Monthly Archives: March 2014

Rio de Janeiro

March 19, 2014

Hello,

Having arrived in the afternoon from Sao Paulo, I decided to reserve my evening to walk around the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro and get to know the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. As you can see in the pictures below, the city has expanded considerably since Patricia Poullain’s parents visited it in the late 20’s, becoming a huge and overpopulated city. However the surrounding nature still has unique and unspoilt features to behold and enjoy.

Rio de Janeiro in the late 20's

Rio de Janeiro in the late 20’s

Beach 

Julio Le Parc – Casa Daros Rio

On Sunday I headed to Casa Daros. Casa Daros, which opened its doors in the first months of 2013, is Rio’s branch of Daros Latinoamerica, one of the most important and comprehensive collections of contemporary Latin American art in the world, comprising more than 1100 works from 116 artists. Casa Daros Rio is based in a wonderful neoclassical building, which dates back to 1866 when it was the Santa Casa da Misericórdia. There, I was received by Maria Luiza Sacknies, the Communications and Events Manager, who took me around the collection, showing me the extraordinary exhibition ‘Le Parc Lumiere’ by the Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc, who has lived and worked in Paris since 1958. Le Parc was one of the pioneers of kinetic art the co-founder of G.R.A.V. (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel), a groupe devoted to the exploration of the relationship between art and technology.  We then had a marvelous lunch in the Foundations’ Mira! restaurant and cafe after which we continued our tour of spaces within the Foundation.  Daros has an extensive programme of events which involve the whole community.

Julio Le Parc - Casa Daros Rio

Julio Le Parc – Casa Daros Rio

 

 

Daros Foundation

Daros Foundation

 

MAC Niteroi

As it was a Sunday, most of the private galleries were closed so I decided to enjoy the extraordinary weather and visit the MAC Niteroi, on the other side of the bay of Rio de Janeiro. The MAC, conceived by the world famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, is one of the most wonderful buildings I’ve had the opportunity to see in South America. The MAC Niteroi was showing the exhibition ‘Cybèle Varela – espaços simultâneos: 2009 – 2013′ curated by Guilherme Bueno and the artist herself.  The show has received much positive press and has recently been extended until April 6th.  Cybele Varela is a mixed media artist who began her career in Brazil in the 60s with paintings and objects.  She explores a variety of themes in her work, from urban landscapes to self-reflection in Nature.  Much of her work is inspired by the American Pop Art movement.  She is represented in public and private galleries and museums internationally.

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MAC Niteroi

 

Cybèle Varela, "Connection"

Cybèle Varela, “Connection”

 

Museum of Modern Art Rio

Next up was the Museum of Modern Art Rio.  Located on the Guanabara Bay, the museum is perfectly located for presenting wonderful views alongside their extensive collection.  Identified as one of ten galleries in Rio reinvigorating the Brazilian cultural scene, MAM Rio has certainly earned this reputation.    The major exhibition was Antonio Manuel whose work ranged from geometric abstractions to installations.  Below are a few glimpses of his work.

Antonio Manuel at MAM Rio

Antonio Manuel at MAM Rio

Antonio Manuel at MAM Rio

Antonio Manuel at MAM Rio

Antonio Manuel at MAM Rio

Antonio Manuel at MAM Rio

 

As I was leaving I came upon the Brazilian Youth Band who gave a rousing performance of drums, trumpets, and xylophones.

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Brazilian Youth Band at MAM Rio

 

Arthur Fidalgo

On Monday I took a cab and headed back to the beautiful area of Copacabana to visit the studio and gallery of Artur Fidalgo in the famous shopping centre Cidade Copacabana. This beautiful building was projected in the 60’s by Henrique Mindlin, who also co-signed the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro with his colleage Afonso Reid.  The gallery has been active in the Rio art scene since 1987, making it a staple in the cultural sector.  I was impressed by its combination of both fresh talent, such as Sergio Sister, and Marcos Bonisson, and innovative presentation of the more established artists such as Ernesto Neto.

