Rui Sanches


Over the last 35 years (his first solo exhibition in Portugal took place in 1984), the work of Rui Sanches (Lisbon, 1954) developed as an extensive reflection on three fundamental questions: the relationship between modern/contemporary creation and history with its various artistic lineages that came to be defined therein; the possibility of considering the viewer’s perspective; and the recurrent problem of the relationship between art and the world, whether through processes of re-signification, the relationship with context, the citation or paraphrasing of key works from the history of painting, or through the range of materials employed.

Sanches studied painting at Ar.Co – Centro de Arte e Comunicação Visual in Lisbon, and eventually focused on sculpture during his time at Goldsmiths’ College and at Yale University, never abandoning a systematic and ongoing drawing practice. The exhibition Espelho/Mirror is thus divided in two parts: sculpture is presented here at the Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria, and drawing at the Berardo Museum, in an exhibition curated by Sara Antónia Matos.

For Rui Sanches sculpture reflects the great transformations of art over the long and winding path of modernity. In this sense, his sculptural work should be understood as an extensive reflection on the problems of sculpture or, more generally, on the transformations of statuary into sculpture as well as aspects of three-dimensionality and its relationship to space that have marked the last century and a half.

Since studying in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rui Sanches has developed a body of work that mirrors a duality: on the one hand, his references can be encountered in the art of his time, particularly the avant-garde; on the other hand, a rupture with art history balances a continuous occupation with themes and problems of representation. The most relevant issue in any contemporary understanding of Sanches’ work is its critical encounter with history, and particularly history of art whose artistic imagery is, at least initially, anchored in the history of painting.

The exhibition begins with three recent works (one specifically developed for this occasion) before presenting work from the 1980s, namely sculptures that paraphrase and deconstruct paintings by Poussin and David into the third dimension. Early works by Sanches, never exhibited in Portugal, are also presented here. This logic is continued in the first gallery on the upper floor. The following galleries focus on a specific historical category of statuary – the bust – and its relationship with the portrait. In the final gallery, the body and the haptic nature of sculpture guide the viewer.

Between the organic character of the works and their deconstruction, the use of ‘poor’ and industrial materials and their hand-made quality, between the references to models from art history and abstract research, the exhibition seeks to account for the complexity – and deeply coherent nature – of Rui Sanches’ artistic production.

His work is therefore a mirror of sculpture and its relationship with the image. Departing from this reflection a process of resignification summons the viewer as its other through an ever-present awareness of the exhibition’s mechanisms and the perceptual, phenomenological and aesthetic devices inherent to artistic lineages. Therefore the work can be considered a mirror.

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Public Programme

Public Tour “Espelho”
Rui Sanches and Bruno Marchand
Guided Tour
Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional
Public Tour “Espelho”
Rui Sanches and Maria Filomena Molder
Guided Tour
Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional
Public Tour “Espelho”
Rui Sanches and Manuel Aires Mateus
Guided Tour
Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional
Guided tour with Rui Sanches and Delfim Sardo
Rui Sanches, Delfim Sardo
Guided Tour
Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional


Interview with Rui Sanches in the context of the exhibition “Espelho / Mirror”
Pedro Gonçalves (Galerias Municipais); Rui Sanches
Interview with sculpture caster Venâncio Neves
Venâncio Neves, Pedro Gonçalves (Galerias Municipais)


With text by
Delfim Sardo, Sara Antónia Matos and Richard Deacon