Giving tangible substance to the luxury that constitutes unrestricted self-expression, Joana Vasconcelos gave new life to a Porsche 911 Targa Carrera. Starting from the opulence of the Baroque and the generous curves of gilded woodwork, the artist's research took her to the Tibães Monastery in Braga, the greatest exponent of marine motifs in gilded woodwork in Portugal, and to the triumphant specimen of the Oceans in the collection of the Coach Museum in Lisbon. She used the artisans of the Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Foundation - from treating the wood to gilding, chiselling and engraving - to create a work that is unique in the world and is also a celebration of hand craftsmanship. Even without moving, angelic figures and sensual feathers give the piece the illusion of flight provided by speed, inviting you on a journey to the charm of the Parisian Can-can and establishing the link to the Drag Races in the United States of America from which the artist took her title.

This piece could be the mere expression of an aulic, excessive power, as immediately suggested by the symbolism of the brand of car chosen and the richness and luxury of the bodywork’s ornaments. The gilded woodwork, made from original baroque models, takes us back to the embassy carriages of King João V; and, from there, to the appropriation of Brazilian gold and games of international political influence. The addition of the colourful ostrich feathers and the chosen title, however, immediately place Drag Race in a universe of transgression (albeit consensual): a universe of fantasy and melancholic celebration.
João Pinharanda
A year or so ago, maybe two, I was able to see the beginnings of the piece in the studio and now, with great anticipation and pure joy, I find it finished. This adulteration of a Porsche, given the title Drag Race, invokes Baroque coaches densely adorned with gilded woodcarvings featuring a set of red feathers at the rear. The attention to detail, the exuberance, and the sense of humour, which I think is present in almost everything she does, makes this work the most important in Vasconcelos’ career. I think it will easily become one of the most requested for any survey exhibition. The artist’s fascination with the combination of manual labour and the palatial context is notable. A kind of universe of carpenters and embroiderers that no longer simply serve the palace but occupy it. In the humour, there is this grace that comes from increasingly sparkling diamonds or gold, which is as much about luxury as it is a reminder of the hand that makes. In the way she conceptualises art, by giving it its name, Joana Vasconcelos is in all honesty a collective, a centre where the knowledge of magnificent teams of makers converge. She explains this in all her interviews. She shows this in all her works. Facing her work we are, in fact, in front of a people. A people who show their bravery, even if it is only to emphasise, at so many moments, a tender side, a delicate side to which we wish to belong.
Valter Hugo Mãe
© Lionel Balteiro
© Lionel Balteiro
© Lionel Balteiro
© Lionel Balteiro
© Bruno Lopes - EDP Foundation - MAAT
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Artwork Details
160 x 220 x 490 cm
Porsche 911 Targa Carrera, ostrich feathers, linden wood carving, gilded gold leaf, leather upholstery embossed with fine gold, metal chasing, ETRO fabric
Artwork produced with the collaboration of the Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva Foundation, Lisbon.
Artwork exhibited at
28/09/2023 > 31/03/2024Plug-In
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