 

shopping centre Cidade Copacabana

shopping centre Cidade Copacabana

 

Ernesto Neto

Ernesto Neto

 

Sergio Sister

Sergio Sister

 

Marcos Bonisson

Marcos Bonisson

Two of Arthur’s young assistants showed me some of his works currently on exhibition at the gallery.

 

A Gentil Carioca

I finished the day by heading down the back streets of Centro Rio, the older section of the city, to find the unassuming, and wonderful A Gentil Carioca.  I was greeted by my gracious host, Cecilia Tanure, who showed me around the gallery spaces.  Conceived to be different than the typical white walled gallery space, A Gentil Carioca is housed in two floors of an old colonial building.  Its windows open up directly to the sights and sounds of the streets of Rio.  Director Marcio Botner wanted the space to be teeming with artistic energy, nothing cold, and nothing closed off.  Thus, the gallery has been active in promoting experimental work and developing a local arts education workshop program.  They represent over eighteen Brazilian artists including those below.

View from a window of A Gentil Carioca

View from a window of A Gentil Carioca

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Gallery Space in A Gentil Carioca

Laura Lima

Laura Lima

Alexandre Vogler

Alexandre Vogler

Jarbas Lopes

Jarbas Lopes

 

Jorge Rodriguez Aguilar

My last day in Rio was spent visiting the artist studio of Jorge Rodriguez Aguilar located in the renovated Behring chocolate factory outside of Rio.  Next week my blog will feature an in depth look at his work and his experiences in this innovative studio complex.

Jorge Rodriguez Aguilar in his Behring Studio

Jorge Rodriguez Aguilar in his Behring Studio

 

 

Sao Paulo

March 13, 2014

Hello again,

Today I’m going to continue the story of my experiences in South America, beginning with São Paulo, Brasil, and in my next instalment I’ll give you an overview of Rio de Janeiro. In part I was inspired to travel to Brasil because of the accounts from Patricia Poullain, an artist living in Normandy whom I represent in London. She describes below her parents reaction when touring with a theatrical group in Brasil in the late 20’s.

Poulain

London Comedy Company

Poullain

London Comedy Company

Sao Paulo's Municipal Theatre

São Paulo’s Municipal Theatre

I too experienced the hospitality and ambiance of Brasil, just as Patricia’s parents did so many years ago. However, Brasil’s contemporary art scene has developed at a meteoric pace since then and I was excited to have the opportunity to explore some of the most interesting and vibrant galleries in Latin America. 

Galeria Patricia Cornish

Galeria Patricia Cornish

I reserved my first day in São Paulo to meet Patricia Cornish, owner of Galeria Patricia Cornish, dedicated solely to exhibiting British artists. We have much in common in that she exhibits from her art salon at home as I do in London. Her gallery is relatively new having been open for only two years ago but already the response to the artwork of Anita Klein, Amanda Danicic, Damien Weighill, Iam Cumming, Ilia Petrovic and Paul Wright, whom she represents, has been overwhelmingly positive.

Patricia Cornish

Patricia Cornish

On Friday, my Assistant Daniel Caparrós had scheduled visits for me to some galleries in the fashionable neighboughoods of Jardins and Pinheiros. First, I headed to Galeria Logo, founded in 2011 by Carmo Marchetti, Lucas Ribeiro and Marcelo Secaf in a space that used to be home to one of the first contemporary art galleries in São Paulo, Subdistrito, and later hosted Galeria Raquel Arnaud.

Lista - Galeria Logo

Lista – Galeria Logo

Carmo kindly took me around Lista, the annual collective exhibition showcasing the work of the artists represented by the gallery. There, my attention was drawn to the work of Sesper, Jorge H. Loureiro and Fabiano Rodrigues.

