Archive for “interview”

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Cultivating mental images: Samuel Rousseau

Paris, 26 January 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Samuel Rousseau is a French fine artist. His intricate installations merge video and scrap objects, displaying a strong visual language which places a great focus on the world today — both as it is seen in images, and as it is experienced by its inhabitants. Selected to be amongst the finalists for the 2011 edition of the Marcel Duchamp Prize, his works are presented at Art Paris Art Fair by galerie Claire Gastaud. Art Media Agency met Rousseau during the fair, and asked him about his works.

Can you describe your work? How does it come to you?
I respond to life. I am a sponge, I soak things up. I react to them. I live in the contemporary world, and have a style which is contemporary — but I really fell into being an artist. It’s like when people ask me: “Why did you choose video?”. I didn’t choose video, it’s just something that I fell into. If I had been a prehistoric man, I would have used tree roots, which I would have scraped on walls. 

Your work seems incredibly precise. How did you proceed?
I’m not really concerned by technique. Technique should always be eclipsed by comments on the work. People often describe me as a very technical artist. I’m not especially convinced. In every subject you have to master your tool, it’s something which seems normal.

Yes, my works might appear to be technical, but the painters of the Renaissance also had a formidable technicality. Yes, it’s technical, but the technical aspect doesn’t surpass the meaning. The computer must remain my slave.

The computer is the slave to animations which you project onto recycled objects. What does this practice do to your images?
What interests me in used objects is the absence of nobility which is potentially inherent to the pieces — they’re things which have been handled. Whether it’s an old pill packet, a jerry can, an old tarpaulin, everyone is familiar with these objects.

What interests me is the hold I have over the real. As an artist, my objective is to sift through the grains.  I like this metaphor of being a gardener: I place a grain in the mind of the spectator, and it grows. What comes from it remains far from me. Using everyday objects allows me to have a link to reality, to be close to the public. I also like the idea of transforming material. Something which ought to have ended up in the bin becomes a work of art, gaining an entirely different commercial and intellectual status.

There’s almost a “ready made” side to your works…
I have often thought about this, but have decided that my peices are more “almost ready made”! The ready-made is an object which is used as itself; I add something else.

You have a strong method that comes from the desire to create “mental images”.
I create images. Even if they move and they are accompanied by sound, I do nothing more than create images. However, there is a crucial question behind all this: How do you create an image in this day and age? There are so many…we live surrounded by an abundance of images, a spewing of images, it’s crazy.

What’s more, I fight against Pixar or Disney, as we are all accustomed to seeing these perfectly polished images created by machines, where ten seconds are made in several hours by several people. I think of myself as an artisan of the image. What I wish to do is extract meaning, to create images which are mental in the sense that the public perceives them. The image becomes mental when it belongs to the person who observes the work.

Art Paris Art Fair 2014: Interview with Miguel Chevalier, digital artist

Paris, 26 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

From 26 March, those passing Art Paris Art Fair will have the opportunity to view a significant work, without even entering the Grand Palais.  Every evening between 8pm and midnight, Miguel Chevalier – represented by the Louise Alexander Gallery  (stand E5) – is to transform the façade of the Grand Palais with a luminous installation project entitled L’Origine du Monde (“The Origin of the World”). AMA met the artist, who discussed his pioneering project in more detail.

Why L’Origine du Monde?
L’Origine du Monde is an interactive, virtual reality installation projected onto the façade of the Grand Palais. It is inspired by the world of biology and micro-organisms, comprised of individual cells which develop like bacteria, multiplying, dividing and fusing. This universe in perpetual mutation is halfway between the organic and the pixelated. That is why I have chosen L’Origine du Monde as a title: everything comes from there, it is the foundation of life itself.

The projection is quite psychedelic…
The colours can become very intense and vibrant. Playing with moving curves and cellular fusion definitely has a psychodelic 70s feel about it. We are in a new age: that of Digital Baroque. Digital has become omnipresent – it’s what I call the new digital drugs.

The installation itself is a true example of technical prowess. How does it work?
It was most difficult to construct the two towers to support the projectors, as we didn’t have much space. The installation belongs to the Art generation; that is to say I control one part of it but the rest is uncertain and unpredicatable. It is not a video installation on repeat with a definite start, a series of pre-determined images and an end. Digital is at the very heart of the installation: works are in perpetual mutation and they never have a concrete end.

You also work on a micro-scale — how did you come to doing this monumental project at Art Paris Art Fair ?
I have been using digital for 30 years now, but I’ve always loved monumental art, even if I have created works for smartphones! I love to work on a variety of scales. In 2013, I created a projection for the baroque architecture of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico. It is the Louise Alexander Gallery who I have been working with for two years now that asked me to create something new and spectacular for the Napoleon III architecture of the Grand Palais . The true challenge is to show that digital art of the 21st century is urban, accessible to all . 

Digital art has sometimes been accused of being inaccessible. Is this something you agree with?
A new art form is never easily accepted. But beliefs and mentalities evolve: telephones and screens have invaded people’s daily lives. Digital is everywhere. Artists  use the means that the era provides them with. At the time when he produced his works, Man Ray succeeded in truly establishing photography as an art in its own right, as did Viola with video. Today, the new challenge is digital.

Interview with Philippe Piguet, artistic director of Drawing Now Paris

Paris, 26 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Paris’s contemporary drawing exhibition, Drawing Now, is opening its doors to the public on 26 March 2014. Having taken place in several different venues, before being held at the Carrousel du Louvre the last four years, it is to open this year at the newly refurbished Carreau du Temple. The day before its inauguration, Philippe Piguet, art critic and artistic director of Drawing Now, shared his thoughts on contemporary drawing with Art Media Agency, and gave us a taste of his first impressions.

What is the key strength of this edition of the exhibition?
Undoubtedly, what sets Drawing Now apart this year is the change of setting. We had already come to Carreau du Temple in 2009, but at the time it was not a partiucularly well-adapted space. For us, to be able to set ourselves up in this fantastically renewed space is primarily an opportunity to be at the heart of the urban sphere, at the very centre of the city and, above all, to be in the primary setting for contemporary art, the Haut Marais district of Paris.

How did you rethink this new space?
We chose to distribute the 87 galleries present at the Carreau du Temple on several different levels. The glass roof is reserved for those who have exhibited during several previous editions, whilst the lower level is dedicated to a section entitled “Initial”, which highlights the 19 galleries exhibiting with us for the first time. In terms of the young galleries, we chose to place them in a section named “Fresh” in the Espace Commines, constituting the cultural and institutional aspect of the event. These galleries are all less than four years old, we wish simply to give them a platform to have more visibility with very reasonable prices. The only condition is that they must dedicate 50% of their stand to an artist under 40.

How exactly is the selection made?
Our committee is made up of 6 different important figures within the art world. We received over 200 applications, which we analysed over two different sessions. We make the selection based on a gallery’s overall ability to carry out their project, as well as the quality of the artistic proposal. The reason we ask gallerists to choose an artist under 50 years of age to whom they must dedicate at least a third of their space is because these artists are the very focus of Drawing Now, and the potential prizewinners. We also take into account each gallery’s atmosphere, style, and future prospectives.

What about trends in contemporary drawing?
It is hard to speak of trends, to truly define them. It is even harder to define a typology, given that contemporary drawing is so vast. But I can at least say a couple of things. Drawing has the characteristic of being a laborious form of art, in a brilliant way. It is a finely-tuned form of artistic expression which requires meticulous attention to detail, even in its most minimalist form. I notice during the selection process that there is not much gesture drawing, yet a lot of narrative and abstract and gestural tendencies. But then, that’s just an observation, it is not a deliberate choice on our part.

What differentiates collectors of contemporary drawing from collectors of Old Master Drawings?
What they definitely have in common is an intimate relationship with the works, which is very particular to drawing. I’ve used a saying for this for about thirty years now: I like to say that drawing is the depiction of thoughts spoken aloud. In terms of Old Master drawings, collectors really have a relationship with the long, documented history of the works. On the other hand, for contemporary drawings, the collector works alongside, and even before the creation of this story. Each collector writes his own page in the history of drawing. Two sorts of profile can be distinguished: the young collectors who are starting their collector career in drawing, and then those seasoned collectors of contemporary art. Both equally appreciate drawing; however you rarely find collectors who exclusively collect contemporary drawing. As for me, I have a real passion for drawing, and then, collecting is a sort of indulgence. I do know a little bit about it…

On making a great impression at Art Paris: interview with Liu Bolin

Paris, 26 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

With a focus on China this year, Art Paris is showcasing the work of the artist Liu Bolin, whose monumental sculpture Iron fist is to greet visitors to the Grand Palais. The work, 3,600 metres in height and weighing 700 tonnes, is to be positioned just in front of the Parisian landmark. Art Media Agency met with Liu Bolin, whose contribution to art – in particular his photographs, in which he merges into the background – have afforded him significant acclaim and recognition in the art world.

What are your links with France?
My work has been presented in France for several years now. November 2006 heralded the first exhibition of my work in a Parisian gallery, the Galerie Bertin-Toublanc.

How did you organise the collaboration with Art Paris?
The first version of the Iron fist was made in 2006 and the Galerie Paris-Beijing [who is displaying Liu Bolin's work on its stand at the fair] has enabled me to display the work today. I have already presented other examples of this work, but not in such an important setting. This version has been produced specially for the fair. The work carries the slogan which represents Beijing and the city’s spirit: “Patriotism, innovation, integration and virtue”. These ideals are very important in China and provide people with a lifeline – the fist in the work represents my own fist, and therefore my own ideals and protection.

What did you want to express through the creation of this work?
I lived through the Cultural Revolution as a child, an experience which made a great impression on me. Thirty years down the line, I still consider the impact of this significant event on the social condition. I’m asking, what changes have taken place?

With this in mind, does the work take a critical approach?
I wouldn’t say that it is critical, but more an opportunity for reflection and consideration.

You are famous for your photographic series; do you have plans to develop in this medium?
Ever since I was a student I have concentrated my artistic efforts on sculpture because I am particularly fond of this medium. For this reason, I hope to develop my artistic exploration across both platforms: they are simply two different ways of expressing ideas.
That said, I remain open to the prospect of trying new mediums in the future.

Do you consider your photographs as complementary to your performance art, in constructing narratives of the event, or solely a photographic, aesthetic work?
That’s a good question! The first performance, ide in the City no 02, Suojia Village, was produced after my workshop was destroyed, serving as a way for me to express my feelings following the traumatic event. At the time, I felt like my body had disappeared along with the workspace. In an ethereal sense, I felt intrinsically linked with the event.
Photography serves as a method to retain an image of the performance – it is a unique medium.

You don’t think that the aesthetic aspect of photography is crucial?
It is of course important, but it is not the central aspect.

How has your artistic practice evolved towards different subjects? What message are you hoping to present?
Every one of my works has stemmed from a foundation of interrogation, a question posed by the system. I address the various different problems which China is currently facing. I am interested in the human condition, the links between man and his social environment. The work in which I presented a supermarket was a representation of the overwhelming concern in modern-day China with regards to food safety, which cannot be assured in today’s climate.

With this in mind, there is a strong element of social discussion in your work. Do you think that a gathering of Chinese artists under one common aim can bring about a wider change?
It provides an opportunity for reflection, which is overwhelmingly positive.

How do you feel about your commercial success?
I am an artist; I don’t dwell on this aspect.

Can you tell us about future exhibitions?
In April my work is to be exhibited in London, as well as two exhibitions in September – in Paris at Galerie Paris-Beijing and New York at Eli Klein Fine Art. There has also been a suggestion of an exhibition in Colombia, which might happen in the future.

Art Paris is here: interview with its Director, Guillaume Piens

Paris, 26 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Moving further eastwards in its choice of honoured guest after last year’s focus fell on Russia, Art Paris Art Fair is, this year, to highlight China’s artistic offering as the focal point of its 2014 edition. With the representation of around 140 galleries from twenty participating countries, the fair, which caters to a wide audience, promises to further strengthen links between France and China. A matter of hours before the fair’s official opening, Art Media Agency met with the fair’s Director, Guillaume Piens, to hear his opinion on this year’s edition.

