A new project in Loulé breathes life into a centenary building soon to open as an international gallery dedicated to contemporary photography
Three or four brushstrokes attempt to match the original façade colour of the Art Deco-style building situated on a corner of Praça da República. “Maybe a little more salmon… that’s it,” suggests gallery owner Philip Burks as he inspects the works.
The building will have three floors, connected by a spiral staircase. Although it may look imposing from the outside, it had no roofing on the upper floors. “It was just a ruin,” he describes.
But soon, it will have three light-filled rooms with high ceilings, perfect for photography exhibitions. The owners were able to salvage the original skylight and there is a small window facing the bell tower of the Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição chapel, in the heart of Loulé. Soon, this will be home to Philip and Anja Burks’ In the Pink gallery.
“When we met, we started collecting photography, which I believe has become, in many ways, a new form of contemporary art. There is a whole market for great photographers today; just look at what auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips have to show,” Anja explains. She made a career in banking but has experience in the world of art. For example, she set up collections at the Museum Barberini, in Potsdam, Germany. “This is a very interesting market that is more accessible than other forms of art,” she says.
“That’s how we got to this point. Phil saw the building for sale and decided to restore it. In fact, when we bought it, we didn’t have a plan. We just thought there was something special here and that it needed to be restored,” Anja adds. Philip Burks, who had a successful career in real estate, goes on: “We love photography. We want to further our knowledge, and what better way than to open our own gallery?”
“We both stopped our careers to travel, and we’ve come to the Algarve a lot. Restoring an old building that is part of the history of Loulé is also a way for us to give back to the community. I can’t think of a better way than to invest in culture,” Anja stresses.
After getting married, Anja and Phil created the Roots & Wings Charitable Foundation, and the new gallery will also serve as ground for future projects. “It will be a way for us to be part of the community and give something back”, particularly with initiatives for children and young people, as they explain. “We believe in giving children strong roots when they are young, to be able to fly in the future,” says Anja.
As for the gallery’s unusual name, Phil explains: “To be ‘In the Pink’ means to be happy in life. But actually, since buying the building, we’ve been calling it the ‘pink building’ because of the original colour. Aside from the double entendre, the name also evokes the Algarve, which is a paradise and a place of happiness,” he states. “We’ve been to Porto and Lisbon, where we saw great galleries, although they weren’t dedicated to photography. We know there are excellent photographers in Portugal, such as Helena Almeida and Jorge Molder,” to name but a few, says Anja.
The gallery’s first exhibition will focus on fashion, with three different approaches from three artists. A highlight will be the showing of 14 photographs by renowned photographer Albert Watson, whose portfolio includes campaigns for Chanel, Prada, Revlon and over 100 international covers for Vogue magazine. “We will be showing an amazing photo from the December issue of Vogue Portugal, for example. We are also exhibiting two beautiful photos which Albert took for Vogue in the Algarve in 1977. Late last year, we had a chance to visit his studio in New York. He had no one showing his work in Portugal, so he was a bit surprised [by the proposal] but very happy,” Anja reveals.
The second guest artist is the young Dutchman Bastiaan Woudt, a first in Portugal. “He has seen a meteoric rise within the world of contemporary photography with his masterful portraiture,” Anja says. “He is a self-taught artist whose work is minimalistic and inspired by the great masters of the 50s, 60s and 70s photography,” Phil adds. Woudt will also be present at the gallery’s inauguration.
Finally, the third photographer showcasing his work at the Loulé venue is Kristian Schuller, an established figure in Germany. The Romanian artist, who lives in Berlin, is known for his intense, colourful works with movement, whose imagery alludes to a dreamlike imaginary world. Kristian began his career in fashion as a stylist, having worked with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and learned photography from celebrated photographer FC Gundlach in Berlin. “We had a lot of names in mind, so it wasn’t easy to get to these three [artists],” Phil concedes. “But we think these artists represent three amazing, yet very different visual languages to illustrate the theme of fashion photography for our launch.”
“We really want to create something important for Loulé. Once the gallery is established as a reference for artistic photography, we want to start looking for new Portuguese talent,” the owner adds. For now, Anja and Phil are working with local photographer Vasco Célio, whose studio is across the street.
In the Pink gallery opens on June 25, under the direction of Pedro Vasconi. The temporary exhibitions will run for about three months.
By Bruno Filipe Pires
Article first published in Essential Algarve magazine