This article was published on Lisbon by Time Out newspaper, December 2022 edition.
Contemporary art has just gotten closer to the public, if the latest technological innovation in the visual arts is anything to go by. The Portugal Contemporary Art Guide can now be downloaded for free, and contains information about exhibitions, museums, galleries, artists, collections and special events, with a database of 285 institutions throughout the country and over a hundred exhibitions currently taking place.
The app is simultaneously an "agenda, a guide and a map", all at once, Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues explained during the press launch. The director of Contemporânea, a specialized publisher and partner of the Directorate General of Arts (DGArtes) and the Ministry of Culture in putting the app together, also spoke of a platform created from scratch, with its own design and technologies (by East Atlantic Engineering), in constant update with national programming, including the islands. “It’s a territory that deserves a wider audience, not only because its artistic output is significant, but because it has succeeded in democratising access and bringing more and more visitors", he adds in a statement to Time Out. The app is intuitive to use and has a triple feed - “opening", with future exhibitions and shows with opening dates; "on-going", with all current shows; and “closing", which lists exhibitions coming to an end. You can also add exhibitions to your personal calendar, share them with other contacts, and access editorial content on some of them, provided by Contemporânea itself. You can search using three different filters - by location, artist or exhibition.
"This app is a great contribution towards the Ministry of Culture and DGArtes’ priority in valuing, promoting and boosting the visibility of contemporary art in Portugal", says Américo Rodrigues, Director General of Arts at the same press conference. With the Portuguese Network of Contemporary Art (RPAC) still expanding and serving as the basis for this app, the mapping of museums, galleries, foundations, biennials, triennials and non-profit cultural spaces continues apace.
"We have to democratise access to the arts once and for all", says the Director, stressing that “creating new audiences" and adding value to the country as a "destination of excellence in art tourism" are two of its aims. With the RPAC membership phase well on its way, more than a hundred applications and funding of two million Euros in the first phase, contemporary art seems to be firmly in the government's sights.
Another speaker at the Portugal Contemporary Art Guide launch was Pedro Adão e Silva, Minister of Culture, who spoke of an increase of 23% in cultural funding, compared to the 2022 State Budget. Along with efforts to break down social and geographical barriers between art and the Portuguese public, the Minister of Culture spoke of a "new phase for the State’s collection of contemporary art" and an acquisition policy focused on filling existing gaps, including emerging artists.
According to Sérgio Fazenda Rodrigues, a direct link to the websites of museums and institutions is also being developed, which will make it possible to purchase tickets for any exhibition. Beyond the app, DGArtes continues to work on a comprehensive survey of the other arts.
"We commissioned a study from the Portuguese Observatory of Cultural Activities and the final part of this study is something called the Cultural Atlas, which maps all the institutions in Portugal dedicated to art and culture. Taking into account the good work and worthy aims of this app, I think that it can be replicated into other areas - theatre, music according to genre, and other venues like film theatres. The idea - and the country needs this - is to carry out a mapping exercise to find out what is out there when we talk about culture", explains the Director-General for the Arts.
DGArtes is now looking to present the results of the study, carried out over the last three years, in December or the beginning of January. "Whether in the form of apps, a book or a conference, there are many possible formats", he concludes.
The ‘Portugal Contemporary Art Guide’ app can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.