Sesper - Galeria Logo

Sesper – Galeria Logo

Skateboarding is a sport which is extremely popular in Brasil and Sesper, a multifaceted painter and singer is as well a skater himself. He began his career intervening in the streets with stickers and posters. Now he works mainly on wooden panels to which he attaches a wide range of elements he finds in the street such as educational posters, magazines and obsolete equipment. In his own words, he composes scenes of a society “self-disoriented by psychoactive substances, short-circuited ideologies, Catholic guilt and branding.” Sesper captures the street life of São Paulo in a way that is vibrant and intriguing way. He is definitely an artist to watch out for.

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Fabiano Rodrigues

Fabiano Rodrigues, who first approached photography being himself portrayed as a professional skateboarder, combines in his work the exploration of the history and repertoire of skateboarding movements with a profound interest in the city, its architecture and urban furniture. His pieces show a careful attention to composition and movement as well as an obvious interest in well known Brasilian architectural landmarks such as the buildings designed by the renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer. Many of his photographs are taken in buildings designed by Niemeyer.

Jorge H. Loureiro - Galeria Logo

Jorge H. Loureiro – Galeria Logo

Loureiro, who was born in 1991, grew up surrounded by computers, video games and the Internet. As a digital native, his works seek to understand those who lacked access to this technology, such as African tribes and Brasilian native populations. He combines traditional media such as drawing and painting with videos and objects.

Jaqueline Martins

Jaqueline Martins

After Logo, I visited Galeria Jaqueline Martins, where I had the opportunity to see an excellent retrospective on the work of the late Rafael França. França, who died of AIDS in 1991 after producing his last video  ‘Prelúdio de Uma Morte Anunciada‘ (Prelude to an announced death) is widely recognised as one of the most important Brazilian video artists of the XXth century, always experimenting with the unique formal and aesthetic qualities of the media.

Rafael Franca - Galeria Jaqueline Martins

Rafael Franca – Galeria Jaqueline Martins

I finished my tour for the day with a  visit to Zipper Galeria, founded by the art dealer, consultant and gallerist Fabio Cimino. I was lucky enough to get there on the last day of the ‘5 Salao dos Artistas sem Galeria’ (Hall of Artists Without a Gallery), an annual event organised by Mapa das Artes -SP’s monthly art events listing- that aims to promote the production and display of Brazilian artists who are not represented by any gallery in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.

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Zipper Galeria

Lucas -Fabio’s son- and the Gallery Assistant Lucila Mantovani, whom I would meet again a few weeks later in their stand at Art14 in London, took me around and showed me the fantastic works of Fernando Velazques, Pedro Varela, Marcelo Tinoco, Adriana Duque and Ricardo Rendon. 

Fernando Velazquez - Zipper Gallery

Fernando Velazquez – Zipper Galeria

Born in Uruguay in 1970, Velazquez has been living and working in São Paulo since 1997. David Barro, curator and art critic defines his works as “born out of the symbiosis between the plastic, the visual and the machine-like”. His online interactive installation Your life, our movie for example,  uses flickr.com data base to make an interactive film in real time.

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Pedro Varela – Zipper Galeria

As I was walking around the gallery I was really attracted by the paper sculptures by Pedro Varela, who graduated in printmaking at the School of Fine Arts of UFRJ in 2005. Varela’s builds three-dimensional models of fictional cities composed of paper, wood, and acrylic, as well as characteristic indigo paintings of imaginary groupings of flowers and cities.

Marcelo Tinoco ' Zip

Marcelo Tinoco – Zipper Galeria

In his serie ‘Fotorama’  Marcelo Tinoco takes the photographic act itself  -and especially the mythology of the “decisive moment”- and challenges it by denying the uniqueness narrative that could be contained in one click. Tinoco takes the picture as a fragment and uses it to build bigger stories. This artist was exhibited in Zipper’s Art14 stand.

Adriana Duque - Zipper Gallery

Adriana Duque – Zipper Galeria

Adriana Duque‘s works, which deal with Colombian past, exploring the influence of the Spanish colonization in contemporary society, were also on display in the Zipper Gallery booth at Art14. Her photographs, which are characterized by theatricalized lighting and elaborated costumes, are in between painting, cinema, theatre and fashion.