Could you introduce the ethos of Art Paris Art Fair 2014; is the selection committee the same as the previous edition?
This year Diane Lahumière joins our selection committee for the fair’s Modern section. For this edition, the ratio of new galleries to those more frequently represented at art fairs has increased, rising to a 43% representation. As well as this, the fair’s international representation has greatly increased, now matching the number of French galleries with its international offering of 50%.
The event is broadening its focus to incorporate a much larger international clientele. It aims to retain a thread of coherency whilst simultaneously developing an in-depth study of Eastern art. This is a necessary move given that, to succeed in a climate where art fairs are growing exponentially in number, it is imperative that Art Paris Art Fair stands out. That said, more than ever, it’s now important for a fair to remain faithful to its local and regional landscape, because visitors from overseas expect a typically “French” atmosphere when they have travelled for hours to have this experience. Lots of fairs today have a predisposition to ceaselessly present the same galleries and artists who conform to a particular stereotype. For us, the objective is not to remain firmly rooted in one aspect, but to represent an objectivity towards art which is represented across the board in our event.
We take a thematic approach to the fair’s structure which gives us the freedom to take a much more in-depth look at particular subjects, these themes serving to create links which are complementary, rather than supplementary. This takes various forms: an emphasis on contemporary design and young galleries – “Promises” – who have existed for fewer than five years, to whom we supplement 50% of the cost of the stall and for whom the opportunity to be represented at the Grand Palais is a real boost. To continue the thematic element further, Art Books Librairie Flammarion focuses on books and art publication, as well as book binding. The final and most intrinsic element to our thematic approach is the spotlight on a country. We don’t focus solely on the galleries in this particular country, but take a much broader approach which looks at French Contemporary Art collections which show a strong Chinese influence. We have an installation by Zhang Ding which promises to be a major work, a biennial-worthy creation, as well as a lecture with Karen Smith and Uli Sigg, major players on the Chinese scene. There will also be performances by Li Wei, Wang Kai Cheng and Yigal Ozeri who are connected to Galerie Dukan. A major work by Liu Bolin is, for its part, to welcome visitors in front of the Grand Palais.

How did you go about forging the link with China?
It has been a long preparatory journey which we have been working on for some considerable time. It is not an opportunistic partnership and was not originally linked to this year’s celebrations of fifty years of diplomatic relations between France and China. China is a popular topic of artistic discovery and consideration at the moment – the Armory Show placed a focus on China – but we chose it as our accent because it represents a decisive shift in our concentration on the Asian art scene. For its part, China’s artistic landscape has undergone significant re-evaluation in recent years and no longer merits the dated opinions held by many, who still associate contemporary Chinese art with its cultural past. Given this, it is even more interesting to discuss the new generation of artists who were born in the 1960s and 1970s and who have no personal experience of the 1950s, a decade which consolidated Chinese art as a mix of propaganda images, political slogans and a Pop aesthetic which is wholly discordant with the current artistic offering.
We are representing a broad cross-section of Chinese galleries, some of which are historic in their foundation: Xin Dong Cheng Gallery (Beijing), 10 Chancery Lane Gallery (Hong Kong), ifa gallery (Brussels, Shanghai); but also two of the most well-renowned photography galleries: M97 Gallery (Shanghai) and Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong), which highlight the role of new media on the Chinese scene. We are also proud to present, for the first time internationally, Red Bridge Gallery (Shanghai), which is a big name in China. We want to show a plethora of structures: in “Promises” we have ON/gallery (Beijing) and Jaili Gallery (Beijing), both new galleries. We are also welcoming Feizi Gallery Shanghai I Brussels (Brussels) which is one of the most advanced galleries on the Chinese scene in terms of performance.
There is an incredible energy to be felt – a real boom; the galleries are immense structures, and it is an artistic scene to rival that of New York.
The procedure behind the link saw us initiate a discourse with its bases in co-operation and communication. We are representing a small part of a strong link between China and Paris which is historical in its foundation and is very important for both countries. Art Paris Art Fair is representing one element of a city-wide appreciation of the Franco-Chinese link: the Musée Cernuschi (Paris) has invited Chinese artists to show their collections during the fair, and the exhibition “Plural Modernities” – which is currently taking place at the Centre Pompidou – illustrates the initial offerings and discoveries of Chinese artists who arrived in Paris in 1911, following the Chinese Revolution. Their work took elements of Western Modernism and created a refreshingly new style. Since then, there has been a successive wave of Chinese artists who have chosen Paris as their base from which to create art. With this in mind, I think that there is a real story to tell. It is not an opportunistic project by any stretch of the imagination.

Have you already decided on the country you want to focus on next year?
We have lots of ideas – I can’t say any more right now – but the focus will not move from the East. We want to assert our status as a European fair which takes a broader look at Eastern countries. However, taking into account our European foundation, there are some areas which are of particular interest to us: we want to consider the Balkans, Central Europe and Russia. There is a European base which is very important, and we are a Modern Art fair, so this year there is a significant representation of Abstraction, Geometric art, Optical art and Kinetic art. This year, we have noticed a significant Russian-Chinese presence, with around ten Russian galleries returning off the back of last year’s representation. We have now formed a link with Russia, which will most likely happen with China and with whichever countries we choose to highlight in the coming years. We want to create a narrative which is intrinsically ours, and not complementary or supplementary.

What are your targets concerning visitor numbers?
We hope to attract more than 50,000 people, but we are also committed to increasing our professional representation. This has manifested itself in a qualitative effort which we are calling “Springtime in Paris”: a VIP programme which has so far proved very successful. The programme gives exclusive access to visiting collectors who, at the rate of four a day, have the opportunity to discover the fair from a totally unique perspective.

Fairs which focus on drawing, such as Drawing Now and the Salon du Dessin 2014, run in parallel with Art Paris Art Fair. Does this plethora of fairs engender an element of competition?  
Definitely! I think that, on a global basis, it is essential that Paris is able to present visitors from abroad with an extensive programme of events which represent the variety on offer. Visitors have a limited amount of time and we must continue to develop our offering so as to give them the ultimate choice when they arrive in Paris. Our status as a general-interest fair, surrounded by three niche fairs, is a real asset to Paris. To really capitalise on this, we must go further, and we must create a synergy between the fairs.

What trends have you noticed this year?
Amongst several noteworthy trends, I have made particular note of the re-emergence of Geometric Abstraction which takes a variety of forms, such as Optical and Kinetic art. These movements are characterised by their links to young artists, who bring new light to the genres. Art Brut is also noticeably present – being shown by three galleries – which cements its status as a strongly institutionalised art form. There is also a re-examination of the 1980s, a return to painting, to the Neo-Expressionist movements, and to the new Roman school with Pizzi Cannelle and Gianni Dessi. Finally, there promises to be a great focus on photography.

A “bold step”: Robilant + Voena on mixing Fontana with Canaletto

Maastricht, 21 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

A little unusual amongst the stands at TEFAF, Robilant + Voena presented works by both Old Masters and contemporary Italian artists – merging the shared specialisms of its London and Milan galleries. Golden-brown Renaissance works were displayed alongside pieces by Lucio Fontana, Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi, with the stand examining the canvas as both the surface of an artist’s work, and its substance. Art Media Agency briefly spoke to Co-Director Edmondo di Robilant:

Your stand at TEFAF is one of very few which has selected to merge Old Masters with modern Italian artists.
It’s something we’ve been doing quite often at other fairs, though perhaps not in such a mixed way. Previously we’ve tended to have somewhat separate areas but, because we were strictly in the Old Masters section until last year, and have just moved here (the gallery’s stand is located at the cross-section between Old Masters and Modern and Contemporary), we’ve felt able to mix a bit more. In the old days, you were allowed to bring three or four things which weren’t specifically of your domain: we were always known as Old Masters dealers, and mostly stuck to this section. We took this bold step of mixing old and contemporary Italian, taking very high quality works from each period. People have been very polite about the stand – whether out of politeness or truth [laughs].

It’s seems quite daring to pair a Fontana with a Canaletto – but there seems to be some coherence in the colours of the works, which somewhat find their echo in one another.
We’re quite lucky in that we’ve got the Grechetto that’s predominantly blue and red, along with a blue Fontana and a red Bonalumi. There’s also a Scheggi that goes quite nicely. There’s quite a nice nuance of colours, and that’s probably why it works quite well. The Castellani is probably one of the best examples of his work out there, and the Bonalumi, which is from 1964, and is one of the largest, most complicated compositions he ever did – they’re kind of at the top of their game for what they are.

And is this very much the curatorial approach you take in your London or Milan gallery?
Not really, no. In Milan we have Contemporary or Modern exhibitions depending on what time of year it is. If there are Modern sales, we exhibit modern stuff – if Old Masters, Old Masters. But we’re on two floors in London, so will sometimes have modern upstairs and Old Masters downstairs – but we don’t mix them quite so clearly. But here (at TEFAF), one wants to make a bit of a statement: you’re in front of twenty other stands that all look the same, you’ve got to think of something that slightly sets you apart.

Have you had a lot of people at your stand?
Yesterday was super busy, with munchers and drinkers. But there were, amongst them, lots of clients. There were almost too many people yesterday. As far as I can tell – and I don’t know if it’s because we’ve changed places or whatever – but it seemed to me that there must have been at least – if not double the people of last year – certainly an increase of 30-40%. But I may have been wrong!  They may have just been concentrated here and not going anywhere else – it will be interesting to see.

Do you have plans to take part in any other events?
Oh my God [laughs], there’s Masterpiece, Frieze Masters, MIAT Milan, we’ve just come back from Miami where we did art and design, we do the Salon: Art + Design in New York, the Biennale in Florence – you name it. We’ve done the Biennale in Paris for years and years, but I’m going to dump it this year. It’s been slightly overtaken by bijouterie, Chanel and Dior, so I’m sort of slightly fed up with it.

The future of art in the public space: interview with Baixo Ribeiro, founder of Choque Cultural

São Paulo (Brazil), 21 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

AMA had the pleasure of meeting up with former architect Baixo Ribeiro, founder of the Choque Cultural gallery in São Paulo. He talks to us about the emergence of new art trends and the future of art in the public space.

Could you give us a little bit of background behind yourself and the gallery?
I founded Choque Cultural ten years ago in 2004, with my wife Mariana Martins. At the time our son was working with tattoo artists – we could see that he was very talented but needed a platform in order to reach an audience in what was a very narrow-minded art market. So we created the space in order to educate and open avenues for presenting new and different art in public spaces, allowing youngsters to express themselves; we wanted to realise a new generation of art, both in terms of creating and collecting it. Soon we had a large following of talented artists, experimenting with new language such as graffiti and tattoo art.

How did you go about it, was it a difficult process to reach where you are now?
It took a complex dialogue with different players – museums, schools and sponsorships – to facilitate the different public art projects. Alongside, building a new circle of collectors around the gallery was important in order to provide the artists with sustainability. It is very difficult here because the market is very limited, so the priority has been to find a way of financing great works of art on the street, including graffiti art.

Was graffiti art always the principal focus for the gallery?
Yes and no. Graffiti art and urban art in general form part of the public art system so it did fall within the original vision ten years ago. But our principal focus has always been around education and the support of emerging art forms, whatever these may be. In short, to provide a means of approaching art in a public space and providing the necessary sustainability for artists used to working as “outsiders” on the street.

Ten years on, what are your ideas for future projects?
Choque Cultural continues to change and we decided to found an Educational Institute Initiative to run alongside it – not exactly a school, but a way to amplify the dialogue we started with the gallery. We wanted to create a new non-profit way to promote more public art, to change a system of art space which is still very rigid and closed off towards experimental and new ideas. For the future, I would like to define the commercial relationship between young artists and galleries differently. We have just started creating new and smaller spaces in downtown São Paulo that will function in the same way as Choque Cultural. These will hopefully be places where we can present different artists and movements in order to help artists grow professionally through a process of commercialisation. In turn, I hope this will generate energy in the art market.

Is your primary focus supporting emerging Brazilian artists?
Not just Brazilian artists, no – I have a very strong exchange project for young artists all over the world, having exhibited more than 200 artists from abroad. North American, Asian, European… I believe it is very important for all artists to exchange ideas because that is what makes them grow, not only as artists, but as collectors. Aside from Choque Cultural”and the new project in downtown São Paulo, I am looking to introduce projects in Buenos Aires and Lisbon next year.

How do you envisage the future of art?
I have a very clear idea about art in the future. The young generations have a different outlook on creating, financing, dealing and collecting art; I think they think more about art in the context of their community. They like to promote lifestyles that are linked with their communities. I learned this with the skateboarding clothing line that I was involved with, and having a 27-year-old son really makes me understand the generational change: youngsters have art in their homes, even if it is “low” art like posters, prints, stickers, etc. These days everybody loves to collect; the “richness” of art is shifting and I think we are provoking a rupture within the art system, generation after generation. In the future I think we will see more art intervention; visual art will be more and more inter-disciplinary, interlinked with architecture and urbanism. I believe art in the public space is where the future is, because art is very important to mobilise and inspire people.

