29 SEPTEMBER 2023 – 25 MARCH 2024
MAAT presents Plug-in, a solo exhibition by Joana Vasconcelos, bringing together new works, some of the iconic pieces produced by the artist since 2000, and works from the EDP Foundation Art Collection, while establishing a dialogue between electricity heritage, technology, and the contemporary arts. The exhibition opens to the public on 29 September.
Plug-in takes place in both museum buildings, now known as MAAT Central and MAAT Gallery. In the former, the artist presents Árvore da Vida [Tree of Life] (2023), created in the context of the Portugal-France Cross Season and now adapted to the Tejo Power gallery. At MAAT Gallery, a total of six works will be presented: the brand new Drag Race (2023), which establishes a dialogue with War Games (2011), two conventional vehicles transformed into works of art, the first exuberantly ornamented with gilded carvings and feathers and the second covered with toy rifles and stuffed with stuffed toys.
Two pieces that were featured at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will be presented for the first time in Lisbon: the mirror mask popularised with the title I’ll Be Your Mirror (2019) and the gigantic Solitaire ring (2018), which will be installed outside the museum. From Asia comes the tentacular textile sculpture Valkyrie Octopus created in 2015 for the casino MGM Macau; for the first time in Europe, it will be hung in the Oval Gallery.
Images L-R: Joana Vasconcelos, Árvore Da Vida [Tree of Life], (2023), © Didier Plowy courtesy Centre des Monuments Nationaux; I’ll Be Your Mirror (2019), © DMF Lisboa; Drag Race (2023), © Lionel Balteiro para–Atelier Joana Vasconcelos; Solitaire (2018), © Joaquim Norte de Sousa; Valkyrie Octopus (2015), © Luís Vasconcelos; Strangers in The Night (2000), © DMF Lisboa; War Games (2011), © DMF Lisboa.
These works from the artist’s most recent production are joined by another from the EDP Foundation Art Collection, which allows us to revisit Joana’s history without ever losing the electrical connection that sets the tone for this exhibition. Strangers in the Night (2000) was exhibited in the same location as Medley, Joana Vasconcelos’ first retrospective, which was made possible by the first edition of the EDP Foundation New Artists Award in 2000. 23 years later – and after having established her name on the world contemporary art scene – the Portuguese artist returns to the Lisbon waterfront for an ambitious exhibition. Using the heritage of electricity, which is at the root of the EDP Foundation’s work, and the dialogue between technology and the contemporary arts, present in many of her creations, she re-establishes a connection with the public in her city.
Joana Vasconcelos was the first artist to win the EDP Foundation New Artists Award, in 2000: “I still remember the day João Pinharanda rang me to say that I had won the first edition of the EDP New Artists Award. It was one of the rare times in my life – the other was Versailles – that I was truly surprised.
I was driving along, started laughing, and had to stop the car. When I realized he was serious, I was obviously overjoyed and started thinking about what I was going to do with that money. I immediately decided to buy the video camera that allowed me to film Fátimashop, Hand-Made and a whole host of other things. Right from the start, the EDP prize was a very important moment that set many things in motion in my work.”
Born in 1971, Joana Vasconcelos is a Portuguese contemporary visual artist with a career spanning some 30 years, renowned for her monumental sculptures and immersive installations. By decontextualising everyday objects and updating the arts and crafts movement for the 21st century, she establishes a prolific dialogue between the private sphere and the public space, popular heritage, and high culture. With humour and irony, she questions the status of women, consumer society and collective identity.
International acclaim arrived in 2005 with A Noiva [The Bride] at the first Venice Biennale curated by women, where she has returned seven times to date, in 2013 at the helm of the ferryboat Trafaria Praia as the Portuguese Pavilion, the first floating pavilion at the event. The youngest artist and first woman to exhibit at the Palace of Versailles, her 2012 exhibition was the most visited in France in 50 years, with a record 1.6 million visitors. In 2018 she became the first Portuguese artist to have a solo show at the Guggenheim Bilbao, ranked fourth best that year by The Art Newspaper and the third most visited in the museum’s history. Her works of art are part of exhibitions and collections on four continents, such as those of the Calouste Gulbenkian, Louis Vuitton, and François Pinault foundations.
Honoured with more than 30 awards, in 2009 she was awarded the distinction of Order of Infante D. Henrique Commander by the Portuguese Presidency and in 2022 she became an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. From Lisbon to the world, since 2006 she has run the Atelier Joana Vasconcelos with around 50 employees 3 and in 2012 she created the Joana Vasconcelos Foundation to award scholarships, support social causes, and promote art for all.