Ricardo Rendon - Zipper Gallery

Ricardo Rendon – Zipper Galeria

Ricardo Rendon, born in Mexico and currently living in New York, is a conceptual and minimalist artist with an unique style based in perforating and sculpting pieces of felt. In words of Paula Braga, curator and art critic, his works propose a renaissance in reverse, that emphasize manual work, and exposes the worker face of conceptual art”. I found these works extremelly alluring with their undulating tactile surfaces. 

Sao Paulo

São Paulo at night

The nightlife and restaurant scene is amazing in São Paulo, I finished the evening dining with friends who suggested many of the sights I could see while I was there, so I prepared for the following day. 

Galeria Nara Roesler

Nara Roesler Galeria

In the morning I decided to head back to Pinheiros to attend the opening of the exhibitions ‘MOTO’ by Raul Mourão and ‘Dispositivos para um mundo (im)possivel’ (Devices for a(n) (im)possible world), a group show curated by Luisa Duarte at Nara Roesler Gallery. Nara Roesler, founded the gallery in 1989 and it has since then become one of the most established contemporary art galleries in São Paulo and Brazil. Daniel Roesler greeted me warmly and took me around the exhibition.

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Raul Mourão – Nara Roesler Galeria

Mourao

Raul Mourão – Nara Roesler Galeria

Raul Mourao, who was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1967 and currently lives and works in between New York and Rio de Janeiro, was showing some of his kinetic sculptures and paintings, as well as a wonderful installation made of scaffolding.

In the Roesler Hotel, a recently opened parallel space in which curators and artists are invited to collaborate, I was especially taken by the works of Nicolas Robbio, Antonio Dias, Vik Muniz, Marcos Chaves and Karin Lambrecht.

Nicolas Robio - Nara Roesler

Nicolas Robbio – Nara Roesler Galeria

Nicolas Robbio graduated from the Escuela Superior de Artes Visuales Martin A. Malharro (Argentina) in 1999 but has been living and working in São Paulo for the last decade. In his works, Robbio seeks to bring new meanings to the structure of ordinary objects, such as the stone block you can see in the picture on top, where the sculpture is made of sand, stone and metal. I was pleasantly surprised that the work had been lent from the private collection of John Austin, Director of the Austin Desmond Gallery in London, who gave me my first job in his gallery many years ago. We ran into each other last year at the ArtBo in Bogotá, which was the first time I knew he had developed an interest in Latin American art.

Antonio Dias - Nara Roesler

Antonio Dias – Nara Roesler Galeria

Antonio Dias, who gained recognition in the 60’s for his criticism of the military dictatorship in Brasil, is undoubtedly one of the leading contemporary artists in the country. He produces conceptual works dealing with themes such as politics, political oppression and the art market. His works straddle the boundaries of painting, installation, photography, artist book, video, and other techniques. You can see a video of him in conversation with Lilian Tone (MoMA) here.

Vik Muniz - Nara Roesler

Vik Muniz – Nara Roesler Galeria

Vik Muniz - Nara Roesler

Vik Muniz – Nara Roesler Galeria

Vik Muniz, who was featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Waste Land by Luzy Walker is one of the most commercialy and critically successful Brazilian artists and photographers, with his show in MAM Rio achieving record attendance. He uses quotidian objects such as sugar, chocolate and garbage in to create bold, ironic images. These works are fascinating.

Chaves

Marcos Chaves – Nara Roesler Galeria

Chaves was born  in 1961 in Rio de Janeiro, where he lives and works. He began his artistic career in the early 1980’s. He uses photography, video and installations to document the things and people around him. As Lisa Canongia affirms, “Marcos Chaves surprises meanings and values that are immersed in vulgar things”. You can see him commenting on his work in this little documentary I found online. The mounting of the photographs overlapping one another and standing out from the wall creates more than a mere photograph and this is similar to a sculpture relief.

