Lisbon – Museo Berardo

City Column

Museo Berardo

If it’s raining in Lisbon, or the merciless sun is working overtime, go to the museum. Take tram 15 and go to Belem. It is just outside the city centre and was therefore spared by the devastating earthquake of 1755. Continue on past the lines of tourists in front of the ancient Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém and enter the Museu Berardo Coleção. Large, square, and modern, the museum is cool and dry. And it’s free, which may be why it’s so quiet. It’s so quiet that with a bit of luck, you can imagine that it’s your own private collection as you wander through the exhibition rooms on your own. The museum houses modern art, or rather the best of modern art: all of the big names are represented here with at least one or two works. Art historians may not find this very impressive or interesting, as critics are inclined to disparage the best-of approach to art, but I don’t mind.

Somewhere in a corner of the 1930s room sits a guard, a woman of about thirty, reading. From her perch on a tall chair she looks up from her book and scans my face for signs that I might have a Stanley knife and or a felt pen on my person. Not today I haven’t.

‘What if you were allowed to take three works with you when you go home after your shift,’ I ask her, ‘what would you choose?’
She thinks for a moment. ‘The first is this work, that one in the corner.’ When she hops off her chair she hardly reaches my chest. ‘And then the Warhol, the blue flowers. That I find beautiful, especially because I work a lot with silver myself.’ She speaks quite loudly; clearly for her the museum is not a place where you have to whisper. ‘And the third work would be this one, by Lourdes Castro, because it is beautiful, and Portuguese and she is woman.’ My top choice would be this work and maybe, if I had enough room in my car, I’d take this beautiful work too.