And what about the question of financing public art?
I think in the future it will be very different because the basis of collecting is changing with the young generations. I am very interested in exploring how to finance art in the public space; I am convinced that it is possible. I am sure too that the large institutions such as museums and schools are realising that they need to have a dialogue with the new generations and grow with these people. It is very gradual; the current art market that concentrates on things such as high-value paintings is changing to concentrate on something more distributable, providing opportunities for different types of collectors. There are several young collectors who want to publicly exhibit their collections for the community.

The 31st Bienal de São Paulo is coming up in September, entitled “How to talk about things that don’t exist”. Is there any chance that Choque Cultural will attend?
We are trying to create a project in the public space, not officially as part of the biennial but running parallel to it, providing a kind of experience that simulates walking on the street – effectively a guided tour around our downtown exhibition spaces.

Interview with Jacques Billen, director of the Harmakhis Gallery in Brussels

Maastricht, 21 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

An unmissable event in the international art calendar, the 2014 edition of TEFAF in Maastricht unveils some of the best works of art currently on the market to the public between 14 and 23 March. Jacques Billen, founder and director of the Galerie Harmakhis based in Brussels, specialising in Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, shares his expertise and point of view in an exclusive interview with Art Media Agency on 14 March, during the fair’s opening.

TEFAF 2014 has just opened. What are your first impressions?
Right now, I feel fairly positive. But TEFAF is a well-established institution, so there are hardly any surprises there. You find the same exhibitors year on year, even if this year there is a notable selection of hand-picked newcomers.

Have you already received interest from collectors?
It is still too early to have a concrete idea of what is to come. The opening exhibition of TEFAF is a very sociable event. Affluence is prevalent. In fact, the inauguration is a victim of its own success in this sense. In my domain — archaeology — we have more success the second and third days as the collectors are more at ease and can take their time to browse and discuss the works.

In your opinion, what are the main characteristics of TEFAF?
I have 15 years’ worth of experience at TEFAF and have personally exhibited there for six years now, so I would consider myself an expert on the event. What characterises this large, wonderful fair is its consistency. Something of which you can always be certain. It is an entirely unique event in the art world, both in terms of the number of quality exhibitions to be found and thanks to the strong concentration of exceptional works of art. That is why I would say TEFAF is the queen of art fairs…

You recently exhibited at BRAFA in Brussels. That’s quite a lot of fairs in a short stretch of time… 
Brussels offers a plethora of opportunities for dealers, both as a result of its geographical location and its history. But BRAFA must develop, grow and improve in certain aspects. The question is knowing how it should define itself and set itself apart. Already one ideal thing would be to make sure there is more time between TEFAF and BRAFA (NB: BRAFA took place in Brussels from 25 January to 2 February 2014).  There is far too short a time period between the two fairs. And overall I would say that BRAFA lacks momentum.

Is there a definitive type of collector present at TEFAF ?
No, I wouldn’t say there is any singular type. But two main tendencies definitely emerge: on the one hand, those collectors in search of specific objects to complete their collection. And on the other, those who just follow their instinct.

How about you, how do you choose what objects to buy?
I only buy objects if I am passionate about them and if they are to my taste. I do not buy with a view to meeting a specific demand from a collector for example. Especially as, if you find an object that seems to meet the specific criteria, there will always be a little something which is not quite right. It will be too big or not big enough, not from the right period or not made out of the right material. In the end it’s like when someone tries to choose a tie for you. You politely say “thank you”, but you know that it is not quite what you want and you prefer to choose yourself!

Do you also sell to institutions? 
It’s true that certain antiques dealers have made their career thanks to museums. I have also sold objects to museums but, personally, what gives me the greatest joy in my job is finding certain objects for a second time on the market, sometimes years later. After I founded the gallery in 1988 in Sablon (the antiques neighbourhood in Brussels), I had the wonderful experience of finding certain objects on the market which in the past had been sold by my father.

What are the highlights of your exhibition at TEFAF ?
There is of course this superb pair of door knockers in ivory, decorated with the head of the Goddess Hathor, from the period of the New Empire, dating from the 18th dynasty (NB: Ancient Egypt, around 1532-1292 BC). Or even a fragment of a clepsydra belonging to Alexander the Great which could be identified thanks to inventory work published in a Belgian review dealing with Egyptology, likening it to three other fragments kept in the British Museum, the Louvre and in Berlin.

Do you have a favourite work in your collection?
Yes, I have a very strong soft spot for a statuette dating from the Middle Empire which belonged to a colleague. In fact, I had noticed it in a catalogue about twenty years ago but I missed the auction.  And then, when I was vetting an exhibition, I suddenly came across it! I had only ever seen it in a catalogue but there, when it was in front of me, I didn’t hesitate for a second! That’s the advantage we have during the vetting process — we have the opportunity to discover all the marvels first.

Documenting the human condition: interview with Roger Ballen

Johannesburg, 20 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Roger Ballen is an American photographer who has lived in South Africa since the 1970s. Having studied geology and psychology, he has produced a body of work in black and white which resolutely cannot be defined by any movement or trend. His photography presents a universe that is at once disturbing and fascinating, highlighting various flaws in the “rainbow nation”. In his new book, Asylum of the Birds, to be released at the end of the month, the artist takes us to a place that is as extraordinary as it is frightening, where birds and humans become one within Ballen’s powerful and dark compositions. Art Media Agency spoke to Ballen, who gave us a deeper insight into this world.

Could you introduce your new book and explain how the project came about?
Asylum of the Birds will be released at the end of the month, a project that I’ve worked on for about five or six years in Johannesburg. It’s a book containing 91 photographs, mostly taken during the period 2008-2013, all with a black-and-white film camera in this house near Johannesburg.

Graffiti and drawings are constants in your work, but in the last few years they become (with animals)  protagonists in your pictures. In your last video, Asylum of the Birds, you ask a man to draw the shape of a face on the wall.  How do you decide who is going to draw, and do you ever participate?
It’s almost impossible to know, because every picture is very different. Sometimes when I go to the place, there are drawings on the wall already, and sometimes we have to take off drawings. Sometimes I know the way that certain people draw, sometimes I say to five or ten people, “Just draw a picture of a bird,” or, “Draw a picture of a dog.” Sometimes, the pictures are solely my works. It’s never the same for each picture – it’s such a mixture of everything and there is no set rule. I have to work with the drawings, and they are a step in the picture. Sometimes the drawings come at the end of the photo, sometimes they start right at the beginning. But the difficult thing is that the drawing doesn’t make the photograph. If you look at the history of photography and people documenting graffiti, for example, that was exactly what it was, a documentary – like what Brassaï did, documenting graffiti in Paris. I used the drawings to create another level, an additional layer of meaning within other meanings within the photographs – so the drawings have a multi-dimensional purpose.

Could you explain about the birds – was it difficult to take photographs of birds while they were moving?
The symbolism associated with birds spans a great diversity of cultures. They’re creatures which link the heavens with Earth; they’re signs of peace, signs of beauty, signs of something which is above the human condition. I think in every culture you go to, birds have the same archetypal meaning, and these birds then come into contact with the Roger Ballen world through The Asylum of the Birds world, and the metaphor of the photo is then created.

We interpret your work as a journey in search of your own language. I believe you were inspired from some of the most important photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt or Paul Strand, but are always trying to speak through an experimental language that is completely unique. But can we still see a reference to Surrealism? Parallels could be drawn between the Surrealist video Un Chien andalou and your Asylum of the Birds, particularly in the scene with the cutting of the eyes: did you try to find a relation with this, or is it just how we have interpreted it?
I’m aware of these films and what Dalí did, but everything in my work has really come about through working with the people and the place in my imagination. I don’t really have any interest in trying to be surrealistic, I just work according to my own rules. Obviously I’ve been exposed to art history and I see a lot of art, and I’m not actually sure what art means anymore – a lot of people call themselves artists and I don’t even know why they would even want to use that word anymore. I work according to my own aesthetic, my own rules, my own intuition, my own conscious mind. I’m not really inspired by anybody’s work, I just find my own meaning in what I do.
I guess there was something that came out of Surrealism and the eyes, but I didn’t start specifically looking around Johannesburg for a man who had a glass eye to take out. I had known the man for many years in the Asylum of the Birds house, and had seen him take the glass eye out of his head a number of times, so I thought this would be an interesting thing to incorporate in the movie.

There are some references to the past and to big photographers in your work, but in the end your language is completely unique and experimental.
I would say that the biggest inspiration for me is to look at a blank wall. To create something from nothing is the whole aspect of life. Life comes from nowhere, it comes from the dark, as I said at the end of the film. Life comes from nothingness.

At the beginning of Asylum of the Birds, you say that you define yourself as a photographer and artist. Do you think that there is always a huge debate between photography and art?
There could be a lot of painters that aren’t artists. Just because someone is using oil paint,  that doesn’t mean they are an artist. An artist is actually somebody who transforms the world in a visionary way: to me, that’s what an artist is. There aren’t very many true artists that I see in contemporary art, and in my opinion most contemporary art doesn’t transform the world in a meaningful way. It uses repetitive concepts that don’t go very deep.

Your images often feature dark and disturbing qualities. Did you use this as a way to attract people’s attention?
No, I don’t take pictures for anybody except Roger Ballen. I’m not interested in trying to figure out how people are going to react, when people say one thing, I’ll never know if they actually mean it. I’m not interested in taking pictures for anybody except myself. I hope that the pictures will help people to better understand themselves, that they’ll have meaning for other people and contribute to other people’s lives, but honestly, there are 7 billion people on the planet, and I really have no idea how the pictures will affect people in any way. My show that’s on at the moment in Stockholm is called “Roger Ballen’s Theater of the Absurd”, so I feel that there is a lot of comedy, humour and absurdity in the photographs as well. When people say the pictures are dark, I would say that means that they’re scared of themselves. Why are they so dark? Usually it’s because people haven’t been able to confront themselves in any way.

Looking chronologically at your work, you started by taking portraits of people, and now there is a certain disappearance of the body and the human portrait. The protagonists here are the birds, and, more generally, the ambience of the photo, with maybe some parts of the human body featuring. Did you plan this transformation, or did your language gradually evolve?
The transformation occurred over thirty or forty years. My last show, “Lines, Marks and Drawings” at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., shows the development of the drawing over the past thirty or forty years. It happened gradually – it didn’t happen all of a sudden. The inspiration or idea came about when I worked in people’s homes, where people are allowed to draw on the walls or make marks on the walls. So I took pictures and then I used the lines, marks and drawings in people’s homes as part of the photographs. That was really the beginning of the process.

Did you know the people that you photographed in the boarding house in Asylum of the Birds?
Yes, I spent five years in a boarding house, and if you’re in a place for five years, you get to know most of the people. Some people come and go, and sometimes they stay there for the whole time, so you have to get to know the people. For them to trust you and like you you have to develop a relationship with them, otherwise you’re not going to survive in those kinds of places. If you don’t know how to operate in the kind of places I’ve worked in, within five minutes, you’re out. People don’t want to work in these kinds of places – they’re bad places, they’re unstable, they’re full of people who are running away. They’re violent places: there’s a lot of criminality, people who are psychologically unstable, and there’s a lot of poverty. So if you don’t know how to operate and you don’t know how to get along with and work with people, you’re unlikely to last longer than a day.

Your first work, like Dorps and Platteland, revealed the hidden side of white society during the last period of apartheid. The images opened up a deep wound in the country, and your work received lots of criticism. What do you envisage for the future of South Africa? How do you see the evolution of white society after apartheid and now?
The first thing is that I am not a politician: I never have, never was and never will want to be a socio-political photographer. My viewpoint has always been psychological, and that’s why a lot of the pictures are so strong, and over the years have had an impact on people’s subconscious. Fundamentally, they are psychological images that deal with the human condition, the subconscious, the imagination, and the other side of the mind. I would never want to say that my opinions on social and political problems have any real influence on what I do. I don’t really want to get overly involved with politics – for me it’s a waste of the time and energy that I have left on this planet. The only politics that I’m interested in are the politics of the mind: how one part of the mind speaks to the other part of the mind, how one part dominates the other part, how one part of the mind reveals itself to another part, how one part subjugates the other. That’s what I’m interested in, how the mind talks to itself – the politics of the mind, not the politics of South Africa. I’m not naive – I have degrees in psychology and geology, and I’m a well-educated person – but my energy has to be geared towards the issues that are most relevant to me, which means the psychology of the mind, the psychology of my own existence, and the psychology of the human condition.

It’s really interesting to see how you work under a lot of criticism from the society of the time. Is politics always innately a part of art?
It’s a nature of this society, and unfortunately people can’t see beyond that, and the media can’t see beyond it. Even in contemporary art, most of the art magazines and art newspapers are about the celebrity artists. Most of the business of producing and selling art has, in my mind, been completely diverted, and the spirit and poetry of art has been lost somewhere in the last twenty years. It has all become quite an obscene business.

