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Paula Rego receives major award
The Portuguese Minister for Culture, Graça Fonseca, presenting Paula Rego with the Medalha de Mérito Cultural at the artist's London studio.

LONDON.- Paula Rego was awarded the Medalha de Mérito Cultural, the most prestigious cultural award in Portugal. The Portuguese Minister for Culture, Graça Fonseca, presented the award at the artist’s London studio. The Minister will also be visiting Paula Rego’s major exhibition at the new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance, which runs until 22 September.

The Medalha de Mérito Cultural is awarded to individuals that have demonstrated an extraordinary contribution to culture and the arts. The honour officially recognises Paula Rego as one of Portugal’s greatest contemporary artists.

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Dame Paula Rego (b. 1935) is one of Europe’s most influential contemporary figurative artists. Often taken from literature, myths, fairy tales, cartoons, theatre, current events, religious subjects and her own life, Rego’s characters confront both urgent social issues and memories of her Portuguese childhood. A contemporary of Frank Auerbach and David Hockney, Rego studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and her career as an artist spans half a century.

In 2009 a museum dedicated to Rego’s work, The House of Stories: Paula Rego, was opened in the Portuguese town of Cascais and in 2010 Rego was made Dame of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Tate Britain will show a retrospective of her work in 2021.

Rego currently lives and works in London, and her work is part of some of the world’s most prestigious public art collections including the Tate Gallery, British Museum, National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon and the Serralves Museum, Porto.

Paula Rego: Obedience and Defiance at MK Gallery (open until 22 September) is the first major retrospective of Paula Rego’s work in England for over twenty years. The exhibition spans the artist’s entire career since the 1960s with more than 80 paintings, pastels, drawings and prints, including never-before-seen works from private collections and gifts from the artist to her friends.

Curated by the distinguished art historian and former director of Whitechapel Gallery, Catherine Lampert, the exhibition looks at how current affairs have led to some of Rego’s most powerful works; the 1998 referendum on legalising abortion in Portugal, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the United States and its allies and, from 2008, female genital mutilation, honour killing and sex trafficking. It is the first ever exhibition in Britain to present the paintings Rego made in Portugal in the 1960s under the fascist regime of António de Oliveira Salazar.

The exhibition will travel to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (23 November 2019 to 26 April 2020), and to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (25 May to 1 November 2020), where it will be the first ever survey of the artist’s work in each respective country.

A major new publication accompanies the exhibition with texts by curator Catherine Lampert and the American writer and novelist Kate Zambreno, published by ART/BOOKS.

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