Much of Porto’s culture is rooted in old traditions, but the Museum of Contemporary Art (or Museu de Arte Contemporanea) is a successful entry into contemporary cultural relevance. Found at the Casa de Serralves, a cultural center in a magnificent garden just west of downtown, the Museu de Arte Contemporanea has become Porto's greatest attraction and probably the most influential modern art museum in Portugal. Its permanent collection covers the 1960s to the present day, and the grounds feature large pieces by such sculptors as Dan Graham, Richard Serra, and Claes Oldenburg. Note the giant trowel embedded in the ground, as well as the giant, red pruning sheers.The surrounding gardens are worth the trip alone; in 2006, they were restored to the original, 1932 octagonal design.
The museum’s expressed purpose is to provide a collection of contemporary works from both Portuguese and international artists, such as South African painter Marlene Dumas, American Dara Birnbaum and Portugal native Pedro Barateiro. The museum’s foundation has made a point to develop the talent of young and up-and-coming Portuguese artists, and you will find the museum’s collection reflects this objective.
The Casa Serralves (Serralves House) was commisioned by Count Carlos Alberto Cabral, second count of Vizela. It is an impressive Art Deco estate of tall ceilings, expansive parlors and clean, ornamented lines. This style gives way to Modernism when you walk outdoors, as the garden's plan straightens further into stoic, efficient angles.
The museum is a short bus ride from the city center, and you could easily spend a day exploring the grounds of the botanical gardens; you may want to schedule a visit for the end of your trip.