Born in Lisbon.
Raised in Toronto.
My background is in philosophy and humanities. For some time I thought my carer would be in academia… It just seemed like art was a more effective platform for communicating ideas to a wider audience – Rui Pimenta.
Rui Pimenta is an accomplished art curator in Toronto, where he has developed multiple arts festivals, organizations, and site-specific installations. Born in Lisbon, he settled in Toronto with his parents when he was two years old. Growing up in a heavily Portuguese immigrant working-class neighbourhood, Rui remained connected to that cultural identity, which he has reflected on in his artwork.
Rui Pimenta was born in Lisbon, although his parents are originally from a small town on the outskirts of Braga and Vila Nova de Famalicão, in the northern mainland region of Minho. In 1970, when Rui was two years old, his parents decided to move to Toronto, where his uncle had previously settled. His family settled in the multicultural and working-class Palmerston and Harbord Village neighbourhoods in West downtown Toronto, where many Portuguese immigrants lived. Rui’s father, who had worked in the hospitality industry in Lisbon, continued that occupation in Toronto, including opening his own businesses. Rui’s mother was a homemaker.
After receiving an honours degree in philosophy and humanities from York University, Rui considered pursuing a career in academia. But his long-standing interest in the visual arts pulled him in that direction. In his 30s, Rui started making art as a form of communicating ideas more effectively, with no aspirations of turning it into a profession. He followed his passion by enrolling in the Toronto School of Art. Rui received an honourable mention for mixed media art in the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in 2006, followed by a “best in show” at the Ontario Society of Artists open juried exhibition the following year. In October 2008, he co-founded Median Contemporary, an artist-owned and -operated studio/gallery that exhibits artwork in new and integrated media, new materials, and installation-based projects. In 2010, Rui returned to Lisbon for the first time in eleven years. While there, he worked with artist Paulo Neves on a project called “O Mato.”
In 2009, Rui (later joined by Layne Hinton) founded Art Spin, an arts festival bike tour, where visitors cycle between galleries, artist’ studios, and site-specific performances and installations. Since then, Rui and Layne have curated multiple arts festivals and installations in Toronto, including in/future at the Ontario Place in 2016, Creation : Destruction at the 2019 Nuit Blanche, among others.
Rui was also the assistant curator for the arts section of the Movimento Perpétuo exhibition, held at the Toronto Metro Hall on September 11-22, 2023.
Hora dos Portugueses
Birthday Suit (series)
Birthday Suit is a series of self-portraits, works that simultaneously reveal and conceal its subject as all self-portraits to some extent or other do. The subject in these photographs is as much the artist –who wears a costume made from latex and raw paper– as it is his natal city of Lisbon. Part of a larger in situ series of performances for the camera, this work explores themes of connection and alienation and the desire to understand the all too elusive meaning of home that is such a common part of the immigrant experience.
Rui Pimenta is based in Toronto and this project was created in collaboration with Lisbon based photographer Ricardo Quaresma.