“Do you see? From here the word “Hello” is clearly visible.” From the 1st Floor window of the Coach Museum, Guta Moura Guedes points to the outside, to the work of Fernanda Fragateiro down in the square, a work by the Portuguese artist inspired by the geometric shapes of the alphabet created by Josef Albers, which, up close, it just seems like a meaningless set of stones, but seen from above it takes on a whole new meaning. Hello (After Josef Albers) is one of the works – all of them in Portuguese stone – that make up the exhibition Primeira Pedra 2016/2022, which opens tomorrow at the Coach Museum in Lisbon.
“The Coach Museum has been a partner of experimentadesign over the years. They give a lot of support to our work, because we don’t have our own space”, says the exhibition’s curator about this old partnership. As for this show, in particular, “the enormous contrast that exists between the style and the object that is a historic coach from the 17th and 18th centuries and these very contemporary pieces in stone is irresistible. So here the dialogue has become irresistible”, he says as he climbs the stairs to the second part of the exhibition, inside the museum.
Right at the entrance, and still absent, will be the first piece, the Chair by Philippe Starck, in front of the coach that King Louis XIV of France offered for the wedding of Dona Maria Francisca of Savoy. Next, next to Filipe II’s coach – the oldest in the museum -, is the sextet of pieces by graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh. “These are very special pieces that were shown for the first time at the Milan Triennale. It’s stone encrusted in felt”, explains Guta Moura Guedes, pointing to the panels showing a skyscraper, a space probe, sunglasses, mirrors, etc. – “all surfaces that reflect”.
Scattered around the rooms are the works of artists from various areas – the chatterboxby the architect Souto de Moura, Chair for Human Use (II), by Marina Abramović, sweethearts from R2 Design or This dance ain”t for everybody Only the sexy people, by Frith Kerr. The latter, a dance floor, even invites the visitor to listen to Kerr’s soundtrack on Spotify and dance.
Hidden behind a black cloth, not yet finished, is Petra, from Vhils. But Guta Moura Guedes lifts the edge of the fabric, allowing us to take a look at the first diorama the artist makes in stone.
Stones to touch – indoors and outdoors
If inside the museum the dialogue is between the works – almost all of them invite the visitor to touch or use them – and the coaches, outside the exhibition design was made in order to take advantage of the building’s lighting. Since the square can be visited at night, the works will also be. “There is a kind of narrative here that will be very clear on opening night”, explains Guta Moura Guedes as he heads towards one of the works.
in shale, the time stone, by Brazilian architect Carla Joaçaba, will give the starting signal for the exhibition. “At 10 pm, Carla herself will remove the piece that will be holding the sand that will cover the entire upper part of the work”, explains the curator. Representing the passage of time, the work, made especially for the exhibition, is basically “a large hourglass”, where the sand only passes once.
This exhibition in Lisbon concludes six years of work that generated more than 74 original works in Portuguese stone designed by 36 authors from 15 countries and made by the national industry and artisans. Conceived by experimentadesign at the invitation of Assimagra, Primeira Pedra invited some of the most significant national and international names in the areas of design, architecture and visual arts to work on “the absolutely unique physical-mechanical and aesthetic characteristics of the various types of stone that make up the landscape geology of Portugal”, as you can read in the catalogue. Two thirds of the artists will be in Lisbon for the opening, with the day starting with the Primeira Pedra Conference, at the Tivoli BBVA Theater.
Under a strong sun, the visit continues with Gather, by Vladimir Djurovic. The Montenegrin-Lebanese landscape architect chose a huge stone wasted in a Portuguese quarry and decided to use all the pieces. Two small benches, a larger one, support pieces and a dry stone wall was the result of this tribute to sustainability.
With the workers installing the remaining works, we continue through the works – Park benchby Álvaro Siza, a kind of adjustable lounger made up of two pieces, Blue Clutchby Julião Sarmento, a quote by the artist to Bruno Munari’s iconic ashtray and Donald Judd’s minimal cubes, or Deconstructing the Cubeby Amanda Levete, which creates an optical illusion depending on the angle we are at.
Dice, Carsten Höller’s giant cube, in which the dots are replaced by openings, is putting the finishing touches to it, after being on display in Venice. But the big one is BRAINLESS FIGURE IN STONE, Ai Weiwei’s self-portrait made especially for this exhibition and which had yet to arrive. “It’s a sculpture that combines a mechanical process with a manual process. It’ll be more sheltered here”, explains Guta Moura Guedes, before adding: “It’s a sculpture of him with his head bursting, a very powerful thing.” Curiosity remains…
Just as Guta Moura Guedes leaves the fate of these pieces a mystery after the exhibition ends on September 25th. “This is going to be big news next…”