You moved to South Africa thirty years ago to become an artist. Do you think you would have become an artist if you had stayed in the United States?
You know, I really couldn’t say – I could have become the next Bill Gates [laughs], I could have become the next Picasso, and I could have never taken another photograph. We don’t know what could have been, it’s impossible to know. Everything in life is so circumstantial, one thing leads to the next, which leads to the next, which leads to the next. It’s like the human body: it’s made up of billions and billions of cells. Human life is made up of endless sequential experiences – speaking to you now, I don’t know where that will lead, it may lead me one place or another, who knows.

You have had great commercial success as an artist. What are your views on the art market today, and how your works feature inside this market?
I think the art market is an extremely complex business, it’s not like other sectors which are fairly easy to quantify. It’s very driven by fashion, by taste, by celebrity, by timing, by certain people who have a lot of money – so it’s not an easy business to analyse. I think it’s almost beyond analysis in some ways. You look at certain pictures like photographs that might sell for $2 million, but have certain fundamental compositional problems within it, and then you’ll see a really great photograph that can’t fetch more than $1,000 at auction. I don’t know why a Damien Hirst picture of dots that he didn’t even make sells for millions of dollars, and why a great painting or photograph, in my mind, can’t even sell. I don’t even begin to understand how it works: as I say I think it’s dominated by fashion and wealthy people. All you can do is try to produce the best works you can, try to get people to see it, do your best to promote it, and sometimes it takes off and sometimes it doesn’t.

Would you see yourself as a photographer inside the South African photography tradition, like Santu Mofokeng or David Goldblatt? Or do you prefer to be an outsider?
I don’t see myself at all within any tradition here. I really haven’t had any contact with these people – in fact, some of them have caused problems for me because they have been so politically oriented, so I really don’t have any relationship to any of these photographers. A lot of the younger people really look up to me and appreciate what I’m doing, and people endlessly want to study with me and work with me. People like David Goldblatt and people in that group still see me as a threat, because David didn’t like what I did in earlier times, and doesn’t understand what I’m doing now, so I really have kind of stayed out of the whole photography scene here. I work very hard on a foundation, whose purpose is to promote the understanding and education of photography in South Africa. I’ve dedicated time, energy and money to this, to publicly recognising photography as an art form.

The situation in South Africa right now is changing on a political and social level. Do you still want to live there?
I don’t really like the way the world’s run anywhere, but it’s because of human problems, not political ones. It’s human beings which cause the problems, and human beings are what they are. The worst atrocities in the whole history of humanity have been in Europe, fifty or sixty years ago. What the people in Europe did was terrible, and what America did in Vietnam was terrible, and what Russia is doing in Ukraine now is also terrible, and what Rwanda does in the Congo is also terrible. That’s the world we live in and it’s never been any different, and probably never will be in my opinion. There is no utopia: you have to find truth, work hard and find meaning in your own way. This country has problems, but as far as I’ve seen everywhere else also has problems which relate to the human factor. If I had my way, I would love to live in a place which had a beautiful sea I could go diving in every day, and there would be nice, green mountains behind me and I could look at the fish and watch the insects fly by me, and I think that would be a pleasant place. But you know, whenever you’re living in big cities with a lot of human beings around, you run into these similar problems. Sometimes they get worse and we have wars, and sometimes they get better and are more peaceful, but human history is just one circle, based on our instincts. South Africa has problems, but it has good things as well.

The earth remembers: interview with the artist Angelika Markul

Paris, 20 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Paris’s Palais de Tokyo is currently exhibiting the work of Angelika Markul in their show “Terre de départ” (Land of departure), which runs until 12 May. Markul’s artistic practice oscillates between video art, sculpture and installation and manifests itself in a broad range of works, including Bambi à Tchernobyl, a project which was made possible following Markul’s success at the prestigious SAM Art Award in 2012. The project took the Chernobyl disaster as its starting point, serving as the creation of a dialogue with memory and time. Art Media Agency met with the Polish artist, who currently resides in Paris, to learn more about her dark and powerful universe in which memory serves to replace the living.

Can you describe your upbringing?
I was born in Poland in the 1970s, at a time when Poland was subjugated to communist rule. At the time, I was already sure of my desire to work in art: I strongly believe that artists are born, not made, and, by the same token, it is impossible to become a great mathematician if you do not have a certain gift.

As a child, I was constantly drawing and painting, but was doing so in a classical style. As my artistic ideas evolved, I began to create stories and simulated the production of a film – but without a camera no less! At an early age I started to take photographs with a Russian camera which belonged to my father, who was constantly telling me off for using up all the rolls of film which were extortionately expensive to develop! I captured images of black-and-white interiors which allowed me to play with the unusual effects that light and shade create. This exploration served as my first foray into the world of art.

At 16, my family and I fled Poland for France, where we arrived as immigrants seeking asylum. My maternal grandparents suffered greatly during the war and a great many of my relatives from that side of the family died from starvation and hypothermia. Taking this traumatic history into account, I embarked on a study of my grandfather’s ancestry. Through my research into this deeply personal project, I learned more about my own roots, as well as scratching at the surface of a deeply-engrained memory. My progress was severely hampered by missing paperwork, which had been burned as a result of the growing racism towards the Polish populate at this time.

Once in France, I assumed the status of immigrant, living among other people who shared my situation. I had significant difficulty in learning French, and struggled to find my status in this new country. Despite my innate knowledge that art would guide and support me, there was no easy way onto the course that I had such a burning desire to follow. Let me share with you an anecdote on this subject: social assistants were assigned to groups of immigrants, like mine, in order to provide professional guidance. At every meeting I had with her, she would suggest that I followed a career path of cook or seamstress, jobs which were traditionally considered to be female pursuits. I would repeat in vain that my intention was, and always had been, to go to art school, despite my uncertainty over exactly what it was. The social assistant was adamant that I would never be successful in my art school application; a sentiment which ignited my passion to succeed in a profession which I felt was fundamentally shut off to me. I finally achieved my ambition when I joined the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris (ENSBA).

How does the journey you describe manifest itself in your current artistic output?
I am interested in the earth, man’s effect on nature and nature’s effect on man: concepts which are intrinsically fragile. I also create my own mythology, through inventing stories which are inspired by real events. This includes stories which take science as their basis.

The work N’oublie pas was influenced by a book belonging to my grandfather, translated from Russian into French, which inspired a film about the journey between Poland and Belarus. I shot the film in black-and-white, heavily reworking the images and incorporating unusual sounds.

Of the same token, Bambi à Tchernobyl also serves as a kind of recollection. As a child, I experienced the trauma of several members of my family falling ill and I was witness to great suffering. This experience led me to develop an interest in the absence of a person, how nature takes its course and how, after such great suffering, a human being ceases to exist.

In 2012 you were awarded the SAM Art Award for the work Bambi à Tchernobyl; what effect has the prize had on your work?
Without the money provided by the prize, I could not have produced such a costly, complicated film and I am incredibly grateful for the financial support which this afforded me. At the time, I had the preconceived notion that it was the right time for me to make the film, before the shocking events currently taking place in Ukraine began. It wasn’t an easy task, because we had to jump through a great number of hoops put in place by the authorities before we could even begin to produce the film. I had already written a script before going to the film’s location, but once I got there I realised that this script had no resonance with my own relationship to the location, and therefore forgot it. It became apparent that I had underestimated the location’s power, which had a deeply troubling effect upon me. In addition, the work was made more difficult by the cold and the snow, not to mention the constant surveillance by members of the security services, whose presence marked every move of the project – they even slept next to us. All these factors considered, we had to produce the film with exceptional speed, as it really took its toll both physically and emotionally.

As for the finished work, it becomes apparent that the road is the film’s main focus, becoming a symbol of tragedy. Although I originally wanted to film the piece myself, I soon realised that it had a momentum of its own, which manifests itself in the circular movements throughout the work. Franck Krawczyk, a young French composer, created a six-minute symphony to accompany the film: it was a partnership which I greatly appreciated and one which resulted in the creation of a powerful soundtrack which punctuates the film’s silence.

Why did you decide to move towards video art?
My original interest was in photography, but I gradually became bored by this medium and found that it no longer suited me as an artist. Progressively, the flatness of photography came into conflict with my ideas and it became clear that my artistic practice was much better suited to video art. In 2000, while I was at the Beaux-Arts, I began to create models which I could incorporate into my own films. The work which was presented in 2005 at the Fondation Cartier, Ma Nature, used these models, which seemed out of place given the level at which I was working and at which my work was being shown. From this moment on, I wanted to replace these models with real sets, creating a synthesis between film and sculpture.

Could you explain the links between video art, scenography and sculpture?
Taking into account the majority of my work, it is impossible to imagine the videos without scenography: the two media work in tandem and ensure that each is more effective than on its own. In Bambi à Tchernobyl, the viewer has a multifarious experience which doesn’t comprise a video alone, but is exaggerated by sculpture. I consider architecture to be one of my passions, and through producing this film I was able to reconnect with the landscapes of my childhood: I lived in a similar building to the one which is shown in the film. The metaphorical presence of totalitarian structures constructed after the disaster reinforces the message that I wanted to create in the film. Of the same token, the objects and wax which create the installations are evocative of the objects I have found along my journey, appearing across the snow.

In more general terms, I want to see each location as an experience. Whilst I was a student, Christian Bernard taught me that the artist’s positioning of a work and its situation within a space is of equal importance to the work itself. If I have a space, I want to use it to its full potential. At the Palais de Tokyo, the five pieces work in harmony to create one stand-alone work: my goal is to create a universe which centres on a coherent journey.

What has been the public response so far to the exhibition?
The exhibition represents the first time the Parisian public has had the opportunity to discover my work, as all my previous exhibitions have taken place in Poland. Regardless of location, the visiting public seems to always be shocked by my art; I think that constant surprise is a good trait in an artist’s work as it prevents it from becoming boring. In terms of my own relationship to my artistic output, I am ceaselessly looking for new ways to advance my work. Essentially, I am never satisfied, and as soon as I see a finished product I am convinced that I could have done better: it is this eternal dissatisfaction which sparks my constant artistic creation.

Could you enlighten us as to the differences between the Polish and French art scenes?
Poland is an emerging country where development is of great importance and – despite its relative lack of galleries – it boasts an increasingly dynamic artistic scene. In short, it is a very important centre of creation! Throughout the country we are witnessing the creation of a growing number of new museums, which bodes well for its cultural future. For its part, France has an amazing and powerful history in terms of art: in Poland you might shield a desire to become a figure on the country’s emerging artistic scene, whereas in France you could legitimately express your wish to become one of the artists whose contribution will go down in history.

What are you working on at the moment?
My latest project is very complicated and, for this reason, needs the support of a museum or some form of institution. Galleries don’t interest me in the slightest: galleries rarely possess sufficient means – in terms of space – to enable me to display my work with total freedom. Exhibiting in a private gallery brings with it several requirements, such as selling works, which I have no intention of fulfilling.

Do you have a dream?
My current project is my dream project! In all honesty, it is probably the craziest project I have ever attempted, but it is incredibly complicated in terms of time and money. That said, I sincerely hope that, a year from now, I will have achieved my aim. I don’t want to say any more than that, for the moment at least.

What figures have had the most profound effect on your artistic practice?
In France it has to be Christian Boltanski, my mentor during my studies at the Beaux-Arts. He gave me invaluable advice concerning my work both with recollection and the creation of a memory. Our working practices were simultaneously opposing and complementary; his focus resting upon the human and my own upon nature, a factor which greatly helped me to cultivate my own ideas. I also want to mention Christian Bernard, who for his part aided my technical progression. Together, these two personalities are significant points on my artistic journey; one for my ideas, the other for my technique. Thanks to them, form and substance are at one in my work.

“Art worlds”: Interview with Eleanor Heartney, co-author of ‘The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium’

New York, 19 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium (Prestel, 2013) is the second literary offering from the co-authorship of Eleanor Heartney, Sue Scott, Helaine Posner and Nancy Princenthal, which focuses on women artists’ contribution to 20th-century art from the 1970s onwards. Alongside the first book, After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art, the works form an extensive exploration into the evolving position of women artists, drawing on statistics, exhibitions and art schools. AMA had the opportunity to interview Eleanor Heartney who, for her own part, is an independent cultural critic and author living in New York. Her career has included contributions to numerous publications, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. We asked her for a deeper insight into the main issues raised in the books, and if the team have any future plans.

