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. In 2003 João Fernandes was appointed Director of the Museum, with Ulrich Loock as Deputy Director. In January 2013, Suzanne Cotter assumed the role of Director.