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In the autumn of 2018, the Gulbenkian Foundation's delegation in Paris, with the collaboration of the Giacometti Foundation, held an exhibition in which, for the first time, the works of Rui Chafes and Alberto Giacometti met. A few years later it was decided that this encounter, curated by Helena de Freitas, would be redone in Lisbon.

The site for the exhibition in Paris was the first floor of a Haussmann building - a house with five rooms with different shapes and sizes. The site in Lisbon would be an exhibition gallery at the Gulbenkian Foundation's headquarters - a regular box (46.70mX15.65mX2.55/2.95m), organised by six identical white vertical plans.

The three words that make up the exhibition's title – gris, vide, cris -, taken from a poem by Alberto Giacometti, and a Rui Chafes' clear request - Make me a house. - were essential for the project.

The radical transformation of the existing gallery - uniform, fluid and abstract - into a space intended for this new encounter – diversified, stable and intimate - involved a small set of simple and precise interventions.

On one side, a wall has been added to create a long hallway in which the only presence - the first that the visitor would come across - was the open end of the Rui Chafes’ sculpture Au delà des yeux (2018), which is itself a long and dark walkable steel corridor.

On the other side, short sections of walls were added in continuity with the existing ones, destroying the prevailing fluidity, in order to create a sequence of doors and to clearly define the new plain rooms, so that they could be occupied in imponderable ways by the new inhabitants – both the sculptures themselves and the visitors. One of them had a semi-elliptical shape to specifically accommodate the only four drawings on display. Two of them were discreetly connected by a second door that allows the space to be explored in different ways. (Every child knows that a house is not a house if one can't walk around inside it.)

In order to make this kind of plain house inside the Gulbenkian Foundation, the main material features of its architecture - the exuberance of the exposed concrete, wood, carpeting, bronze, leather - would also have to be opposed by the intervention. The thick walls, between the existing reddish linoleum floor and concrete ceiling, were painted in a neutral light grey, glossy in the hallway and matte, with a slight tactile roughness, in the rooms. The only existing corners, the edges of the doors, were rounded to accentuate the domestic scale of the space.

The images of the sculpture Occhi che non dormono / Sleepless eyes (2020), installed permanently at the Giacometti Foundation garden, in Stampa, projected in the last room, were like the view from a large window open to a distant forest, whose light, varying throughout the hours and seasons, fell continuously on a wall that the visitor glimpsed while walking from one room to another.

Design Team:

Architecture: José Neves

Collaborators: Fernando Vieira, Duarte Guerreiro

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