Episode 219 Part 2: Power, Politics and Jewelry: Marta Costa Reis on the Second Lisbon Contemporary Jewelry Biennial

Episode 219

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • What to expect at the second Lisbon Contemporary Jewelry Biennial and tips for attending.
  • How Portugal’s 48-year authoritarian regime and the Carnation Revolution continue to influence Portuguese artists and jewelers today.
  • Why jewelry is so closely linked to power and politics.
  • How artists can use masterclasses and workshops to refocus their work.
  • How Marta is working to promote Portugal’s art jewelry scene.

About Marta Costa Reis

Marta Costa Reis started studying jewelry in 2004, as a hobby, in parallel with other professional activities. She dedicated herself fully to this work in 2014. Costa Reis completed the jewelry course at Ar.Co – Centro de Arte e Comunicacção Visual, in Lisbon, and the Advanced Visual Arts Course at the same school, in addition to workshops with renowned teachers including Iris Eichenberg, Ruudt Peters, Lisa Walker, and Eija Mustonen, among others. In addition to being a jewelry artist, Costa Reis teaches jewelry history at Ar.Co, writes about jewelry, and curates exhibitions. She also serves as artistic director of the Lisbon Contemporary Jewelry Biennial and as a board member of Art Jewelry Forum.

Additional Resources:


Necklace by Barbara Macedo

Jewels for democracy poster

Women during the revolution (marked as author unknown)

Tiara by Teresa Milheiro photo by Luis Martins and Pedro Tropa, Exhibition: Tiara – 40 anos de Joalharia no Ar.Co” 2019

The colloquium poster

Brooch by Cristina Nuno




How does jewelry symbolize power, and where do jewelry and politics intersect? That’s the central question that Marta Costa Reis and her fellow curators, artists and speakers will explore at this year’s Lisbon Contemporary Jewelry Biennial. Marta joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about why this year’s theme is so timely; how Portugal’s turbulent political history influences jewelry today; and how to plan your trip to make the most of the biennial. Read the episode transcript here.

Welcome to the Jewelry Journey, exploring the hidden world of art around you. Because every piece of art has a story, and jewelry is no exception.

Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. This is the second part of a two-part episode. If you haven’t heard part one, please head to TheJewelryJourney.com. Today, we’re going to be talking about the Lisbon Contemporary Jewelry Biennial. I am talking with Marta Costa Reis, who is going to tell us all about it. Welcome back.

Sharon: Are you a maker?

Marta: I am a maker.

Sharon: Have you been developing jewelry that’s linked to power?

Marta: Actually, not so much. My themes are a bit more, maybe spiritual is the word. I don’t know. I’m interested in themes that revolve around time and our connection to time and what is behind us. It’s quite different, but this was already the theme of the first biennial. We have to move on and have different themes. Of course, I couldn’t do work myself for this biennial. I don’t have the time or the mindset to be making at this time. I’m fully focused on the biennial.

Sharon: I was noticing you have several curators. How did you choose the curators of different seminars and exhibits? How did you choose them?

Marta: I can speak, for instance, about the main show that is called Madrugada, daybreak. The main title. I wanted someone that was not a Portuguese person so we don’t stay too closed in our own bubble. I wanted someone from another country but who could understand what happened here. Mònica Gaspar is Spanish. Besides being an amazing intellectual and teacher and writer and very knowledgeable about jewelry and design, being Spanish, they had a similar process as ours. They also had a very long dictatorship, and at almost the same time as we did, they became a democracy. So, she could understand more or less the same events. That was important, to have someone with that experience of changing from the dictatorship into a democracy.

We spoke last year Schmuck in Munich about it, and she was interested, but she has a lot of work, so it took a little while to convince her. It’s because we are a team and we can share the work that were able to do it and Mònica is able to do it. Patrícia Domingues is the other curator. She’s Portuguese, but she’s younger than we are.

Sharon: Who is that?

Marta: Patrícia Domingues. She recently had a show in Brooklyn. I can write it down for you later, maybe afterwards.

Sharon: Okay. Patrícia. How do you spell the last name?

Marta: Domingues, D-O-M-I-N-G-U-E-S. I think I got it right. I know how to spell it, but sometimes saying it in English is more difficult. She has been living abroad for a quite a long time, but she’s Portuguese, so she has a perspective that is both an insider but also an outsider. I wanted that very much, someone that is not closed here in our little bubble. She’s she recently finished a Ph.D. She’s younger. She’s very much in contact with everything that is being reflected about jewelry in the world right now.

I think they are amazing curators, and they bring a lot to the biennial and to the show. I am there as well not only because I enjoy it, but I wanted to help out with the work, sending the invitations and keeping track of everything so that everything goes smoothly. We are a very small organization, and we do a lot of it ourselves on a voluntary basis. We have to take different jobs in this process. But I’m happy they joined us, and I’m very happy to be working with them on this show.

Sharon: Are you the main curator? Is there a main curator who chose the other ones?