The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium is your second publication focusing on the influence of women artists in the 20th century. Can you give us a quick overview of the book?
First of all, it’s necessary to talk a bit about the first book (After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art) in order to get to the second book: it was an overview of contemporary artists, looking at twelve women who were doing all manner of work and the book sought to answer a question which was asked many years ago by the art historian, and one of our guiding lights, Linda Nochlin in her landmark essay “Why have there been no great women artists?” Now, there have been! We had a great response to that book, which led us to consider a second publication. The first book was a very broad overview with intensive essays on each of the twelve women artists, and we thought that it would be interesting to look more exclusively at younger women, whose shorter careers meant that the essays were not so extensive. We also wanted to be more international than in the first book, because it was something which we felt was necessary to reflect what was really going on in the contemporary art world. Considering the organisation of the book, we hit on four themes: “Bad Girls”, “Domestic Disturbances”, “History Lessons” and “Spellbound”, two of which were quite personal and internal and the others more social and outward-looking. Given that we all have a background as art historians and curators and we are interested in how feminist art came into prevalence, we wanted to link these women to the groundbreaking women artists of the 1970s, so we came up with the idea of having a godmother image for each of the four chapters, which allows us to talk about the changes which have taken place in the feminist art movement since its emergence in the 70s. This gave us the opportunity to explore the continuities with the past as well as to demonstrate how things are different now. More generally, it was an attempt to figure out where art, not exclusively women in art, is today.

How did you decide on the four chapters?
I’ve always had a great interest in bad girls, so I knew from the outset that I wanted to do this chapter, and each of us took a chapter that we felt in some way very connected to. “Bad Girls” was of particular interest to me because I have long been interested in this paradox of feminism and women’s relationship to their bodies. I wanted to address the possibility of doing work about your body without becoming a part of the male gaze. Women artists, even back in the 70s, were very interested in the tropes of pornography and these transgressive modes, using them as a way to break through a lot of our attitudes about what women’s desire and sense of their own body should be. In some respects there is less controversy in using your body in this more erotic way now than there was in the 70s: a lot of the women artists who did it then got into big trouble. There’s still a backlash, within and outside the art world, and it comes from both liberal and conservative sides. It’s a very potent and interesting issue and it served as a way to explore a lot of other ideas.

The working title for the book was “Taking Control”; why did you decide on this title originally?
We were thinking again about younger women, and we questioned what changes have taken place. The notion of “taking control” was a very optimistic title and as we began to think about it we decided that it wasn’t so clear cut: our statistics continue to prove that, certainly within the wider art world, women are not reaching parity with men. With this in mind, “Taking Control” seemed overly optimistic. We went through a lot of titles, and then finally Helaine [Posner] reminded us that, in Linda Nochlin’s introduction to After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art, she introduced the idea of “after the revolution”. Helaine said, “After the revolution comes the reckoning,” and hence we found our title.

We are seeing an increasing trend for art prizes aimed directly at female artists, such as The MaxMara Art Prize for Women and the Theodora Niemeijer prize. Do you think these prizes are necessary to provide female artists with sufficient exposure?
I do, and I would add another really great prize called Anonymous Was A Woman. People always question the need for an all-women book, show or prize, and that’s one of the main reasons why we collated the statistics, to demonstrate that, despite our preconception that things are improving – which they are overall – they still aren’t as good as you might imagine. In fact, the statistics surprised us; women’s representation hovers around 25-30% in all the major markers. If you look at the US Senate you get these same statistics. That’s why we feel that it is very important to continue to produce this manner of women-orientated activities, because there is clearly still something which is holding women back from parity with men in many of these areas.

How did you collate those statistics?
We had to decide what areas we wanted to look at: in The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium we wanted to look at art schools, because it is often said that the proportion of women coming out of art school to those who go on to succeed in the art world is comparatively low. We analysed major museum shows, galleries and art schools which we felt were representative of the wider trends. We are not scientists, but we did our best to use the statistics in a way which would give the broadest view of what was happening: our surprising findings have meant that the statistics are definitely one of the most noteworthy parts of both books.

In your 1997 critical essay, “Out of the Ivory Tower, social responsibility and the art critic”, you write that “the art world is very good at examining problems, but not very good at doing anything about them”. Do you still feel the same way about the art world today? What are the major problems faced by today’s artists?
It’s interesting to look back at things that you have written and I still support a lot of what’s in that essay. However, I think that you have to talk about “art worlds”, rather than a singular “art world”, these comprising varying degrees of public exposure. The most visible art world is that which we address in our statistics; the big institutions, the market and all of these large organisms which move things forward; you could call it the “art machine”. But the market is a significant factor in this main art world, and this meant that our own statistics used the market as one of the key markers. We have to consider that there are other art worlds which comprise their own figures, but which are not necessarily represented in the market. One possible reason for women’s lower representation in the market is that it simply doesn’t interest some of them: they are concerned by other things. There is a very dysfunctional quality to the art world right now, which is linked to the enormous influx of money and the focus on established figures. I think this trend reinforces a lot of the biases in terms of the artists who are represented by the market. I think many of us in New York are appalled that the next big show at the Whitney is going to be Jeff Koons [laughs].

Thinking about the art worlds on the periphery of the market-orientated, sceptical art world: one of the things that I’m interested in right now is the issue of art and ecology, and I think a lot of artists – particularly women artists – are doing some very interesting work. It’s an area I am hoping to explore in the next book.

You also speak a lot in the book about video art and how it was not necessarily taken seriously in the beginning, perhaps because of its association with women artists. How do you think this format has evolved?
Video art is an interesting medium because it started out as an alternative to the object-oriented market – something which couldn’t be sold – and now we have enormous, very expensive, installations. Video, like everything else, has totally evolved. In the early days there was more room for freedom in these areas because there was no scrutiny of the market. At this point, both men and women were involved and I think they found it to be a very friendly domain. For women, it was liberating, because they didn’t have to worry about men artists saying, “Well, she paints well for a woman.” These were brand new fields, so they could really go in there and make their mark.

Several of the women artists whose work you explore in the book come from diverse cultural backgrounds; do you think female art from these countries is more poignant, given their unstable history with gender equality?
I have always been interested in oppositional art, or art which needs something to resist. I think one reason for the power of women’s art or feminist art is its resistance to a patriarchal order. I have always been interested in Soviet art – the unofficial art of the Soviets – and now I think there are a lot of interesting advances in the Islamic countries, many of which are being led by women. The fact that these artists have to push against a deep-rooted theme can make for very powerful art, and it brings with it a certain danger. If you’re an artist having to deal with these issues, you have to find a language which says what you want to say, but also somehow gets through the apparatus so you aren’t totally crushed by it. Opening up our analysis on an international level liberated us to talk about this idea.

One of the artists in “Bad Girls” is Ghada Amer, an Egyptian artist who creates pornographic images behind veils of threads and embroidery. The work is often discussed in terms of the Islamic veil, insofar as she is veiling female desire; however Amer has said that she isn’t just talking about herself as an Islamic woman, but is addressing the issue on a more general basis, having lived in the United States since 1995. She has a sense that there are social walls that, as a woman, you are not supposed to breach. This exploration of the forbidden and the criticised is integral to “Bad Girls”.

What direction do you think art by women is moving in now?
Thinking about art by women, as opposed to feminist art, women artists are doing all the stuff that everybody else is doing; so it’s hard to pinpoint. I do a lot of lecturing about art generally today and I always make the point that there are many art worlds, directions and narratives that people are involved in and themes that they are exploring: Eco art is one and participatory art is another. Sue [Scott] is also exploring Abstraction, because there are a lot of very good female Abstractionists. We are not suggesting that the artists we feature in our books are the only important women artists: by taking a thematic approach to our work, our intention is not to create a new canon, but to follow these threads that we consider to be of great significance in what they tell us about where we are in a much broader cultural sense.

“Art is Tra$h”: interview with Spanish street artist Francisco de Pájaro

Barcelona, 17 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Francisco de Pájaro is a Spanish artist, currently working on his street art project “Art is Tra$h” since 2009. Having worked in Barcelona, Berlin, and London amongst other places, he creates public artworks from materials he discovers on the street that would otherwise be deemed to be “waste” or “rubbish”. AMA met with up with Francisco to discuss what inspires him, the nature of his work and where he sees himself going next.

Tell us a bit about your background and what lies behind the creation of “Art is Tra$h”.
I have dedicated myself to painting and creating street artworks in order to liberate myself and others from the pressures of everyday life. Painting is a form of expression for me, but the idea of creating things out of rubbish — “Art is Tra$h” — was born by accident. I had never envisaged myself painting in the street, I had actually tried for a long time to get my artworks exhibited in galleries, but all the galleries in Barcelona kept their doors firmly shut. Those institutions don’t necessarily make it easy for new artists, so I took to the streets searching for a new form of expression. Using rubbish as a means of creating has given me the freedom I was searching for.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Are there any particular street artists that inspire you for example?
I cannot say that I have been particularly influenced by other street artists, no. I drew a lot of inspiration from artists such as Picasso and Francis Bacon in the past, and Surrealism has always inspired me…but what has emerged now as “Art is Tra$h” is truly just a spontaneous response to not having any success elsewhere as a “classical” artist. I trained in fine art, but working on the street was almost a rebellious act against those institutions that rejected me, in a way saying: “Well, if I’m not going to be able to make a living out of painting then I may as well paint exactly what I want and experiment in doing so.” Bit by bit I’ve left behind those classical influences and created my own “street” persona.

Do you feel you’ve achieved the recognition you were searching for through “Art is Tra$h”?
Of course — the street is the greatest canvas out there. Anyone, from an elderly person to a child, can stumble upon a piece of art, even if they’re not looking for it. A gallery is different, you have to go searching for the artworks and some people miss out as a consequence. I don’t go looking for recognition though. To be honest, everything is improvised. I have never been overly concerned with the technicalities — even before I started the “Art is Tra$h” project — but now spontaneity is everything. I walk down the street looking for rubbish that will spark an idea and then I start creating around it, trying my best to leave the rubbish exactly as I found it. The ideas originate from the very restrictions I place upon myself. I imagine myself as one of those first, tribal artists filling a blank wall. Just as they saw things and painted them using the raw materials around them, I use rubbish. Then I just let my imagination carry me.

Have you encountered much controversy as a result of your method?
Generally, in the cities where I have worked, I have found people accept and are interested by my work. People like to see new and different things, and art is becoming increasingly open and innovative, which I think helps. What I want to do is create a dialogue with people; I want to create art which is interesting. My works are things to be looked at, but also things which themselves actively look at the spectators. Where I have encountered more problems is with the authorities, particularly in Barcelona. Not that this has deterred me…

Do you intend to continue with your “Art is Tra$h” project, or do you have other future projects in mind?
For the moment I am happy exploring new and different ways of using rubbish to create art. I feel I have discovered a certain freedom which nothing else has ever given me. I have also started painting on canvas again, which I had stopped doing for a while. Maybe in the future I will explore other avenues, but to be honest I take each day as it comes, I live in the present. I am not an artist who premeditates what to do next, I cannot say I am particularly ambitious in that sense. True happiness comes from the ability to express myself.

Given the nature of your work, would you be opposed to the possibility of exhibiting in a gallery?
Not at all — at this very moment I am working with two galleries: London West Bank Gallery and Base Elements Urban Art Gallery in Barcelona. Over the past four years that I have been working on the project, my perspective has really evolved. I reached a point when galleries didn’t interest me whatsoever, I saw them as my enemies, I created a film inside my mind where they were the “bad guys”.  It was what motivated me, I saw painting as a way of avenging myself against those galleries and against the elitism of the art world. “Art is Tra$h” was born out of that drive. Now though, I am working with galleries, and that is basically what allows me to make a living. My work may be praised by onlookers but, practically, I cannot live from that. You have to search long and hard if you want to make a living from art.

You’ve worked in Barcelona, Berlin, London… where to next?
On 1 May I am leaving Spain to go to another city which I don’t want to disclose publicly. People will soon find out. I like to arrive in a city without anyone knowing that I am going to be there beforehand.

How would you define art?
I call art “trash” but, obviously, that’s just a disguise, a mask of sorts. Art is an emotion which is evoked by the artist. It is something which only humans can create. What is rubbish for me is the society which dictates human behaviour and leads to problems and discomfort. I use art to express what I feel, but in truth I don’t have a clue what art is. I don’t know if anyone does.

Lighting up Paris’s club culture: interview with Arnaud Frisch and Coralie Gauthier

Paris, 17 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Silencio is a nightclub opened in 2011 by the filmmaker David Lynch, in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement. To coincide with their current exhibition of work by Wink Editions, Art Media Agency met with Silencio’s Director, Arnaud Frisch, and its Director of Communications, Coralie Gauthier, to talk inspiration, international relations, and the 1SQM GALLERY project.

