Sexuality Policy Watch

Helena Almeida: the body as protagonist

Helena Almeida is a Portuguese artist born in Lisbon in 1934. Her work is mostly composed by black and white photographic self-portraits in which she consciously expresses a gesture or a ‘condition”. Her body is the main protagonist in her artwork.

Associated with the Body Art movement, Almeida’s performances confront the portrayal of women in art history, such as in her series For Study for Inner Improvement (1977). In a sequence of black-and-white photographs, the artist appears to eat Yves Klein blue paint, who patented it as International Klein Blue as he portrayed and used nude women as brushes.

In another series, she cuts a canvas and tries to squeeze herself through it, invoking the slashed paintings of Lucio Fontana. “I was impressed by the obscure side of the slash, the mystery of what is beyond the canvas,” she explained. “But unlike Fontana, I wanted to do something that would detach from the painting. Instead of showing the reverse of the canvas, I went out of the canvas.”

Born 1934 in Lisbon, Portugal, the daughter of sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, she went on to study painting at the School of Fine Arts in Lisbon and graduate in 1955. Almeida has represented Portugal in the 1982 and 2005 Venice Biennales, and her works are in the collections of the Tate Modern in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, among others. She lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal.

SPW has featured her work once before in 2015. On the occasion, the Statute of the Family was approved in the Brazilian House of Representatives and her art expressively disputes the binary and ‘forceful binding’ ideologies flagged by religious conservative forces present at the time.

Now, in 2019, we come back to her as once again the body — and the schematic and strict conceptions — was a protagonist of politics in the wide sense of the word, disputed during the events of March, the World Congress of Families, the Commission on the Status of Women, but also in the resistance portrayed by feminists around the world.

If you would like to know more about Helena de Almeida, check the Helga de Alvear Galley website or else enjoy the video Seducing with Inhabited  Painting,  directed by Fernanda Isabel Ramos



Dentro de mim, 1998

Pintura habitada, ca. 1976-2015

Untitled, 2010

Skip to content