[ Kunsthal ]


Around Porto
A view of the city and its surroundings

Egidio Santos, Rabelo-boot in de Douro-rivier bij Porto

Around Porto heralds 2001. the year in which Rotterdam and Porto will be the cultural capitals of Europe. The exhibition in the Kunsthal - Porto's debut in Rotterdam - surveys the city's cultural history and presents not only superb masterpieces from its museums but also the tradition of the region's celebrated wine. Porto and Rotterdam have a lot in common. Like Rotterdam. Porto is Portugal's second major city, center of a strong economic region. The dynamic. bustling port on the Rio Douro is the most important city in the northern coastal region. It gave its name to the kingdom of Portugal, which was founded in the 12th century. From the 14th century Porto developed steadily into a major port and commercial centre which was oriented chiefly towards Northern Europe (notably Flanders). Its heyday was in the 17th and 18th centuries. to which the baroque churches, merchants' elegant residences and wide boulevards bear witness.

Cultural heritage
The history of the area is illustrated with paintings, sculptures, texts and old maps. The Douro valley has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic period. The exhibits include a selection of examples of the region's heritage: prehistoric stone sculptures, a beautiful 'stele' from Roman times and a fourteenth-century Madonna from the pre-Romanic Temple of S. Pedro de Balsemao. A glimpse of Porto's religious tradition is provided by two photographers, Adriano Heitman and Carel van Hees, who took pictures of the 'Noite de S. Joao'. the festival of John the Baptist. whose name-day is celebrated all over the North of Portugal in the night of 23/24 June. An impression of present-day Porto is conveyed by architectural photographs and eight panoramas by Hans van der Meer, a commission issued in 1999 by the Portuguese Center of Photography at Porto. Two laid tables, one historical, the other modern, illustrate the country's design traditions. Architect Alvaro Siza. who may be regarded as the personification of modern Portugal, is represented with a model of the Museu Serralves, which he designed for Porto. Also on show is the model of the city's new House of Music. designed by the Rotterdam architect Rem Koolhaas.

Port wine
Porto and port are inextricably linked. The river Douro connects the region where the wine is produced with the city that exports it. The exhibition shows an extensive overview of the important cultural tradition of port. The grapes are grown on the terraced vineyards of the Douro region. It is a harsh climate for wine. with hot summers and freezing winters. and many of the vineyards can only be reached on foot. After the extremely labour-intensive harvest the grapes are poured into granite vats and 'treading' can begin. although nowadays machines are often used to crush the grapes. In the spring the young wine is transported to the suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia. where it matures in oak barrels in the 'adegas' or storehouses. In the exhibition there are models of the 'barcos rabelos', the tall sailing ships formerly used to transport the wine. The barrels were only three-quarters full so that they would float if the boat keeled over on the river. which was difficult to navigate. Visitors to the Kunsthal can taste the three types of red port - Ruby. Tawny and Vintage.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.