What is the story behind Silencio?
Arnaud FrischWe realised that the Parisian club scene was clearly lacking a venue specifically conceived for the appreciation of culture. With Silencio, we had the opportunity to collate an interesting programme of events under the theme of both metaphorically and literally illuminating Paris’s nightlife. We wanted to create a community which encompassed a diverse range of cultural pursuits, such as fashion, cinema, music and design. Silencio opened in 2011, boasting a design by the artist and filmmaker David Lynch, whose artistic style perfectly embodied the project’s key objectives, given that he is well known for transgressing boundaries in cinema. Since the club’s opening, we have worked tirelessly on our events programme, which includes cinema screenings, visiting musicians, exhibitions and concerts. One of our major achievements has been the continuous forming of new partnerships with institutions such as FIAC, Paris Photo Design and Design Week. We are also creating waves on an international scale, as we are present at Cannes, Art Basel and the Venice Biennale.

What do you mean when you say that you “are present” at these international events?
AF: We organise mini “Silencios” under the aegis of these international events, which allow us to bring diverse groups of people together under one shared aim. At Cannes, we organised events for directors who attended the festival and at Art Basel Miami, we concentrated our efforts on a project which spanned several days, including talks, screenings and more.
Coralie Gauthier: Silencio doesn’t exclusively organise parties, we have numerous other activities which fall under the bracket of “members only”. We particularly want to create exchanges between people, and this is evident in our international offering. When we represent Silencio outside of Paris, we don’t necessarily just organise parties – we put on both day and night events. These might include talks, lectures and discussions focusing on contemporary art, design and fashion.

How many members do you have today?
AF: We have nearly 1,000 members. We focus on attracting people working within the culturally diverse trio of contemporary art, cinema and fashion.

Why did you decide to work with Mélanie and Eva?
CG: 1SQM GALLERY was inaugurated to coincide with Silencio’s first anniversary, and it is now currently housing structures curated by Mélanie Meffrer Rondeau and Eva Albarran. Upon its opening, we showed work by David Lynch in the gallery, which seemed only natural given the artist’s influence on the club itself. Then we met Eva and Mélanie. The miniature gallery space gives us an opportunity to defy conventional exhibition rules, and this, and the direct links which they form with artists, is something which we find very exciting. Every day brings with it new perspectives, and this has led us to be much more inventive with our programme.

Your collaboration is due to end at the end of this year. Do you have any future plans?
CG: We are thinking about it. We are continually thinking about new ideas for the future.

Limited Editions: an interview with Eva Albarran and Mélanie Meffrer Rondeau

Paris, 14 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

In partnership with Silencio, the Parisian nightclub designed by David Lynch, Wink Edition – a structure specifically created for this project by Eva Albarran and Mélanie Meffrer Rondeau – is currently producing a series of works by Christian Boltanski, Claude Lévêque, Anri Sala and Jesper Just, on show until December in the 1SQM gallery inside Silencio. Art Media Agency met with Eva Albarran and Mélanie Meffrer Rondeau, the two creators behind the project.

What are your respective backgrounds?
Mélanie Meffrer Rondeau: I worked at the Galerie Yvon Lambert for eleven years, where I helped advance artists in their careers – obviously by selling works, etc.. For personal reasons, I wanted to do other projects and open other doors, and I wanted to be able to work on projects in a different setting to that of a gallery.
Eva Albarran: Ten years ago, I created an agency specialising in producing and supporting cultural projects. I work with artists to produce their works and have established very close links with some of them. I have helped produce large-scale events like Monumenta, the Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo, the Venice Biennale, Paris’s Nuits Blanches, etc.. The Wink Edition project came about from an invitation from Silencio. Mélanie and I kept bumping into each other on our many projects, and we wanted to do something together with artists that are close to us. We wanted to showcase them in Silencio’s unique space.

You both seem to be very close.
MMR: During the projects that we did before, we realised that we worked well together and got on really well. We both had the same desire to do things that seemed difficult. We had the same relationships with our artists, and the same desire to take them beyond the point of what at first seemed possible. We pretty much agreed upon our selection of artists and the way in which we would exhibit them. The starting point was to have a project where we could work with artists in a fun way.
EA: For me it was also the opportunity to work with artists in a different way: it was we who had the power to select this or that artist and to commission a certain work.

Tell us about your editions, because each one is very different.
MMR: We are showing the editions in a very small space, for which we were specifically invited to exhibit, with a contract until December. The restriction upon us is that the space is only 1 square metre, and we have artists who are used to exhibiting monumentally-sized works in large museums. The relationship with this space is therefore very different. In a club, people can come to see a piece and also be ignorant of it. For an artist who usually holds huge exhibitions, it is very different. Our editions are all small objects which are very precious, and we try to produce every little detail, right down to the exhibition case. It’s really the same idea as having tiny jewel at a very reasonable price. We really don’t want to go above the €15,000 mark, although these are artists whose works sell for very high prices.
EA: These are very limited edition pieces, of seven apiece (with three artist proofs).

They are all very different. Was this one of your aims?
MMR: We tried to not have too many similarities between the six. Once we thought about all the constraints of the space, we tried not to impose any other limits on the artists in terms of media. All the artists played along with the link between David Lynch and the idea of the club – they all made some small reference to that. The three editions that are there now, and the fourth which is being presented next week, are all completely different. We don’t determine the forms the works take, but in the end I think we are going to have a great collection of six incredibly different works by six very significant artists.

€15,000 maximum: is this a financially viable figure for you and the artists?
MMR: The artists keep one of the proofs and a share of the profits from the sale – so for them it is definitely financially viable. They’re not going to make a living from it, but it is nevertheless an interesting venture from both a commercial and creative point of view. For us, we just do it to work together – we don’t live off this. The project just needs to make a profit, and that’s enough.

Is it important that the project is also fun?
MMR: I think that that is really important as it makes us worry less – if we had to live off this project we would be a lot more stressed [laughs]!
EA: What we especially wanted was that the cost of production would not limit the project. We really wanted to create a work that would become part of the artist’s oeuvre, and not just a small project on the side.

The technical savoir-faire involved in your pieces seems quite complex. Who makes them?
MMR: Between Eva and myself, we’ve established a network of suppliers which is fairly comprehensive.
EA: It’s like all of the things you produce: there are projects which we have never undertaken before, and which are all very complicated. For the piece by Anri Sala, we had to find real pianos, take them apart, and re-assemble them to create an instrument with only three notes.

Do these editions push artists out of their comfort zones, or prompt them to do things they might otherwise not have?
MMR: We don’t push them out of their comfort zones, it would be pretentious to say that. It’s actually completely the opposite. Our first three artists said to us: “I had wanted to do that and now it’s the right moment, it’s the right place, and these are the right people.” The idea is therefore not to take them out of their comfort zones, but to give them a moment in which they can realise a small dream without the constraints imposed on them by galleries. Wink Edition is a satellite project which allows them to play, to imagine something different.

Editions are quite complicated as a genre: it’s often rare that people show appreciation for the category. Is this something you’ve witnessed? How did you convince artists to take part in the project?
EA: There is also their relationship with us. They put their confidence in us – there was never really a question of convincing them.
MMR: And they’re also artists who have previous experience in editions – they’ve all produced them. This is perhaps an edition which is a little bigger than what they’d ordinarily produce. They understand the constraint.

And from the point of view of buyers?
MMR: No, because in terms of the quality of objects and artists, and the price of works, it doesn’t pose any problem.

How do you sell the pieces?
MMR: We try to do as the artists have done. It’s also a moment to share works with collectors. We try to facilitate meetings between the artist and collectors. We have been invited to fairs, but, up until now, we haven’t wanted to take part in them: we’re not a gallery, and we don’t want to tread on the same patch as galleries. We have a project which is more intimate.

What’s your relationship with galleries?
MMR: Every time we invite an artist, we invite them because we know them. Artists are free. Having said this, each time we invite them, we call their galleries and are very clear about the idea that we don’t want to open a gallery – that we only collaborate from time to time. Up until now, everything has gone very well. All of the gallerists we’ve worked with have liked our idea, and felt that it is something positive for the artist involved.

Do gallerists tend to encourage their artists to produce editions, or do they encourage them to produce unique editions, which sell for higher prices?
MMR: Wink Edition is a project which no gallery would undertake. A gallery’s work is further away from ours: a gallery isn’t just the site of sales, its also something which accompanies an artist on a daily basis. We’re just a temporary, satellite project. It’s an ephemeral collaboration.

You’re just about to present the next edition of Jesper Just. Can you give a comment on the work?
EA: It’s going to be a new film, which was shot in Los Angeles in January. Jesper Just is currently in the midst of finalising the piece – it’s going to be a big surprise.

Do you have any idea of the form the work will take?
MMR: It’s a film which plays with the partition of light – he plays with light and luminosity.
EA: It’s a video edition, but we also wanted it to be an object, so the edition itself is to be the video, played across a small screen from within a box.
MMR: It’s an object which must exist in isolation. The video can be shown via other means, but the object exists as its own entity.

Your partnership is to continue until December 2014 – what about after this?
EA: It’s sure that there will be other projects.
MMR: We will perhaps change the format, the constraint. It might no longer be editions. But we will be asking artists to do something again. There are still a lot of artists we would like to invite, and we have to create a project to make them come [laughs].

What are you next personal projects?
EA: We’re going to organise an exhibition with Christian Boltanski in São Paulo in April, then in Chile in October. I am preparing an exhibition with Robert Stadler and Alexis Vaillant in Nancy in June. But I’m also working on the next Nuit Blanche.
MMR: My schedule is a lot calmer than Eva’s. I continue to work with Yvon Lambert, and I work with three of the gallery’s artists as a freelancer. I’m working with my friend Nathalie Daviet-Thery on a collection of books for children, and I also have an exhibition project at 104 for the end of the year, a curatorial project, it’s a bit new for me.

Why “wink”?
MMR: Because we present winks – a wink from Claude Lévêque, from Christian Boltanski, etc..

Spain’s arts entrepreneurs: an interview with Art Decorum

Madrid, 13 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Coming from very different backgrounds, architect Eduardo Ribas Sevilla and lawyer Laura Sánchez Gaona met at Madrid’s University of Alcalá, where they combined their individual expertise with the study of art and antiques. The resulting business, Art Decorum, offers a unique amalgamation of art, architecture and law, providing its clients with custom interior designs, whilst also appraising and inventorying major art collections. Art Media Agency met with Eduardo and Laura during ARCOmadrid to discuss their work, and the nature of being an arts-focused business in Spain’s current market.

What’s your background?
Laura: I studied Law at Madrid’s University Complutense, and am a member of Madrid Law School. I am also a court expert for PEJUBA (National Association of Judicial Experts).
Eduardo: I am an architect, and studied at the University of Catalonia.

How did you first get involved in art?
We both come from families of collectors, so have always been surrounded by art and antiques. We decided to combine our studies — in law and architecture — with our passion for art. We each undertook a Masters course in the Appraisal of Art and Antiques at Madrid’s University of Alcalá de Henares, and it was here that we met each other.

Why did you choose to start your own company?
Things started to become complicated for the Spanish labour market from the very beginning of the economic crisis, but we remained motivated. In fact, we saw it as a great opportunity to start our own business, Art Decorum, which promotes a new model of arts consulting, combining art, law and architecture.

What does your company offer?
Art Decorum offers a globally-focused consultancy service, advising clients on:

  • Appraising and cataloguing art and antiques
  • Aspects of the law which apply to art and cultural heritage – including inheritance, insurance, export and importation, shipment and taxes.
  • Interior design, with a focus on the integration of art and antiques

What is the present condition of the Spanish art market?
Spain is still suffering the effects of the crisis, which has obviously also spread to the art market. The Spanish middle classes that, years ago, would invest in art and antiques as a means of decorating their homes, are no longer buying, because they just don’t want to take unnecessary risks. It’s because of this that mid-quality works have very few opportunities for sale. Prices of works in this category have hugely decreased, so it’s a good moment to invest. There continues, however, to be a great demand for premium works amongst buyers who have not been affected by the crisis.

Changes have recently been made to Spain’s tax regulations. What effect do you think this will have on the market?
The recent VAT cut — from 21% to 10% — is only going to be beneficial to the art market professionals to whom it applies (artists, gallerists). Ultimately, the person who buys a work will still have to pay 21% tax. It’s a change which isn’t as beneficial to the general market as it was originally portrayed to be.

Who pushed for the changes to made?
Members of the cultural sector in general — professionals from the film and theatre industry, art market professionals, musicians… But the change (which was announced just before ARCO) has only really affected a small group in the primary art market.

How do you see the art market evolving over the next few years?
We think recovery is going to be much slower for the art market than for other sectors: we mustn’t forget that art is a luxury market, and — unfortunately — not everyone is going to have the opportunity to acquire pieces.

