Lisbon cultural centre
All change at Lisbon's Museum of Contemporary Art this year. Photo of Culture minister Pedro Adão e Silva by José Sena Goulão/ Lusa

Lisbon cultural centre to open new art museum to replace Berardo

Basically “same place, same art works, different name”

Lisbon’s Centro Cultural de Belém, the city’s main cultural centre, is to open a new museum of modern and contemporary art, the MAC-CCB, in stages over the course of 2023, in the space previously occupied by the displays of Museu Coleção Berardo, Pedro Adão e Silva, Portugal’s minister of culture, announced today (see box).

At the end of a meeting at the CCB with its board of directors, Mr Adão e Silva explained that the name MAC-CCB has yet to be officially unveiled – and that the foundation that oversees the CCB will be responsible for managing the entire process.

In a statement to journalists, he also explained that the foundation’s budget for 2023 will include an additional €2.1 million, to be transferred from the Modern and Contemporary Art Foundation – Berardo Collection, which was wound-up in December as part of the State’s withdrawal from all things Berardo (since the iconic collector has become one of the largest debtors in the country).

Mr Adão e Silva did not rule out the provision of more funding now that the CCB foundation will once again be managing galleries that, for the last 15 years, have hosted the Museu Coleção Berardo.

Outside the CCB on Monday panels relating to the Museu Coleção Berardo were being removed, to be replaced with those “designating the existence of the MAC-CCB”, says Lusa.

Visitors for the time being will not be noticing many changes. The entrance to the CCB Exhibition Centre will remain as it has been for years, and as of tomorrow, Tuesday January 3, “it will be possible to visit the art collection amassed by Madeiran businessman José ‘Joe’ Berardo, just as it has been for the last decade and a half”.

In other words, changes will come slowly throughout 2023 “to prepare the official opening of the MAC-CBB”, said the minister.

The Portuguese state “stepped in to safeguard access to Berardo’s vast modern and contemporary art collection, after three banks — Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), Novo Banco and BCP — in 2017 filed a lawsuit to recover debts of almost €1 billion from the businessman, with the suit aiming to to seize the bulk of the collection, which had been pledged as collateral”, Lusa adds.

Mr Berardo himself has submitted a counter claim, demanding restitution of the money banks claim has been swindled from them, plus an extra €100 million for ‘moral damages’. That claim would appear to be still under the consideration of the courts.

In the meantime, Mr Berardo’s lawyer and himself director of the Berardo Foundation, André Luís Gomes, has said the extinction of the Berardo Foundation (announced by the Council of Ministers last week) is illegal.

BOX:

MAC-CCB won’t just include the Berardo collection, Adão e Silva told reporters. It will also be used to display the Elipse Collection, amassed by disgraced BPP banker João Rendeiro who died earlier this year in a South African jail.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com