Portuguese Contemporary Art – Lisbon Subway

Since its inception in the 50s, the administration of Lisbon’s subway system has taken great care with the aesthetics of its underground areas, trying to bring works of art to its subway stations.

The first generation of subway stations was a pioneer in this type of project, and has as its reference big names in the Portuguese contemporary art scene, such as Architect Keil do Amaral and his wife, painter Maria Keil, who transformed the eleven original stations they worked on into true masterpieces.

In 1988, when the subway line was extended, five different plastic artists were invited to bring their art “underground”. Rolando Sá Nogueira, Júlio Pomar, Manuel Cargaleiro, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Eduardo Nery’s artworks today decorate the walls of the stops at Laranjeiras, Alto dos Moinhos, Colégio Militar, Cidade Universitária and Campo Grande, respectively.

The stop at Baixa/Chiado, one of the more recent additions to the existing network, was designed by Pritzker award-winning architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, and remains today one of the most beautiful examples of how to properly take advantage of a public space.

Last year, famous cartoonist António Antunes was invited to decorate the walls of the newly-opened Lisbon Airport subway station, with pop culture icons such as Amália Rodrigues (Fado singer), Eusébio (football player), Pardal Monteiro (the architect of FSLisbon), Rafael Bordalo PInheiro (artist), Almada Negreiros (artist), Fernando Pessoa (poet) or José Saramago (Nobel Prize in Literature), are portrayed in massive murals throughout the station, welcoming all visitors coming into the city via subway.

As the subway was inaugurated in December 1959, the same year as Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, many of the artists that contributed to the decoration of the subway stations were also chosen as the representatives of Portuguese art that now make up the hotel’s art collection, further establishing their status as the greatest creative minds of the time.