In the heart of the Alentejo region in Portugal lies the ‘Quinta do Quetzal’ Estate within a historically rich region and lush foothills of vineyards. The winery is a family affair and is complete with a new multi-building including a restaurant, shop and the Quetzal Art Centre, founded in 2016. The architecture both thoughtfully stands out and mimics its white winding roads and natural surroundings.
The establishment of the Quetzal Art Centre and the exquisite local cuisine of the restaurant, alongside the winery was quite an organic convergence of the founders Cees and Inge de Bruin’s love for wine, food, nature and art stimulated by the local community’s urge to attract new audiences to the inlands of the Alentejo region. The Dutch couple are collectors and patrons of culture and their daughter Aveline de Bruin, directs and curates the art centre. Aveline adoringly mentioned, “I love my mother’s quote that collecting is like picking flowers in a field, and so my job is to arrange them together.”
With a space of 450 square meters, Quetzal focuses on the development of a contemporary art programme that is intended to appeal to both a specialist audience and a broader, curious public. It is driven by a desire to test art’s purpose outside the traditional institutional and commercial structures. Quetzal Art Centre presents exhibitions with works by both established and emerging international artists, with an emphasis on finding connections between artistic generations and stimulating curatorial experiment. Serving as the foundation of Quetzal’s artistic activities is the Collection de Bruin-Heijn.
The inaugural exhibition presented an intergenerational dialogue between artists responding to contemporary image culture: Trisha Baga, Robert Heinecken, and Pat O’Neill. The second exhibition, Collaborations, focused on collaborative works from the collection, and a series of collaborative projects by some of Portugal’s leading curators and artists. In 2018, Drawing Africa on the Map brought together a range of works by African artists, with drawing as its central medium.
Quetzal Art Center is like a hidden cave in the rolling hills of the Alentejo. In Cave Myths (Endless Spelunking), the current exhibition, artists with a fascination for the cave and its artistic possibilities have been brought together. They invite the viewer to tag along on their search for new meaning in the prehistorical locus of the cave.
In the darkness of the cave, where the consciousness of modern man was born. It was in the subterranean dwellings of early man where the modern human soul has awakened, in artistic reflections on contemporary life. The cave plays a crucial role in our understanding of creativity, and the slow coming into being of a complex, sensitive human intelligence, somewhere between primordial chaos and the first structures of civilization. In its most famous philosophical allegorization, the cave is the place where our truths and ideals were born: a dark place that holds the keys to the mysteries of our existence.
There seems to be a contemporary urgency to return to the cave. In our current post-truth age, in which ideological bankruptcy, ecological neglect and technological hubris have outlined a horizon of global collapse, a closer look at the cradle of human civilization feels more necessary than ever. It could teach us something profound about who we are, and help us to imagine the future in a different way.
In the first Online Exhibition of the Collection de Bruin-Heijn, we share works from Cave Myths (Endless Spelunking), co-curated by Aveline de Bruin and Xander Karskens, on view at the Quetzal 31 March 2019 – 30 March 2020.