Interview Conceptual Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos
Her work frequently uses everyday items to question women’s roles in society, consumerism society, and national and collective identity – from stilettos made from pans to chandeliers made from tampons. It has also been recognised with a record-breaking exhibition at Paris’s Palace of Versailles in 2012, where she was the first woman and youngest artist to present a solo exhibition. It was also the most visited exhibition in France in 50 years. In 2018, Vasconcelos became the first Portuguese to present a solo exhibition at Guggenheim Bilbao too, which was one of the most visited in the museum’s history.
As she celebrates the 20th anniversary of her sculpture ‘The Bride’, which first brought her to the public attention, we caught up with Vasconcelos to discuss her career highlights and upcoming projects.
THE WICK: Talk us through a typical Monday.
Joana Vasconcelos: I wake up early to take my daughter to school and head to the studio for a yoga class (we have an in-house teacher and daily sessions for all the staff). We start the week with a board meeting with the studio directors to plan the works ahead. After that, we have lunch at the canteen and the afternoon continues with meetings or other commitments, which vary according to the projects at hand. Monday finishes off with a family diner and I usually relax in the evening watching television.
TW: Your works are vast in size and bold in concept, touching on themes of feminism and consumerism. Who do you see as your audience?
JV: Everybody. I don’t really aim for an audience in particular. My art conveys the themes close to my heart, but they are also universal themes, which bridge the private and public sphere and most people can relate to. There’s no bigger satisfaction than watching people smile as they walk through an exhibition of mine. I believe art should entice people to reflect upon the world around them, question reality and look at the world from a different perspective. But the main purpose is to bring people joy.
TW: You recently created work for an olfactory art exhibition. What other projects do you have coming up?
JV: My team and I are currently working on my biggest project to date: the ‘Wedding Cake’. It’s part building, part sculpture, 12-metres high and an immersive experience for people to walk into and up until they meet one another on top of the structure. It establishes the connection between architecture and patisserie and is, first and foremost, a temple to love.
TW: This year marks a milestone birthday for you. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
JV: This year, we celebrated 20 years of ‘The Bride’, the 14,000 tampon chandelier that drew the world’s attention to my work, and that was an important milestone in a very difficult year for the art scene all over the world. But I prefer to look forward, focusing on the next idea turning into artwork.