Serralves 40 Hour Party: Thoughts on Fun

by Paddy Johnson on May 30, 2011 · 5 comments Events

The garden entrance at Serralves

“Are you having any fun?” artist William Powhida asked me yesterday over twitter. I was slightly embarrassed to read the question — a critic’s opinions should be clear enough that this doesn’t have to be asked — but then my feelings on the 40 Hour Party aren’t entirely straight forward. Even if the festival by any objective standards is great — and it is — the only native English speakers are the roughly 40 percent performers who’ve travelled here to perform. Of course, most people here speak English, but for me, knowing only three words in Portuguese makes me uncharacteristically shy and forgetful. This isn’t particularly helpful when you’re a journalist.

I bring this up though, not because I think readers should care whether I felt awkward asking for directions, but mostly because I think it’s relavent to other travelers. Serralves 40 Hour Party is exactly the kind of event many I know would want to attend in terms of a completely unique local phenomenon, but that’s also what makes it difficult. It’s not designed for tourists.

It’s also not designed for artists, which isn’t my favorite aspect of the party. It’s fairly mainstream, and hosts more music than it does art. I assume this is to attract more people — many of whom would never think about art — and on that front they’ve been very successful. Without ever feeling claustrophobic thanks to the sheer size of the garden, the event brought in a little over 98,000 visitors — close to 10 percent of the city’s population. I’d like to see any museum in New York come close to those kinds of numbers. Add to that the very high calibre of musicians and performers working and there’s not a lot to complain about. So I won’t.


Bejinhos May 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Pedro Rocha, the sound curator, is a handsome genius.

Anonymous May 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm

And, the music, frankly was brilliantly programmed. 

Pedro May 31, 2011 at 10:45 am

I read your comments on Serralves’ annual event and I would like to thank you for that. I’m actually Portuguese, but I live at Lisbon, which sometimes makes small trips a difficult task to achieve…
I thank you specially because there wasn’t any Portuguese Press covering the event and the only texts I read were more “press releases” about it.
In fact, this “marathon party” is a sort of democratic event – as you stated, babies and grandparents were there representing almost 10% of Porto.
Though I think it’s a great initiative, I think that to create new public in Art Institutions, like Serralves, a regular and inclusive program should be traced, instead of a big-a-thon one.
And then you notice that (Fine) Art is just a circumstance and not the motive. I can be more positive about it and say that is an event that is more about performative arts, than contemporary art. It might be that… who knows?
What is important is that people were having fun in a museum and it’s great that this one made a big effort to have it.

P.S. you don’t need to be shy and ask directions. I believe a lot of people would try to help you. 🙂

Anonymous May 31, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Hey Pedro,

Perhaps I could have been more clear about the event not being “for artists”. I mean that in the same way I’d say art fairs aren’t for artists. They are a big part of it, but ultimately it’s for the collectors. Here, I think the show is for everyone, which in a weird way usually excludes artists. 

I like your take on the event being more about performative arts than contemporary art. It’s a better way to put it I think. 

Anon June 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm

sorry but 10% of NYC’s population would still equal 900,000 people, and that’s just impossible for any event/venue. the reason why 10% of any town’s population go out to an event is because that town (not mega-city) is otherwise boring. whereas in NYC 10% of the population are quite often engaged in something culturally (art, food, music, theatre, dance, movies, etc.) stimulating, just not in the same garden of space-time. and very few other places can actually match those numbers! just sayin.’

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