Perhaps the most underrated city of Southern Portugal’s idyllic Algarve region, Faro is a vibrant melting pot of cultural exchange where talented young artists from all across the globe come to seek inspiration. This hidden gem boasts an enviable array of contemporary galleries nestled somewhat incongruously amongst the city’s venerable old streets. Read on as we uncover some of Faro’s finest galleries waiting in the undiscovered, avant-garde underbelly of this historic, deceptively sleepy city.
We begin our journey with perhaps the most awe-inspiring setting for one of the smallest of Faro’s contemporary galleries. Set atop Faro’s formidable medieval city walls, the Galería do Arte Arco’s surroundings themselves make it worth a visit, offering magnificent views across the Algarve’s Ria Formosa lagoons. The Arco gallery focuses mainly on contemporary Portuguese art, but also contains a somewhat unsettling collection of vintage toys from the first half of the early 20th century, comprising some 600 artefacts from different countries, including dolls, toy trains and cars. Temporary exhibitions are put on throughout the year, so if you are looking for something original in the heart of Algarve, it’s always worth a visit.
Tucked away inside former military barracks, the Galería de Arte Trem was only converted to its current function in the 1990s. It can be found just off the central square of Faro’s Ciudad Velha, or Old Town. Housing a collection of paintings, sculptures and audio/ video installations by renowned artists from both the local area and as far afield as the United States, the gallery betrays a determinedly avant-garde facade that seeks to showcase the fresh, creative, profoundly modern side of the city. Recent exhibitions have included the dark conceptual ‘Mapping’ by Portuguese artist Mariana Madeira. Like so much of her performative, audio and sculptural work, such installations strive to expose uncomfortable truths about politics, war and society in the modern world.
Although based in Faro, the Artadentro project aims to represent all manner of visual arts from the surrounding Algarve region as well as Portugal more widely. Also located in Faro’s historic Old Town, this Contemporary Art Association was founded in 2003 as a non-profit cultural organisation, committed to disseminating contemporary art throughout the Algarve. With a focus on experimental art and the stimulation of regional work, the gallery seeks to promote lesser-known artists hoping to make it big, so be sure to keep an eye out for future stars of the art world when you visit.
One of the founding fathers of contemporary art galleries in Faro, the Galería Nova Margem was painstakingly built up from a ruined, crumbling old barracks complex into what is now an exciting and highly individual little enterprise exhibiting contemporary Portuguese and international artwork. Established with the aim of providing the city with a space where modern art could exercise its authority and potential, this charming gallery displays as wide an array of avant-garde experimentation and cultural manifestations as possible. Spread over two floors, artworks embellish every wall of this fantastically alternative venue, proffering the authentic visions of numerous regional artists to the curious wanderer who drifts inside. Temporary exhibitions, individual artists’ presentations and shows take place frequently, so you will always be sure to find something new.
One of the smaller contemporary galleries in Faro, the Exstare gallery is nevertheless a popular choice with art-loving locals. Concentrating mainly on the work of artists from the surrounding area, the gallery puts on various exhibitions, shows, lectures and discussions over the year. Featuring art from names like Christóvão Neto, Inês Ramos, Noémio Ramos and Ricardo Lopes, all kinds of media, from traditional painting to computer technology, find a comfortable home in this idealistic, expressive little institution.
‘To create spaces of mystery is better than building certainties’ is the thinking behind the Arc 16 Galería. Another fantastic jewel of a gallery, hidden away in the labyrinth of central Faro, this is truly a joy to behold. A light, airy, surprisingly sizeable space accommodating a stunning selection of painting and sculpture from national and international contemporary artists, it organizes solo and group exhibitions and events throughout the year. Past artists featured have included Mário Rodrigues, Gabriel Gutiérrez Vasquez, Luisa Nogueira and Teresa Dias Coelho. The gorgeous selection of reasonably-priced, high-quality artwork adorning its walls makes this one of our favorite undiscovered contemporary galleries.
Although technically located a short drive away from Faro itself in the quaint old village of São Lourenço near Almancil, the Centro Cultural offers a heady blend of art, music and literature. Based near the stunning chapel of São Lourenço in a collection of 200-year-old, authentically Algarvian rural cottages, the gallery has been putting on hundreds of events since 1981. Opened by the late Volker and Marie Huber primarily as an art gallery, it has since grown and grown to include literary events and music concerts, aiming to provide a platform for both established and emerging artists to display their work and talent to the public. The setting is undeniably beautiful, and visitors can meander through the patios, terraces and gardens to admire the paintings and sculptures on display, all against the spectacular backdrop of the Algarve countryside.