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Exhibitions/

Paula Rego and Salette Tavares/

Paula Rego and Salette Tavares:

Mapping Feminine Creativity in the 70s

5 November 2022 to 21 May 2023

 

In 1969 and 1970 Paula Rego begins an illustration process around her
memories of childhood and family, with their underlying psychological
analyses of the relations of "domination" being expressed in a number
of ways. They are the "everyday stories", as the artist calls them, registered
in a series of drawings in Indian ink. They are set in a defined area, Estoril,
which is narrowed down to the domestic space in which the most formative
experiences of early life take place: birth, play with other children, tantrums,
family visits and relationships, and in which the dominance of the paternal
figure in patriarchal Portuguese society is, in a number of works, brought
to the fore. These everyday instances are, however, filtered by an oneiric
configuration which is frequently eroticised and connects to psychoanalysis,
at times close to a surrealist aesthetic. Political events are also brought under
Rego's critical and occasionally caricaturing gaze, with drawings such
as The Candidate, Simulacrum and The Race to the Polls, October 1969, depicting
the atmosphere which reigned during the National Assembly elections
of October 1969, the first such elections to have occurred during the period
known as the Marcelist Spring (Room 1).

Paula Rego (1935-2022) and Salette Tavares (1922-1994) met in around 1964 and in addition to being friends in their private lives, they were also close colleagues in the art world. Another detail shared between them has come to be added to this commemoration of their friendship and their artistic collaboration in the present year of 2022, however, and it casts a shadow over this little celebration: the centenary anniversary of the birth of Salette Tavares coincides with the year of the death of Paula Rego.

This exhibition commemorates their relationship and reveals the distinct yet overlapping paths that they carved out in the Portuguese context during the 1970s, and especially after the Revolution of 25 April 1974. The focal figures of this exhibition had very different lived experiences of the events that followed the fall of the dictatorship in Portugal.

 

Salette TavaresPaula Rego, Two Beautiful Dresses that Salette Gave to Paula, 1976

 

Following the Revolution of the 25th April 1974, and the end of the
dictatorship in Portugal, Paula Rego's family encountered serious financial
difficulties as a result of the bankruptcy of the business inherited from
her father and which, since 1966, had been managed by her husband,
Victor Willing, whose illness was getting increasingly worse. Though the
period following the Revolution was a very difficult one, her work would
continue to be shown in national and international exhibitions, as a notable
example of the quality and originality of contemporary Portuguese art.

Paula Rego lived through this period with a certain pessimism. Not only did she face financial difficulties and a creative block that had started to make itself felt at the beginning of the decade, but also she quickly became disenchanted with the direction that the country was taking, as it seemed to be heading towards another type of dictatorship: there was even talk immediately after the revolution of the promotion of an official form of art.

Salette Tavares, for her part, devoted herself to art criticism in the 1970s and in 1974 she became the president of the Portuguese section of the International Association of Art Critics (PS/AICA) - a role that she held until 1977. She was very active in the years following the revolution, and she was a fierce champion of the role of art and culture, and also of interventions by the PS/AICA to support both the move away from the conservative and colonialist ideology of the New State dictatorship and the consolidation of the process of democratisation.

In spite of the negative outlook that Paula Rego always maintained on the decade of the 1970s, the artist received the distinction of the Soquil Prize in 1971, which confirmed her importance on the Portuguese artistic scene at that time. Beyond this, her work achieved wide visibility in this period, through its circulation in several exhibitions both in Portugal and abroad.

 

Curatorship: Catarina Alfaro and Leonor de Oliveira