What advice would you give to clients, given the current market?
We advise our clients to be cautious — to be wary of getting carried away by fads. We think the wisest thing is to purchase pieces which represent more secure investments, such as 18th-century Rococo pieces, Neoclassical furnishings, or works by particularly well-respected painters.

ARCO remains an important fair, even if the number of attendees has decreased since last year. Who is buying, and what are the works they are selecting?
ARCO is a fair which generally attracts customers with high-purchasing powers, who often have expert advice when buying a work. When an artwork or antique exceeds a certain value, expert advice becomes essential. This year, ARCO seems to have been much more restrained, and a greater focus has been placed on decorative works — predominantly large-format photographs — which can be displayed in a huge range of spaces.

What are your current projects?
We are currently appraising and inventorying a number of major art collections (comprising paintings, sculptures, furnishings, ceramics, silver, glass and armory) and are beginning to establish ourselves in the interior design world, despite the fierce competition in the sector. What differentiates our work is our focus on art and antiques, which gives our projects quality and character.

Reporting on the Forum d’Avignon Bilbao: Interview with Fernando Perez

Bilbao, 13 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Alhóndiga Bilbao is a wine warehouse-turned-cultural centre, which provides its public with a host of opportunities for leisure and cultural activities. It underwent a renovation in 2010, overseen by its Directors Philippe Starck and Thibaut Mathieu. This year, Alhóndiga hosted the Forum d’Avignon Bilbao, a think tank designed to strengthen links between culture and the economy, an offshoot of France’s Forum d’Avignon. AMA had the opportunity to meet with Fernando Perez, a key figure in the organisation of the centre’s cultural programme.

Could you describe your role and the projects involved?
I am responsible for the cultural programme at Alhóndiga Bilbao. Under the leadership of our Artistic Director, our team collates and organises the centre’s rich cultural programme. Alhóndiga is multidisciplinary in the broadest sense: our centre offers an increasingly extensive variety of activities and the inner workings of the museum rely heavily on the multidisciplinary tradition.
We have 43,000 square metres of space, to which we intend to apply our three key initiatives: a multimedia centre, a centre for sport and physical activity and an art and exhibitions park which presents four exhibitions on an annual rota. Our approach to the artists we champion is very much non-discriminatory; we work with local artists, some of whom come from the Basque region, and equally with international artists. On a broader spectrum, we also organise events which, although more infrequent, have an enduring influence on the population and attract a diverse mix of visitors. We have also developed a video games festival, which, alongside our contemporary literature festival, attracts interest from families who might not otherwise visit the museum.

Is the financial structure you describe private, public or semi-public?
In Spain, we would use the term “anonymous society” to describe our funding status. Our financial structure is, for the most part, public, as it falls under the aegis of local government, whose input covers the majority of our operating costs. That said, we remain incredibly focused in the management of our financial plan, combining private finance and public funding to make the best possible use of what we have available to us.

What is your annual budget?
The city council has a shortfall of 0%, a statistic which is very rare in Spain. They provide us with 50% of our budget for the organisation of our programme of cultural events, and the income provided by our own infrastructure represents 40% of our overall budget, this being self-financed. That said, the budget is not of ultimate importance as far as I am concerned.

You played a central role in the logistical organisation of this year’s Forum d’Avignon Bilbao. What were your selection criteria for the participators in the forum? What were your intentions for the overall atmosphere of the event?
We received a basic outline from the city council, who drafted the content and the logistics of the forum. This retained its brevity because, from their perspective, it was much easier to allow us a certain element of independence and free reign with the organisation of the forum than to dictate our every move. Our first step was to draw up some key objectives: parity between the number of local and international items that we would showcase and a conscious appreciation of Bilbao’s cultural eco-system. Situated in Bilbao, we are in the enviable position of having the opportunity to offer something as original and pioneering as the forum with the backdrop of the well-established Guggenheim Bilbao, which has been going for 15 years now. The Guggenheim has had an overwhelmingly positive influence on the area’s economy, society and its locality. Our local government works tirelessly in its aim to provide the city with continual development and we are witnessing a real turnaround in the town’s cultural offering.
We really wanted to focus on Bilbao’s ecosystem as one of the bases for the forum. This focus on something which is so unique to Bilbao was in contrast to the significant international representation at the forum, but it was a contrast which allowed visitors to reflect not only on Bilbao’s ecosystem, but on the ecosystem as a global concept.

Why did you choose to organise the forum in collaboration with the Forum d’Avignon?
We perhaps could have organised the forum with no outside help, but we were very interested in forming partnerships. We were hesitant to organise the forum from a purely singular perspective, and our collaborative efforts have yielded some incredibly beneficial partnerships which we are very satisfied with.

How many people did the forum attract?
We set an original target of 400 people – as this was the capacity of our space. Our intention was always to create a medium-sized forum. In fact, we received just over 400 people, as well as 80 participants in workshops and ateliers and an impressive media presence. All in all, we are very happy with these results.

Do you have plans to repeat the Forum d’Avignon next year?
We don’t know if we are going to recreate exactly the same event as this year’s forum, but we do have plans to organise something which retains the same atmosphere and concept. When we reflect on this year’s forum, it is tempting to scale down any future plans to create a forum on a more modest scale: we are exhausted, but very happy with the outcome. There was a fantastic atmosphere during the event.

A continuous exchange: interview with artist Anna Rokka

Madrid, 12 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

On the occasion of ARCOmadrid’s focus this year on Finland, AMA spoke with Swedish-Finnish artist Anna Rokka, who was selected to produce Mad Horizon, a site-specific work for Sinne gallery’s booth. This interactive installation, composed of two distinct structures, was conceived using a mixture of found organic and man-made materials such as burned plastic, seaweed, oyster shells, metal poles and a projector. Designed as a sort of portal, the transparent upright structure enters into dialogue with an opposing seaweed covered lean-to, equipped with an oculus. Anna took a few moments to elucidate upon her unique experimental approach to installation and performance art and her working methods.

Do you feel your work has a direct link with your particular cultural background?
I grew up in Sweden but I’ve been living in Finland for the past 8 years. I don’t consider myself associated with the Swedish art scene. In my opinion, it is more closed-minded and pretentious. I think the Finnish art scene is more experimental and playful in nature and more open to taking risks. Even though I’m based in Finland, I think my work has more of a global aspect to it.

I noticed that you exhibit mostly in Europe. Do you show elsewhere as well?
I have exhibited in Chicago, USA and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Most of your work has an audio element – is there a reason you didn’t incorporate sound into this installation?
I found out about this exhibition in December so I didn’t have enough time to create an audio component. Perhaps this work will have sound in the future. I don’t consider my works to be fixed in time, nor limited to one specific meaning. Each work inevitably undergoes changes over time and is subject to multiple interpretations.

Is there a reason you chose the particular blue/green colour scheme for this work?
Normally I have a specific colour I want to work with. In this case, I wanted to have a grey base, which would be complemented by the green to give an effect of the sea that has passed through the installation and left its trace.

How do you choose the materials you’re going to use based on the location or exhibition site?
I’m usually driven by materials I’m attracted to. I will often have an idea for which I will try to find a solution. For this show, I looked at old pictures of ARCO from years ago so I used that as a starting point. I wanted the physical work to be separate from the existing architecture of the booth. For instance, I tried to keep the work as free as possible from constraining elements such as the pillar.

Would you consider this installation one closed space?
For me, the negative space takes on more of a river-like presence. I try to facilitate a continuous fluid exchange with the viewer, inviting visitors to interact and converse with the installation. Very often, I use motion detecting sensors which engage the viewer and respond to their presence with sounds.

Do you prefer working in interior or exterior settings?
I like both. But I think my dream would be if I could create works for public spaces such as parks or a hospital. However, I also think proper museum installations can be lovely too.

How long do you typically spend on an installation?
I worked on this installation for about a month. Sometimes I dedicate a longer period of time to a work. However, I do like the element of speed because it gives the work more of a rough or raw quality.

Do you collaborate with any other artists? Is there anyone in particular you’d like to work with?
Every year, I usually collaborate with at least one other artist. I’m currently collaborating with Rut Karin Zettergren on another work. I’d also like to work with a sculptor friend Corinna Helenelund in the future.

How has your installation at ARCO been received so far?
Quite a few people have had positive comments, saying the work is original, while others have been less pleased with it, incapable of grasping the aesthetic appeal of the work. Normally, I’d like more people to walk through and interact with the piece. However, considering the fact that this is a fair, many don’t think they’re allowed to.

Which other installations did you find interesting at ARCO?
I enjoyed David Medalla’s Cloud Gates Bubble Machine (1965/2013) at Baró Galeria, São Paulo. I liked the foam but I didn’t like the structure.

What do you intend to do with the work after the fair?
I’m considering incorporating it into “Shifting Identities”, an exhibition that opens in May at the MACRO in Rome.

Is there any other media that you haven’t experimented with so far that you’d like to work with in the future?
I have a theatre background so I think it would be interesting to try a scenography-based work. In terms of materials, I’m interested in working with clay. I’ve also had an idea for a long time to do a performance piece of a chaotic scene with a rioting girl, with objects flying everywhere, a burning car, and the ocean.

How long have you been exhibiting with Sinne gallery?
I’ve collaborated with them since 2012. However, Sinne doesn’t function like a typical gallery, representing a group of specific artists. Instead, it promotes young experimental artists by serving as a venue for new talent which are selected from exhibition proposals.

Interview with María Inés Rodríguez : new Director of CAPC – Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux

Bordeaux, 12 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Having just taken up the position as the Director of CAPC – the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux – María Inés Rodríguez christened her new role with the unveiling of the museum’s latest exhibition “Procession”, which opened on 5 March. The exhibition is a collaborative effort between Julie Maroh – author of the comic strip Le bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue Is the Warmest Colour) which formed the inspiration behind the recent film La Vie d’Adèle – and the illustrator Maya Mihindou. “Procession” is a challenging visual narrative, combining the work and ideas of its two creators, who question the primary function of the exhibition. To coincide with the exhibition’s opening, the former Director of Mexico City’s Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) spoke to AMA about her new role and her ambitions for CAPC’s future.

You have only just taken up this new role. What are your hopes for the future of CAPC?
In fact, this is only my first week in the position! As the Director of CAPC, I have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the region’s rich history and culture, which is an extraordinary challenge. I strongly believe that the museum has the capacity to become an unrivalled platform for knowledge, education and discussion throughout France. Exhibitions represent one element of our future plan, but we must first develop a coherent project which will generate long-term development.

What are your main targets?
The first of our new projects is to take the form of a research centre. A museum is, intrinsically, an environment for thought and contemplation, but it should also serve as a form of stimulation. Our aim is to provide all researchers with the best possible facilities for investigations into our archives and collections, but we are also hoping to broaden our offering to include artists and curators. This new initiative might manifest itself in giving carte blanche to artists and curators, but it is something which we are currently in the process of exploring. At this early stage, nothing is set in stone.

Our second target is the continual improvement of the museum’s collection, which we hope to achieve through new acquisitions and through more innovative means, such as deposits. In our pursuit to create a coherent collection, we intend to remain faithful to past acquisitions, considering the entirety of the collection and, by doing so, employing our funds in the most relevant way possible. CAPC’s collections are incredibly strong; they encompass a great diversity of movement, including Arte Povera, Minimalism and conceptual art. Through determining the heirs to these movements, I aim to initiate a programme of acquisitions which will seamlessly integrate with the museum’s existing offering.

What are your hopes for CAPC’s influence on the region’s cultural heritage?
CAPC is a very important museum but, like any other institution, it relies heavily upon new partnerships and links. In accepting the position, I accepted the budget, which is provided due to the museum’s position under the aegis of local government. However, before we put in place a financial research plan for the creation of new initiatives, we must develop a convincing strategy: it goes without saying that if we succeed in creating initiatives which are interesting, coherent and credible, we will gain a following. Maintaining a sense of solidarity within our own establishment is, of course, important, but it is also our intention to forge links with other groups who operate in the same area; such as the FRAC Aquitaine, local museums and galleries. We are in the enviable position of having the opportunity to become part of the area’s cultural heritage, and we should capitalise on this opportunity in our pursuit of collaborative events. One of our aims is to channel our efforts into forging international links, with the eventual goal of hosting travelling exhibitions. I hope that my experience in this area will prove useful in realising this goal.

Interview with Moti Shniberg, Chairman of Artist Pension Trust

New York, 11 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Artist Pension Trust (APT) aims to provide a secure financial future to artists willing to make a contribution of twenty of their works to the trust. At this landmark halfway stage in their twenty-year investment cycle, AMA spoke to the trust’s Chairman and co-founder – and the founder of MutualArt – Moti Shniberg, on the company’s future and the increasing necessity for financial structures which support artists.

