Vhils Portuguese, b. 1987

"An archeology of the present" is how Alexandre Farto, a.k.a. VHILS, defines his work. The practice of the Portuguese artist reminds you indeed of an excavation process. A process in which his carved representations are like remnants recovered from the past, like ancient frescoes saved from oblivion.


Hammers, chisels, corrosive chemicals, electric perforators are his tools of choice. The creation of a new piece typically involves banging on it, scouring it, drilling through it, even blowing it up with explosives. Instead of adding to a surface, VHILS removes parts of the successive layers that make up a wall or a facade. Successive layers with their particular colors and textures that bring in a wide range of different shades to the whole composition. But the artist is far from only doing walls, he works on discarded doors found on the street, metal sheets, blocks of concrete, accretions of advertising posters... Whatever the medium, each piece is given the same sort of treatment, receiving the mark of what he calls an aesthetic of vandalism.

This very act of carving through the thickness of things, which he refers to as scratching the surface, is for the artist a gesture loaded with meaning. "In this act of excavation," he says, "it is the process that is expressive, more than the end result." All those superimposed layers are the memory of the city, the memory of the transformations, developments, renovations that outline its history. For the artist, to reveal those layers is to render visible the developments of our societies.


This archeology of the present is embodied by portraits of men and women, anonymous people for the most part. A poignant way of recalling the human reality at the core of the development of cities and infrastructures, and a way of highlighting this network of interdependencies that connect each community with the wider world. VHILS seeks to put Man back in the center, to reaffirm his importance in the face of economic rationales of which we know today how much they can take precedence over individuals.  

But if the underlying intention is political, the emotion that prevails in the work of VHILS has more to do with an aesthetic shock. In the end, what are we presented with? Ragged posters, corroded metal plates, walls riddled with impacts, slashes on an old wooden door... Insignificant scraps and rubbles which we commonly come across every day without even seeing them, transmuted by the hand of the artist into what is most dear to us: the human face. It is the juxtaposition of these two antagonisms, the triviality of the mediums next to the empathy that the representations trigger within us that is most touching and that make his work so powerful, so deeply humanistic.


Alexandre Farto, a.k.a. VHILS, was born in 1987 in Portugal. He became active in Lisbon in the early 2000s in the world of graffiti artists. In 2008, he was invited by Banksy to participate in the Cans Festival in London, where his work was immediately hailed as one of the most innovative in recent years on the urban art scene. He now regularly presents exhibitions in major institutions around the world, such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing, or the Contemporary Art Center of Cincinnati, where his first monographic exhibition in the United States was held in 2020. He lives and works between London and Lisbon.



Selected solo shows

2020

Momentum, Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Haze, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA

 

2019

Realm, Danysz Gallery, Shanghai, China

Incisão, CAIXA Cultural Brasília – Brasilia, Brazil2018

 

2018

Fragments Urbains, Le Centquatre-Paris, Paris, France

Décombres, Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Annihillation, Over the In fluence Gallery, Los Angeles, USA

Intrínseco, Vera Cortês Gallery, Lisbon, Portugal

 

2017

Remains, Over the In fluence Gallery, Hong Kong SAR, China

Imprint, CAFA Art Museum – China Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China

Debris – Macau, Contemporary Art Center – Naval Yard No.1, Macau SAR, China

 

2016

Debris, Pier 4, Hong Kong Contemporary Art (HOCA) Foundation, Hong Kong, Chine

 

2014

Incisão, Caixa Cultural Recife, Recife, Brésil

Vestiges, Danysz Galleryz, Paris, France

Dissecção / Dissection, Fundação EDP, Museu da Electricidade, Lisbonne, Portugal

 

2013

Fragmentos, Clark Art Center, Rio de Janeiro, Brésil

Dissolve, Skalitzers Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australie

 

2012

Entropy, Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Visceral, Danysz Gallery, Shanghai, Chine

 

 

Selected group shows

 

2019

Ten Years of the Wynwood Walls, Goldman Global Arts Gallery, Miami, USA

Beyond the Streets, New York, USA

Parti Pris, Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Conquête Urbaine – street art au musée, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Calais, Calais, France

E livres habitamos a substância do tempo, Praça da Liberdade, Almada, Portugal

La Source, Fondation Carmignac, Île de Porquerolles, France

NuArt Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

Post Contemporary – Urban Graphics 7019, MoCA – Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, Shanghai, China

