The framework for the Museum of Contemporary Art was developed with the creation of the Serralves Foundation in 1989. In 1991, award-winning architect Álvaro Siza Vieira was commissioned to design the new museum in the grounds of the Serralves Estate. In 1996, construction of the building and the planning of a museographic programme begun. Vicente Todolí was appointed by the Board of the Serralves Foundation as the first Artistic Director, with João Fernandes as Deputy Director.
The Museum was inaugurated on 6 June, 1999 with the exhibition, ‘Circa 1968’. This ground-breaking exhibition, reflecting a radical decade of art making that corresponded with a period of social and political change in Portugal and around the world, was a manifesto of the Museum’s international ambitions and the historical starting point for the Museum´s future collection and artistic programme.