Artistic creation has always had a calling for "exchange". It has known how to choose its units of currency, find its parities, fix its legal courses, adjust its power of acquittal. When this propensity for exchange crossed borders and "internationalised", which probably began to happen even before the beginning of history, the arts began to provide a series of more expressive references for the respective value and to talk a language more intelligible to large human communities.
It was not globalisation and certainly not unregulated globalisation, which at times it seems we are witnessing today, but forms of exchange, contamination and infectiousness, as old as the very human civilisations, although the pace at which they were produced varied in accordance with the vicissitudes of communication. In one time curve, often in spirals, dilations and contrabands that are today inappreciable, some Greek statues are connected to the forms of Ancient Egypt or the Gandhara Buddhas. In another the Byzantine icons reawaken in the imagination, in the statues and manuscripts of the Romanic Middle Ages. In another the Gothic, in Baroque suffering, is transformed into Manuelline and Plateresque. In another the meticulous Flemish realism is allied to the perspective and formal concerns of the Italians. In another Van Gough imbibes from Japanese painting and Cubism from black art. And today, in the era of the Internet and the huge acceleration in content, something could be happening in Lisbon that is extremely similar to what is being done in New York.
In many of these nooks, folds, insinuated pleats of time, through the journey of artists or the journey of works, through the coming of masters and artisans or through the dissemination of designs and engravings, through descriptions, reports, prototypes, copies, reproductions and other media, it can be said that there is, under each specific language and combining with itself, the presence of various other languages, establishing bridges and traps, families and affiliations, criteria of value or rejection, authenticity of comprehension or simple modes captured to a greater or lesser degree.
This has also been the case with the arts in Portugal. Long before we had the escudo we had something else that did the work of the euro, i.e. a capacity to enter the game of international currency of forms, of learning paths of various European and extra-European arts. The Portuguese in Portugal fed of this, amalgamating in their expression what came from abroad, exploring synchronies and diachronies, learning lessons on representation and style and ways of doing, they did what they could and knew. The Masters of Ferreirim are a good demonstration of the continuity of a process that begins with the tablets attributed to Nuno Gon?alves. What was already a tropism from Flanders can today be seen as an avant-la-lettre relation withÉ Brussels, but even then subject to the circuits of power, the tastes and preferences of the Crown, the Church and the magnates. The theme pointed to one of the components of the framework of being European, the Jewish-Christian dimension, to a greater or lesser degree tortured and to a greater or lesser degree incorporated into everyday life. Certainly the soul meanwhile took them on journeys through Africa, Asia and South America, but these excursions almost never entered into the Portuguese universe of forms. The African pieces, in their schematic, animated and symbolic realism, are rooted in a world of very different concerns and rituals, between the real and the supernatural, and the Portuguese were not tuned into the violent morphology of the African arts as they were into the torment and martyrdom of the saints of Hagiology. Maybe at the start they did not even see them, unless they were made from gold, precious stones or ivory, and then they would not see them for the right reasons. Nevertheless, for Ivory and for certain bronzes, saphie sculpturing shows that, at least in one direction, that which went from Europe to Benin, the relation functioned. It was in this sense, an escudo that made less sense or, if you prefer, an incipient cure, but without the reverse or return of parity.
Simply, from the various articles in this exhibition, the situation is very different regarding the artists of our time that have taken part in it. Júlio Resende was marked by the Belgian Permeke, by visits to Brazil and by journeys to Cape Verde in his lyrical expressionism. Fernando Lanhas found his own tracks that anticipated many that would be well beaten by European abstraction or demarcated by the singularity of his almost silent speculation about the universes. José de Guimarães understood decisively the marks from Africa, the categories of the grotesque and the recreational, the violence of primary colour exploding next to other primary colours. Rui Sanches, after spending time in America, has been perfecting the manipulation of space that goes from the rooms to the sculpture and shows a Daphne in which Greek myth and the vanguard meet up again. Francisco Laranjo has chosen to pursue the signals between metaphysical calligraphy, the gesture and the waterways that enable navigation close to and fluidly around the presuppositions of design and human expression itself. In all of them there is Europe and non-Europe, a Portugal and non-Portugal.
I was not able, when writing these lines, to have the opportunity of seeing what Cláudia Ulisses, Joana Rego, António de Sousa and Leonel Cunha would be doing. However, it is enough to know that they are in the Museum, in the Hanging rooms containing the Flemish Tapestries and Desterro church, to imagine that they will provide other forms of dialogue, irreverence and 'unsacred' interaction between heritage and creation that will revive each moment, between identity and alterity, between languages established long ago in the past and new grammars, morphologies and syntaxes now proposed between Lamego and the Douro and Portugal and the world.
If an inauguration of the euro can, despite everything, be a sacrifice, we can be sure that a "goodbye" to the escudo is not a moment of grieving. This exhibition brings together History and the future. Maybe it is the same thing, to quote the venerable Vieira, a part of the History of the Future.
Vasco Graça Moura