague.”

Despite the contrasts and paradoxes, the revolutions in question have in common the fact that they represent movements of mobilization of the local populations in the struggle and victory against totalitarian regimes, in defence of the implantation of democracy“, they emphasize.

The years 1974 and 1989 marked the dates of the two revolutions that peacefully allowed freedom, the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974, which served as inspiration for the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, which took place more November 17, 1989.

The exhibition project also integrates a comparative chronology and illustrated with historical facts, documentation, and iconography: photographs, newspaper articles, posters, books, manuscripts, moving images of small videos or television excerpts, audio recordings of songs.

In this chronology situations of relationship and interaction between the two countries are known, such as the exile in Prague of people who fled the regime in Portugal, and a telephone conversation between Mário Soares and Vaclav Havel in 1989.

There is also the episode in which a delegation of Portuguese young people decided to go to Prague in December 1989 to deliver 50,000 roses to supporters of freedom and revolution in Czechoslovakia.

According to the organization, the design of the project dates from 2014, but due to financing difficulties, it has been moving from year to year in the program plans

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