 

2018

All the Rage, Mandarin Oriental Taipei, Taipei, Taiwan

Vis a Vis, Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Festival Iminente London, The Old Truman Brewery, London, UK

Arte em São Bento – Coleção António Cachola, Palácio de São Bento, Lisbon, Portugal

Festival Iminente Lisboa, Panorâmico de Monsanto, Lisbon, Portugal

Imago – A History of Portraits, MUCA – Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Munich, Germany

Annual Arts Exhibition Between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries – Alter Ego, The Macao Museum of Art, Macau SAR, China

Sea of Desire, Fondation Carmignac, Île de Porquerolles, France

Splash and Burn project, Medan Indonesia

Beyond the Streets, Los Angeles, USA

Art From the Streets, ArtScience Museum, Singapore

 

2017

Festival Iminente Oeiras, Jardim Municipal de Oeiras, Oeiras, Portugal

Festival Iminente London, The Old Truman Brewery, London, UK

Blueprint: Whose urban appropriation is this?, TENT – Centrum Beeldende Kunst, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Street Generation(s) - 40 ans d'art urbain, La Condition Publique, Roubaix, France

Arte urbano, de la calle al Museo, Museo de Bellas Artes de Murcia, Murcia, Spain

 

2016

Art from the Streets / The History of Street Art - from New York to Beijing, CAFA Art Museum, Pékin, Chine

Portugal, Retrocesso ao Futuro (Vhils & MiasMenos), Jardins Efémeros, Viseu, Portugal

Abaixo as Fronteiras! Vivam o Design e as Artes, MUDE -Museu do Design e da Moda, Lisbonne, Portugal

Choices, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

Knock on Wood, Galerie Magda Danysz, Paris, France

Paradoxes of the Ivory Tower - Painting and pictorial elements in the Norlinda and José Lima Collection, Oliva Creative Factory, São João da Madeira, Portugal

Point of View, Park of the Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

 

2015

Codici Sorgenti, Visone Urbane Contemporanee, Palazzo Plamonte di Catania, Italie

360° - A Selection of 500 Contemporary Artworks, Danysz Gallery, Shanghai, Chine

Urban Xchange Festival 2015, Penang, Malaysie

Printology, University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Etats-Unis

The Unexpected Project: Mural Festival, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Etats-Unis

Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening, Barbican Centre, Londres, Royaume-Uni

O Bairro i o Mundo, Quinta do Mocho, Sacavem, Portugal

Obras da Colecção Antonio Cachola, Centro de Arte Contemporânea Graça Morais, Bragança, Portugal

Iberian Suite - Installation : A Journey of the Imagination, The Kennedy Center, Washington, Etats-Unis

Urban Nation - Project M, Berlin, Allemagne

 

2014

Street Art - um panorama urbano, Caixa Cultural Brasilia, Brasilia, Brésil

Contrast Mural Series, LeBASSE Projects, Los Angeles, Californie, Etats-Unis

O Resto e o Gesto: Desenhos para o século XXI, Museu do Côa, Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Portugal

Projeto Memoria, Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II, Lisbonne, Portugal

In-Out Street Art et Graffiti - Collection d'Art Urbain Nicolas Laugero Lasserre, Maison des Arts de Créteil, Créteil, France

Under the Wave, Molitor, Paris, France

Passage 46, Freiburg Theater, Freiburg, Allemagne

Nuit Blanche 2014 - Hôpital Necker, Paris, France

#Street Art - L'innovation au coeur d'un mouvement, Espace Fondation EDF, Paris, France

Lasco Project #3, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

Street Art - um panorama urbano, Caixa Cultural Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brésil

Pow! Wow! Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii

Exposição Permanente -Obras da Colecção Antonio Cachola, MACE - Museu de Arte Contemporãnea de Elvas, Elvas, Portugal

 

2013

NizzArt, Turin, Italie

Mural Arts Program, Philadelphie, Pennsylvanie, Etats-Unis

Rise Above - Life is Beautiful Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada, Etats-Unis

Avant Garde Urbano, Tudela de Navarra, Espagne

Pierres, Papiers Peintures - Arts urbains & Architectures, Pierresvives, Montpellier, France

