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Joana Vasconcelos

  • Artist
  • Ambassador for Lisbon, Portugal
Joana Vasconcelos Ambassador for Lisbon, Portugal
© Kenton Thatcher

A playful and suprising approach to art

Joana Vasconcelos is a French artist based in Lisbon, Portugal. She is known for her playful large-scale artworks which explore her ideas on everyday female existence, family and nationality. She first turned the heads of an international crowd of art collectors at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005 with her piece entitled A Noiva (The Bride), a 5m tall chandelier made from 25,000 tampons. Her ability to question, shock and surprise with her artworks has resulted in international acclaim. She has exhibited all around the world, including at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Palace of Versailles and MassArt Art Museum, Boston. She masterfully entwines crafts such as knitting and crochet into her art, as well as common Portuguese household items like ceramic figures.

What does craftsmanship signify for you?

Tradition, knowledge and technique.

How does it feature in your work and life?

Crafts are really important for me. Both for my personal and domestic use but also as a starting point for so much of my artwork. These traditions are integrated in my pieces as the basis for my work to unfold.

Do you work with craftspeople and how?

Yes, I do. Firstly, I use craft products in my home and everyday life. But I also bring craft techniques to my practice, including their materials and processes in my art pieces. I enjoy providing them with another context, while being respectful to their essence and nature. I bring them to the artistic dimension, adding a contemporary take to the arts and crafts tradition. My team at the studio includes a textile department and some highly skilled artisans that help bring all this to life. We try to keep alive some techniques we don’t want to disappear.

Do you have any stories about the artisans you have selected to feature on the guide?

Both Bela Silva and myself work with old traditional brands (Bordallo Pinheiro and Viúva Lamego) and she has been doing a great job updating ceramic tiles to this day and age. I have a lot of admiration for the work they do; both Bela Silva and Maria João Bahia’s work is quite impressive. Regarding Andreia Tibério dos Santos, I think hers is a great skill and it’s important to keep bookbinding alive, as a technique for the future.

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