Three or four brushstrokes attempt to match the original color of the facade of the Art Deco-style building on a corner of Praça da República. “Maybe a little more salmon… that’s all,” suggests gallery owner Philip Burks, inspecting the works.
The building will have three floors, connected by a spiral staircase. Although it may look imposing from the outside, it had no roof on the upper floors. “It was just a ruin,” he describes.
But soon it will have three bright rooms with high ceilings, perfect for photography exhibitions. The owners have been able to recover the original skylight and there is a small window facing the bell tower of the Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição chapel, in the heart of Loulé. Soon it will be the home of Philip and Anja Burks’ In the Pink gallery.
“When we met, we started collecting photography, which I believe has become, in many ways, a new form of contemporary art. Today there is a whole market for great photographers; just look at what auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips have to offer,” says Anja. She made a career in banking but has experience in the art world. For example, she has built up collections at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, Germany. “It’s a very interesting market that’s more accessible than other art forms,” she says.
“That’s how we got here. Phil saw the building for sale and decided to restore it. In fact, when we bought it, we didn’t have a plan. We just thought there was something special here and needed to be restored,” adds Anja. Philip Burks, who had a successful career in real estate, continues: “We love photography. We want to deepen our knowledge, and what better than to open our own gallery?
“We both stopped our careers to travel and we often came to the Algarve. Restoring an old building that is part of Loulé’s history is also a way for us to give back to the community. I can’t think of a better way than to invest in culture”, stresses Anja.
After their marriage, Anja and Phil established the Roots & Wings Charitable Foundation, and the new gallery will also serve as the ground for future projects. “It will be a way for us to be part of the community and give something back”, especially with initiatives for children and young people, as they explain. “We believe in giving children strong roots when they are young, so they can fly in the future,” says Anja.
As for the unusual name of the gallery, Phil explains: “To be ‘In the Pink’ means to be happy in life. But in fact, since the purchase of the building, we call it the “pink building” because of its original color. Besides the double meaning, the name also evokes the Algarve, which is a paradise and a place of happiness,” he says. “We went to Porto and Lisbon, where we saw great galleries, although they weren’t dedicated to photography. We know there are great photographers in Portugal, like Helena Almeida and Jorge Molder,” to name a few, Anja explains.
The gallery’s first exhibition will focus on fashion, with three different approaches by three artists. A highlight will be the screening of 14 photographs by acclaimed photographer Albert Watson, whose portfolio includes campaigns for Chanel, Prada, Revlon and more than 100 international covers for vogue magazine. “We’ll be showing an amazing photo from the December issue of Vogue Portugal, for example. We also exhibit two beautiful photos that Albert took for vogue in the Algarve in 1977. At the end of last year, we had the chance to visit his studio in New York. He didn’t have anyone showing his work in Portugal so he was a bit surprised [by the proposal] but very happy,” reveals Anja.
The second guest artist is the young Dutch Bastiaan Woudt, a first in Portugal. “He had a meteoric rise in the world of contemporary photography with his masterful portraiture,” says Anja. “He is a self-taught artist whose work is minimalist and inspired by the great masters of photography from the 50s, 60s and 70s,” adds Phil. Woudt will also be present at the inauguration of the gallery.
Finally, the third photographer to present his work at the Loulé location is Kristian Schuller, a figure established in Germany. The Romanian artist, who lives in Berlin, is known for his intense, colorful and moving works, whose imagery hints at a dreamlike fantasy world. Kristian began his fashion career as a stylist, having worked with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and learning photography from famed photographer FC Gundlach in Berlin. “We had a lot of names in mind, so it was not easy to come up with these three [artists]“, concedes Phil. “But we think these artists represent three stunning, yet very different, visual languages to illustrate the theme of fashion photography for our launch.”
“We really want to create something important for Loulé. Once the gallery has established itself as a benchmark for artistic photography, we want to start looking for new Portuguese talent,” adds the owner. For now, Anja and Phil are working with local photographer Vasco Célio, whose studio is across the street.
The In the Pink gallery opens its doors on June 25, under the direction of Pedro Vasconi. The temporary exhibitions will last approximately three months.
By Bruno Filipe Pires
Article first published in Essential Algarve Magazine