NUART Festival 2013, Stavanger, Norvège

Contentores Lisboa 2013, Lisbonne, Portugal

Hecho en Oaxaca, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Oaxaca, Mexique

Les Bains - Résidence d'Artistes, Les Bains-Douches, Paris, France

Sincronias, Portuguese Artists in the Antonio Cachola Collection, MEIAC - Museo

Ex Situ, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Urban Art! Biennale 2013, UNESCO Weltkulturerbe, Völklinger Hütte Museum, Völklingen, Allemagne

 

2012

Au-delà du Street Art, Musée de la Poste, Paris, France

A Ciência do Desenho, Casa da Cerca -Centro de Arte Contemporãnea, Almada, Portugal

FAME Festival 2012, Grottaglie, Italie

Festival Images, Vevey, Suisse

Walk & Talk Festival 2012, Azores, Portugal

Milestone Project, Gérone, Espagne

Le M.U.R., Paris, France

Open Walls, Baltimore, Maryland, Etats-Unis

Out of Line, Espace H20, Differdange, Luxembourg

 

2011

Paris Forever -100th exhibition of the gallery, Galerie Magda Danysz, Paris, France

Meeting of Styles, Buenos Aires, Argentine

Art Basel Miami'11 - Wynwood Walls, Miami, Floride, Etats-Unis

The Minotaur, The Old Vic Tunnels, Londres, Royaume-Uni

NUART Festival 2011, Stavanger, Norvège

FAME Festival 2011, Grottaglie, Italie

Walk&Talk Festival 2011, Azores, Portugal

Shadows and Reflections, Danysz Gallery, Paris, France

Observadores - Revelações, Trãnsitos e Distãncias, Museu Berardo - Colecção de Arte Moderna e Contemporãnea, Lisbonne, Portugal

O Museu em Ruinas, MACE - Museu de Arte Contemporãnea de Elvas, Elvas, Portugal

CRONO Festival, Lisbonne, Portugal

 

2010

Street Art - Contemporary Prints From the V&A, Herbet Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, Royaume-Uni

FAME Festival 2010, Grottaglie, Italie

NUART Festival 2010, Stavanger, Norvège

Viva la Revolucion: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, Californie, Etats-Unis

O Dia Pela Noite, Lux Fragil, Lisbonne, Portugal

Jogo de Espelhos, MACE - Museu de Arte Contemporãnea de Elvas, Elvas, Portugal

Bogota Stencil Art Festival 2010, Bogota, Colombie

Carris - Arte em Movimento, Lisbonne, Portugal

 

2009

BES Arte & Finança - Exposição *04, Espaço BES Arte & Finança, Lisbonne, Portugal

Visual Street Performance 2009, Lisbonne, Portugal

FAME Festival 2009, Grottaglie, Italie

Tunnel 228, commisariat par Punchdrunk & Old Vic Theatre, Waterloo Station Tunnels, Londres, Royaume-Uni

 

2008

Graffiti Nonstop / Meeting of Styles - Graffiti / Street Art Festival 2008, Wroclaw, Pologne

The Cans Festival 2, Londres, Royaume-Uni

The Cans Festival, Londres, Royaume-Uni

Visual Street Performance 2008, Bairro Alto, Lisbonne, Portugal

 

2007

Visual Street Performance 2007, Fabrica do Braço de Prata, Lisbonne, Portugal

Eurocultured Festival Manchester 2007, Manchester, Royaume-Uni

Difusor Stencil Art Festival 2007, Barcelone, Espagne

Eurocultured Festival Dublin 2007, Dublin, Irelande

Arte Lisboa 2007 - Feira de Arte Contemporãnea, Vera Cortès Art Agency booth, Lisbonne, Portugal

 

2006

Visual Street Performance II, Espaço Interpress, Bairro Alto, Lisbonne, Portugal

Habitos de Rua, Centro Cultural Maus Habitos, Porto, Portugal

Scaling the Great Wall of China, event produced by Jason Associates, Hotel Ritz, Lisbonne, Portugal

 

2005

Graffiti Show, Escola Adães Bermudes, Alcobaça, Portugal

Visual Street Performance, Espaço Interpress, Bairro Alto, Lisbonne, Portugal

Graffiti 2005, Centro Cultural Malaposta, Odivelas, Portugal