Can you introduce the Artist Pension Trust? Why did it start? Was it felt that there was a need for a financial structure for artists?
The initial idea for APT was conceived just over ten years ago. I realised that artists were not guaranteed any form of future financial security and this had necessitated a historical trend of entering into bartering deals in an attempt to secure some form of financial stability. In assessing this oversight, in terms of the whole market, we recognised that this financial support mechanism was very much needed.

You aim to provide artists with long-term financial support; do you think contemporary artists are particularly in need of this support? Has the recent financial climate made this even more difficult?
In my view, everybody – regardless of whether or not they are artists – needs to maintain a sense of responsibility towards, primarily, themselves, their partner, their family and their future; this includes their financial security. In the majority of professions and sectors, this guarantee of future financial security is inherent, and I found it profoundly shocking that the art world did not benefit from this same ideal. An artist can have an amazing solo exhibition one day, and have very little to show for it the next. This kind of culture deprives artists of financial security and does not present an obvious solution. This is why we developed APT. It’s not solely aimed at or influenced by contemporary artists, it is part of a much broader ideal.

You boast an exceptional clientele, including Turner Prize winners and a large representation in the Venice Biennale, but you also showcase emerging and lesser known artists. How selective is your application procedure? And how do you pick the artists for APT?
We employ a variety of different selection criteria. We have a group of well-known, mainstream artists, whose success precedes them, and other artists whose inclusion in APT might prompt some to question our motivation behind the decision. This diversity of choice and high calibre is part of the beauty of APT; we have the privilege of risk diversification. Historically, there have been numerous occasions when an artist has been undervalued or unknown for a long period of time by collectors and the public alike, but suddenly their luck changes and they become the artist of the moment. Because APT comprises such a diverse selection of artists, mediums and countries, we benefit greatly from the notion that some of our artists are considered to be mainstream and are sure to command a lot of interest, but there are others who have yet to be discovered and, once they are, their career trajectory is likely to be of such intensity that it will be a privilege to have those artists’ works in APT’s collection.

In this respect, APT Institute aims to give artists support while they are starting their careers. Could you tell us a bit more about this initiative?
APT Institute is APT’s non-profit organisation: we have spent considerable time and effort creating the initiative, and it engenders a far greater opportunity for the discovery of new works. On our website, aptinstitute.org, influential art world professionals are increasingly using the features provided to borrow works from the APT collection for their own exhibitions, and this serves as invaluable promotion for artists. Last year alone APT Collection artworks were included in 200 museum exhibitions and this year we hope that figure will increase to 500 exhibitions worldwide. There is no comparison to what we are achieving, because it is providing exposure to such an enormous, and otherwise unequivocal, scale. We see it as our responsibility to help artists.

Are artists ever put off by the idea of committing to give twenty of their works and a percentage of sales profit to APT? How do you ensure that they honour their commitment?
In order to receive the full financial benefits offered by APT, artists have to invest all 20 artworks, so it is very much in their own interest and their own responsibility. It is just like any other form of insurance: instead of money, we are talking about artworks. In order to keep your car insured, you need to pay the insurance. It works on the same basic principle.

How do you choose the artworks that are accepted into the collection?
Several curators are involved in the decision process and we take it very seriously. This year we intend to enhance the selection model, insofar as using the artist’s input and involving collectors from all corners of the globe. We are constantly seeking to improve our selection process. At the moment, around 5% of applications to APT are approved as a result of the process.

So quite a small percentage of applications are accepted by APT?
That’s correct; our responsibility to the existing artists is to be selective, obviously, because it’s all about future security and mutual assurance. The better the artist, the more they will benefit the other artists in the trust.

Your advisory board comprises of highly admired art professionals and artists – how did they come to be involved in the project? Why is it important that they are?
Like advisory boards all over the world, our own board plays an essential role. APT is now ten years old and operates in 75 countries but, despite its size, it is essentially a very novel idea; it has never been done before. With APT, we had to start right at the beginning and that kind of development and growth necessitates a great team of people to provide advice and support.

Each artist benefits financially from the commercial success of the other artists in the trust. Do you think this changes the perspective of art, from something traditionally self-regulating to a broader, more community-based ideal?
I wouldn’t say that that APT is at all community-based. Essentially, every artist involved in the organisation benefits personally in the long-term. Artists receive 72% from the sales proceeds of an artwork: 40% from the sale of their own artwork and a further 32% from the pool, therefore mutual assurance is intrinsic to our organisation.
But essentially, APT benefits an artist’s individual interest, by sheltering his or her financial success from unforeseen difficulties. Think about the instability of the market. If, let’s say, a Japanese artist is suffering as a result of changes in the art market, they will still benefit from the efforts of the diverse group of artists in APT.

Would you say that the project is at all altruistic?
I wouldn’t go so far as to describe the project as purely charitable; that would be too strong an implication. However, I believe we have an enormous responsibility towards artists. We have a huge collection of around 10,000 artworks and a commitment of 30,000, which means we must honour our commitment as best we can. With this in mind, we have spent a considerable amount of money developing platforms which allow museum directors and curators to request artwork loans online, and with which to develop virtual collections for curatorial research. We do not charge for this service, and as a result it has greatly benefited the artistic community – something which I am increasingly proud of.  Our collection is now so comprehensive that it has earned a worldwide reputation, affording artists included in the collection a real sense of worth and publicity.

Your own site, MutualArt.com tailors its artistic content to the viewer’s preferences. Do you think that this kind of easily accessed technology is influential in an increasingly internet-based art market?
At this moment in time, MutualArt.com is the largest art information site in existence. We have more than 600,000 subscribers and it has grown at an unprecedented rate. Because of our use of customised settings, each user of MutualArt.com receives something different, which is tailored to his or her interests. Another important feature is our auction house database, which covers more auctions than any other online provider. Through using our website, collectors have far greater access to information than ever before. I think that, all this considered, people feel more equipped to make better, educated decisions in terms of buying, which in turn increases the speed and popularity of the market. I am the founder and chairman of both APT and MutualArt.com and, although separate companies, the two work in collaboration to provide a comprehensive platform for artists advancement.

In 2012 you expanded into Asia through APT Global One. Have you had a positive response from the Asian art market following this expansion?
There is a lot going on in Asia at the moment: we have offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and our collection features the work of artists from all over Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and many others. We have the best of the best artists already involved in APT.

Do you think artists are increasingly looking for alternative ways to gain international recognition as opposed to purely through galleries? Such as your own organisation, which provides a pre-constructed platform for international publicity?
I believe that any intelligent artist should utilise the growing popularity of online resources to benefit from its possibility for exposure. Collectors are now increasingly interested in discovering artists in different countries and the better an artist’s online profile, the more likely he or she is to attract international attention. APT offers the opportunity to view an artist’s complete profile, as well as his or her artworks and links to associated galleries.

You are halfway through your investment period, what are your hopes for the future?
APT’s possiblities are infinite. We have developed it in such a way as to gain the ultimate trust of our artists, and this is an essential quality. We are constantly building on past achievements and improving the strategies we use, in terms of selection criteria and expansion into other countries. Our goal is to create institutions which will endure over time, guaranteeing artists a stable financial future. We also have plans for the expansion of APT Institute. For the moment, though, it serves to mention that, at the halfway point in our investment cycle, we are in 75 countries and supporting a great number of artists. It’s a good start; and let’s take it from here!

Going great guns in Peru: interview with Giancarlo Scaglia, founder and director of Revolver Galeria

Madrid, 11 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Sharing a stand at ARCOmadrid with the Ecuadorian gallery NoMinimo, the Peruvian up-and-coming Revolver Galeria showcased the work of Elena Damiani with a lifesize photography installation entitled Excavaciones. Nominated for the Illy Sustain Art prize, Elena presented La Historia Se Descompone En Imágenes, No En Historias (History Decomposes Into Images, Not Into Narratives) at the gallery just over a year ago. Experimenting with collage, sculpture and video, the Peruvian artist selects and manipulates archive photos which she combines with a variety of raw materials such as wood, glass, marble and various kinds of paper to reconstitute fragments of a remembered past. By juxtaposing architectural elements with photographs, Damiani excavates and manipulates historical documents in order to forge new documents of a remembered past.

The installation featured at ARCO presented a collage of 5 different landscape images, printed on a semitransparent silkscreen and positioned in front of a series of thin marble columns. These subtle appropriations of recorded history situate themselves between two-dimensionality and sculpture, inviting the viewer to wander through constructed ruins or deserted landscapes. Speaking with Giancarlo Scaglia, the founder and director of Revolver, we got a chance to learn about the unique history of this young gallery, the product of an emerging Peruvian contemporary art scene.

Why did you decide to open a gallery?
We decided to open a gallery 6 years ago because it became clear to us that our generation of artists was taking a completely different direction to the previous one and, at the time, there weren’t any galleries prepared to represent us. I’m an artist as well and seized the opportunity to create a space to exhibit my own and my friends’ work.

Why did you choose the name “Revolver”?
Revolver has a double meaning: the gun and the verb revolver (to stir or mess up).

What motivated you to start an international residency programme?
We started the programme the same year we opened the gallery, in 2008. We invite one artist from a different country every year to produce a show that we will exhibit for a month. This year is the first year we’re extending the invitation to curators. We’ve invited Ruba Katrib (curator of New York’s Sculpture Center and former curator of MOCA Miami), based on her work with Latin American and Peruvian artists, including exhibitions she’s organised at MOCA Miami such as “Modify, as Needed” (2011).

How has the contemporary Peruvian art scene evolved since you first opened in 2008?
Interestingly enough, we started around the same time that the new generation of collectors emerged. We’ve all contributed to this growing passion and interest for contemporary art, culminating with the inauguration of the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Lima in 2013 – which in turn welcomed the first international contemporary art fair in Peru: Art Lima. All of this has coincided with Peru’s economic boom. The first edition of Art Lima in 2013 invited 39 galleries from 16 different countries. With continued growing support for contemporary art via the creation of events such as Art Lima, Peruvian artists, who have until recently remained relatively unknown on the global art scene, are quickly gaining the international recognition and exposure they deserve

What would you say distinguishes Peruvian artists from other South American artists?
The artists we represent produce work which is formally very different, but we all belong to the same generation. We are all friends and share similar concerns. So, you can see the connections which exist among our work. Furthermore, much South American and Peruvian artwork emphasises the importance of its geographical context or national ties. As a result, you can sense a growing tendency to produce “South American” art in contrast to more “neutral” artworks which aren’t necessarily directly associated or concerned with the artist’s specific country of origin.

Is this your first time participating in ARCO?
Actually, no. This is our second time. One of our artists, Jose-Carlos Martinat, was invited to exhibit at ARCO 5 or 6 years ago, not long after we opened the gallery. At the time, this was was our first international project and having just opened, it was very difficult for us to finance the trip to Madrid. But now things are going really well for us and we are happy to be able to participate in ARCO again. We sold the Elena Damiani piece 5 minutes after the fair opened.

Are you collaborating with any other cultural institutions or galleries at the moment?
We have already collaborated with several international galleries, and are currently pursuing a number of international projects. We have sent Revolver group shows to places such as Nueveochenta Gallery (Bogotá, Colombia), Arroniz Arte Contemporaneo Gallery (Mexico City, Mexico), Alexander Dellal, 20 Hoxton Square Projects (London, UK), Patricia Ready Gallery (Santiago, Chile), Espacio Minimo (Madrid, Spain) and we’re also preparing a show for Brazil. These shows have featured works by Peruvian artists such as Ishmael Randall-Weeks, Philippe Gruenberg, Matias Duville, Ximena Garrido-Lecca, and Andres Marroquin Winkelmann.

Who are your most successful artists? And who would you say embodies the spirit or vision of the gallery?
Elena Damiani, Gilda Mantilla, and Jose-Carlos Martinat in particular. With exhibitions at renowned institutions such as the Tate Modern and the Gervasuti Foundation in Venice just last year and frequent participation in international fairs, Peruvian artist Jose-Carlos Martinat’s socially and politically engaging work was most recently featured at Revolver Galeria’s booth at Art Basel Miami 2013. Drawing attention to the sensitive political relationship between the United States and the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, Martinat arranged two fake palm trees with printers at their bases, programmed to continuously spew out computer-generated excerpts randomly selected from Spanish and English websites concerning these countries.

Which other fairs are you planning on participating in this year?
Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Basel, and we’re applying to Frieze London.

What do you think of ARCO as a fair overall?
I think it’s a good fair. Even though Spain is undergoing a difficult time with the economic crisis, the fair serves as a platform for several things; it’s a lobby for creators, galleries and artists.