Marta: Yes, that is me. I am the main curator for the whole biennial. Then there is a team and we discuss. We basically invited Mònica and Patrícia and they agreed. The other shows, for instance, the tiara show is curated by Catarina Silva, who is also the head of the jewelry department at ARCO. I’m also taking care of, it’s called Jewels for Democracy. That’s the show that I mentioned about the women being honored. There’s a lot of people involved, but it’s quite smooth.

Sharon: Somebody has to keep everything moving and coordinate. How are you promoting the show in Portugal and in general? Anything?

Marta: We will start promoting now. We have the two shows in April. We did the launch last November for the whole biennial. We try to be active on Instagram. Not so much on Facebook, but mainly on Instagram. We will start a more intense campaign. We have a professional communications person that will take care of this. We will start a more intense communication campaign very soon. We have it in two parts, so we are focusing on April. Then we’ll have the other show in May, and then it’s the end of June. It will be in different parts.

We will also announce the masterclasses very soon. I haven’t mentioned the masterclasses yet. That’s what I was forgetting. There will be two masterclasses, one with Lin Cheung and one with Manuel Vilhena from the 22nd to 26th of June. We’ll open the registrations very, very soon. This week we’ll open the registration. You’ll start seeing more about it, and we will promote it in different venues. I did an interview for SMCK Magazine, the European magazine about jewelry. It just came out in their last issue. I did it in October or at the end of September, but it just came out. So, we’re doing a number of things, but it will become more intense at the end of this month, in February. We will reinforce the communication and the advertising.

Sharon: How long are the shows in the biennial? Does it go through the summer, or is there an ending point or beginning point?

Marta: The main thing is that in the last week of June, everything will be open. The shows in the Royal Treasure Museum, the shows at the Design Museum, the colloquium, the schools, the masterclasses, the students, the galleries. Everything will be open in that last week of June. That will be the right moment to come to Lisbon. That’s when we are concentrating everything. On the 30th of June, the two shows at the Royal Treasure Museum will close, but the show at MUDE, the Design Museum, will continue until the end of September, so it will go through the summer.

Sharon: Why do you call it a masterclass? Who’s teaching it and what are they teaching?

Marta: It’s Lin Cheung. She’s from the UK. Manuel Vilhena is a quite well-known Portuguese artist and amazing teacher as well. It’s five days. I’m not sure how to differentiate between a workshop and a masterclass, which I guess is a workshop with the masters, and they are masters. They are some of the top teachers I know. I did a small course with Manuel Vilhena a few years ago. Not yet with Lin, but I know they are amazing teachers. I’m sure everyone who comes will enjoy it.

Last biennial, we also had masterclasses, one with Caroline Broadhead and the other with Christoph Zellweger. They are very interesting moments of sharing and learning and deepening your understanding of your own work, not just for students but for artists in every moment of their careers. It’s super interesting to be able to have these few days to stop and look at what you do, what you want to do next with very good teachers like they are. This can be a very special moment. For a long time, I did as many workshops and masterclasses as I could, and it was so great.

Sharon: The people who teach the classes, do they vet the people coming, or can anybody who wants to come into the class and take it?

Marta: There is a small vetting process, but basically you send a CV and your motivation, not even a letter, but a few words of why you want to do these classes. That will be the vetting process. But it’s pretty much open to everyone in every stage of their education or career.

Sharon: The exhibits and going to galleries, are there charges? Are they free? What is the story with that?

Marta: To visit the galleries, some of the venues will be free. The museums have tickets, but most of the venues that are not museums are free.

Sharon: MUDE is the design museum that just opened.

Marta: Yes. It opened a while ago, but it was under renovation for a long time. It’s the only museum in Portugal that has a contemporary jewelry collection. They have been building a collection, and hopefully it will grow. They also have lots of fashion and all kinds of product and graphic design. It’s a very interesting collection, very interesting building. They haven’t opened yet. We will be one of the first shows. The first temporary show after the renovation will be this one.

Sharon: Wow.

Marta: Yeah, it’s exciting.

Sharon: Do you think there’ll be a triennial?

Marta: Hopefully we’ll do the next one. I have a few ideas. I cannot say yet, but yes. I like to start thinking about the next one while still doing this one. If the team wants to, if we get the support we need, for sure there will be another one.

Sharon: Now for somebody who wants—I started thinking of myself and other people, but members of the audience, if there somebody who wants to come alone, who wants to come to Portugal alone to see the exhibit, where do they stay? You said the end of June is the best time to come.

Marta: The last week of June, yes.

Sharon: Okay, and they stay at a hotel?

Marta: Lisbon is a wonderful, very safe and, I think, easy to navigate town. We don’t have a special hotel to recommend, but you can reach out to us and we can help give some suggestions. Stay in a hotel, you will get your program, tell us you are coming. We will try as much as possible to help you out. If you want to organize a group, we can help organize the group as well. But it’s easy. Uber goes everywhere, taxis go everywhere, you have the subway, you have buses, you can walk, bike. There are all kinds of ways to travel in town. It’s not very big. We’re not always able to do it, but many of the events, the venues, will be quite close. There will be a few groups in different locations, but you can visit a lot of things by foot that will be very close by. I think it will be very easy to come even if you’re alone.

