Lisbon is an art gallery

Lisbon has seen huge growth in recent years. The property market is booming, new galleries emerging, a mix of artists arriving to an already exciting creative scene. Conservative modern chic renovations of beautiful old buildings alongside modern developments of architectural note. Each neighbourhood of Lisbon has a definitive characteristic and style.

The art scene in Lisbon reflects this feel. Lisbon is an art gallery. Beautiful, tile-covered, crumbling façades and cobblestone calçada pathways; urban art features everywhere and lends a unique flavour – political, humorous, esoteric and psychedelic.

The Portuguese capital is now known as one of the best places to see street art. Local artists like Vhils and Bordalo II have works all over the world. Vhils, who is known for carving faces in walls, is currently one of the biggest names of the urban art world. One of the first faces that he carved in Lisbon is hidden behind the cathedral, on Travessa das Merceeiras, just a few feet from the Memmo Alfama Hotel.

Following the fairly recent revolution on April 25, 1974, political murals started to appear all over the city. Today, artistic graffiti is sponsored by the Lisbon City Hall.

CAM new building renovation rendering
CAM new building renovation rendering

I have found one of the best ways to experience this urban art scene is to hook up with Lisbon Street Art Tours. The guides will take you on a two-and-a-half-hour walk through the different neighbourhoods of Lisbon’s urban art scenery. It is a unique experience, and you will learn about both Portuguese and international artists’ styles and techniques.

One of my personal favourites is Moami. I met her in the US Embassy. In her fun mural characters, you can see distinct facial expressions, features of her own internal, temporal and spiritual thoughts and feelings. Colours, texture and construction identify the feel of multiculturalism so expressive of the Lisbon environment.

Why not also check out Talude da Alta de Lisboa, considered to be the largest work of urban art in Europe covering 2,800m2 of space created by a single artist, Rui Alexandre Ferreira, better known as RAF.

What I love about Lisbon is how we have culturally embraced urban art. Creating spaces for high-quality artists to explore, associations to help foster talent and workshops for the general public to get involved.

CAM new building
CAM new building

In recent years, a flood of art galleries has opened in the Portuguese capital, both in the old warehouse districts of Marvila, such as Galeria Francisco Fino and Alcântara, and in central areas like Chiado and Alfama. The abundance of empty spaces and relatively cheap property prices have brought more and more creatives to settle in Lisbon.

A must add to your events calendar are art fairs like Arco Lisboa, Just LX and Drawing Room Lisboa.

The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia, MAAT) is a must visit. The MAAT building was designed by London architect Amanda Levete. Located on the riverfront of the historic district of Belém, the EDP Foundation campus covers an area of 38,000 square metres and comprises a repurposed power station, the Central Tejo, an iconic example of industrial architecture originally built in 1908.

Both buildings house exhibitions and events programmed by the museum and are connected by a landscape project by Lebanese architect Vladimir Djurovic.

The Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian Collection is arguably one of the most important private collections in the world, making this Lisbon Museum one of the most renowned in Portugal. Calouste Gulbenkian, advised by prestigious specialists, created a unique collection of works that make visiting the museum an unforgettable experience.

Moami Street Art
Moami Street Art

Gulbenkian Foundation also hosts, alongside the museum, CAM (Centro de Arte Moderna). What is really exciting to me is the refurbishment of CAM by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, in collaboration with the same landscape architect of MAAT, Vladimir Djurovic.

The design draws from the typology of the “Engawa”, a walkway sheltered under the eave of a roof, considered neither totally inside nor outside in traditional Japanese housing. As the “Engawa” at the rock garden at Ryoanji in Kyoto, the roof sweeps low to frame the view, encouraging visitors to commune with nature and each other.

Closed for this major restoration and expansion project, the building will reopen to the public with a selection of works from the collection and continue to feature new projects by contemporary artists. CAM will also have a new space dedicated to sound art and another to works on paper.

Vhils mural in Alfama
Vhils mural in Alfama

Lisbon art scene is as diverse and rich in culture as its multicultural inhabitants. A city that once was at the centre of discovery is poised significantly to once again journey the imagination.

Justin Durães-West is a contemporary artist and painter living and working in Portugal. His new studio, under construction in the Alentejo, is intended to be a creative space where artists, technologists, digital nomads and computer programmers can live, create, work and explore new artistic dimensions.

His latest work is on exhibition at Galeria da Livraria Miosótis, Lisbon. Open from 10am to 7pm, from Monday to Saturday, from April 1 to May 5, 2023.

Pin location and opening times can be found by following this link

By Durães-West
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Justin Durães-West is a contemporary artist and painter living and working in Portugal. His new studio, under construction in the Alentejo, is intended to be a creative space where artists, technologists, digital nomads and computer programmers can live, create, work and explore. The works he exhibited at Art Expo Algarve can be seen at Quadro Gallery in Almancil, Algarve (Google location 3XM9+WR).
You can find out more information about the artist, his upcoming exhibitions and the location of Quadro Gallery by visiting