The Power of ART at Marvila, Lisbon Port

The Power of ART at Marvila, Lisbon Port

Steve and I were treated to a trip to Lisbon this week by our daughter Helena and son in law Ruaidhri. We had a fantastic time.

The National Tile Museum

Divine Nata pastries and packaging

Jahn and Jahn Gallery

One afternoon we took a bus out to the old port district of Marvila and here’s some thoughts from Steve reflecting on the changes going on there.

The process of gentrification follows a fairly well trodden path. The raw ingredients are usually derelict industrial buildings and creative individuals on the hunt for somewhere inspiring to work. Having used their artistic licence to make a district ‘supercool’ a familiar sequence begins. Pioneering artists attract wealthy clients who scramble to buy up the dwindling stock of warehouses and workshops to convert into loft apartments that quickly escalate in value way beyond the means of the original nomads who discovered the neighbourhood.

It’s rare to see this process playing out quite so perfectly as it is currently doing in the old port area of Lisbon where I was lucky enough to spend a few days this week. The salty breeze blows sand from the beach across the largely traffic free grid of Marvila, a small barrio along the coast to the east of the city, where property prices now exceed those in the centre. Small indy bars provide refreshment for the curators of the galleries that cluster in the most attractive streets, the paint peeling on their exteriors, but, when the heavy and functionally picturesque doors swing open, they reveal pristine interior exhibition spaces, often vast and high ceilinged.

Pedro Paiva, Sardine Can, and other curiosities

The most extraordinary of the buildings are old port warehouses – open to the sea at one end and the strip of coastal tarmac at the other – and now converted into a kind of one stop shop for eating, drinking and retail opportunities. The best example of this kind of enterprise is the former premises of the Fonseca Company. Everything the developers imagine a Millennial could possibly need has been sourced and incorporated; vegan ice cream, huge rubbery house plants in hand thrown terracotta pots, an old Citröen van selling plant-based burgers. In a row of windowless stockrooms down one side you find a rare wine shop, a man selling Marshall amps and a selection of ‘pre-owned’ mid-century modern furniture and salvage items, including some intricately carved wooden doors from Lamu.

There is probably room to park a couple of Boeing 747’s inside but the space has been sensitively divided with a metal caged bar in the centre. At five o’clock in the afternoon, when we visited, it feels like the perfect place to hang out and have an aperitif while you wait for the party to begin, all the while contemplating the power of ART.

Have a great week.

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