Sharon: Okay. As long as I have you, tell us about the market for art jewelry in Portugal. Has it grown? Do people care about it?

Marta: I think like almost everywhere else, it’s a specialist market that certain people enjoy a lot. Actually, it’s not very known by everyone. Most people, when you say jewelry, think about more traditional, more commercial jewelry. Like everywhere, there’s a way to go, I think. But there is a group of interested people. There’s certainly very interesting artists.

We’ve had contemporary jewelry, art jewelry being done and presented in shows here since the 60s. We’ve had a school, the specialized school in Lisbon, since the 70s. We have two galleries. One of them just turned 25. The other I think even more, maybe 30. So, we have had the market for a long time. Now, of course, it’s a little bit slow, but I think that happened everywhere with the recent crisis. But it exists, and it’s been here for over 40 years, 50 years now. Like everywhere else, it’s a continuous work, but people love it. Many people love it. I think it will never stop being interesting and important to a number of us.

Sharon: Okay. Go ahead, if there’s anything else you wanted to say.

Marta: About the market, that’s basically it. It’s an issue, and also what we wanted to promote. That’s why we did the biennial, to help people see there’s a lot more jewelry than the ones they’re used to in the traditional way. That’s part of the reason we’re doing this, not just for ourselves or the ones who already know what jewelry content actually is all about, but for the ones who don’t and might be interested in knowing. Getting the beautiful works that are done out there and reaching out to more people, that’s it.

Sharon: Okay. I’m trying to read my handwriting here. I was reading your information last night again, but let’s see. The cost, the people and most of the stuff is in English as well as Portuguese.

Marta: Yes, everything will be translated. The colloquium will be in English. Everyone will speak English at the colloquium, and in the museums you will have English. Everything will be translated. Our website is translated. Our Instagram, not all is translated, but because it translates automatically, it’s not even an issue anymore, I think. But yes, usually you will always have Portuguese and English, except the colloquium that will be fully in English. It will be quite easy for everyone. English is indeed the common language for almost everything, so we just assume. In Portugal everyone speaks English more or less.

Sharon: Do they learn it in school?

Marta: Yes, yes. In school, movies. The movies are not dubbed. They are in the original English, so we are used to listening to English from when we are very young. It becomes a very common language.

Sharon: That’s interesting. We’ll have the Instagram and the website listed when we post this.

Marta: Okay, great. Going back, if people want to travel to Lisbon, if they by chance come before June, they will still have very interesting things to see besides the program of the biennial. There are the galleries that will have shows in Lisbon. There’s Galeria Reverso and Galeria Tereza Seabra. They both will have shows as they usually have. In April and May, if you visit Portugal, come, because there will be jewelry to be seen. If you plan to come for the biennial, June is a very exciting month. The city is beautiful. It’s when there are flowers, there’s green, there’s the sun. People are just happy in June, everywhere I guess.

Sharon: How is the weather then? Is it hot?

Marta: No, it’s warm. June is still quite good. End of July, August is maybe a bit too much, but June usually is still quite good. I won’t say the number because I would say it in Celsius so it doesn’t mean anything, and I don’t know how to say it in Fahrenheit. I won’t say a number for the temperature, but it’s really nice. The best thing is that the evenings are warm. That’s the best, when in the evening it’s still warm and it’s nice outside. That’s June.

Sharon: Are there a lot of people in the streets still when it’s warm outside and warm in the evenings? I know you don’t live in the center.

Marta: Yes, people will go out. As I said, in June you have traditional parties. The patron saint of Lisbon, his day is in June. From there, you have many, many parties. People go outside, they will eat outside. There will be concerts outside, there will be movies outside, everything will be outside and it will be very nice.

Sharon: I hope that we can all go. I have here the official name is the Second Lisbon Contemporary Jewelry Biennial, right?

Marta: Exactly.

Sharon: What is the theme once more again?

Marta: The theme is political jewelry and jewelry of power.

Sharon: Okay. And PIN is involved with this also? PIN is the art jewelry—

Marta: PIN is the Portuguese Contemporary Jewelry Association, and it’s the organizer of the biennial.

Sharon: Reading through this information I was ready to book my flight. It looks wonderful.

Marta: Yes. I’m happy you come. But surely, if people want to come, reach out to us. If you write to us through Instagram, the website, it will be easy to reach out to us, and we will help in any way. If you want to come, we can help make it happen in the easiest way possible for you. We’re happy to have you and everyone who wants to come.

Sharon: Well, thank you very much for telling us about it.

Marta: Thank you for having me and helping us tell our story.

Sharon: We will have photos posted on the website. Please head to TheJewelryJourney.com to check them out.

Thank you again for listening. Please leave us a rating and review so we can help others start their own jewelry journey.

Sharon Berman