Casa Triangulo

Casa Triangulo

After this wonderful start of the day at Nara Roesler I decided to head to the neighboring area of Itaim Bibi to visit Casa Triangulo, where I was received by Amanda Masha. Founded in 1988, Casa Triangulo is an old player in the artistic scene of São Paulo and one of  the most well-known and consolidated Brasilian art galleries.

Stephen Dean

Stephen Dean – Casa Triangulo

Casa Triangulo

Stephen Dean – Casa Triangulo

During my visit they were showing two different collections by the French-American artist Stephen Dean. ‘Juggler’, which you can see above, was formed by a series of dichroic glasses displaying different colours at different angles and nestled into rectangular brown kraft paper or black aluminium foil. ‘Fever’, which you can see below, was a video of bullfighting images filtered through the lens of thermal cameras. 

Casa Triangulo

Stephen Dean – Casa Triangulo

Amanda also showed me the work of other artists represented by the gallery and I was very excited by Nunca the well-known urban artist and graffiti writer who in 2008 decorated the walls of the river façade of Tate Modern. Nunca’s works depict the reality of Brasilian people, fighting for survival in huge metropolis such as São Paulo.

Nunca - Casa Triangulo

Nunca – Casa Triangulo

Nunca's intervention at Tate Modern

Nunca’s intervention at Tate Modern

I also had the opportunity to see the exhuberant works of Mariana Palma. Full of flowers, Baroque architecture and textiles, Palma’s works are in words of  Juliana Monachesi a neo-baroque hyperbole representing not a dispute between nature and culture, but a healthy coexistence in an eternal state of crisis. Mariana is another artist whom I would say watch out for as  her popularity is growing steadily.

Palma - Casa Triangulo

Mariana Palma – Casa Triangulo

Finally, on my way to the airport I finished my day with a very brief visit to Mendes Wood, an amazing space founded in 2010 by Pedro Mendes, Matthew Wood and Felipe Dmab in Rua da Concolacao, in the Jardins neighborhood. I had the opportunity to view the exhibition “Collage”, David Salle’s first exhibition in Brasil. 

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Mendes Wood

Mendes Wood

David Salle – Mendes Wood

Unfortunately, as I was running out of time and had to catch my flight to Rio de Janeiro, so I couldn’t stay for as long as I would have liked and I missed the oportunity to meet one of my American heroes David Salle who was attending the private view. Oh well, maybe another time. Thrilled with what I had experienced in São Paulo I have now decided to return the first week of April to SP Arte, which is the largest and most prestigious art fair in South America. So a lot more about São Paulo in a few weeks when I return.

International Bienal of Contemporary Art of Cartagena – Day Two

March 7, 2014

Hello again,

On Sunday, after a well-earned night of rest, I prepared myself for yet another exciting day exploring the Bienal Internacional de Arte of Cartagena. Given that I didn’t have the time to visit the Naval Museum of the Caribbean on Saturday, I resolved to head to back to the walled city centre of Cartagena to visit this wonderful building, home to a considerable part of the Bienal artists and especially to those working with video, textiles, fabric painting and soft sculpture.

This colonial building was opened in 1992 as a part of the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. I had the opportunity to see the works by Janet Biggs, Nick Cage, Sheila Hicks, Katie Holten, Guillermo Mora and Teresa Serrano.

biggs

Janet Biggs – ‘Step on the Sun’

Janet Biggsan American video artist, photographer and performer as well as a seasoned traveller, contributed to the Bienal with an extremely sensitive video installation ‘A Step on the Sun’ portraying the adversities faced by a sulfur miner inside the Ijen volcanic crater in the remote region of East Java, Indonesia. It was a powerful reflection of the opposing forces…the natural beauty of such a geologically active region in contrast to the bitter reality of human exploitation of the workers. They methodically and endlessly, pack the sulfur crystals and they carry them to the weight stations pushing themselves to the point of physical exhaustion, sometimes leading to their ultimate death because of the toxic fumes of their surroundings. On the one hand beautiful, this contrast left the viewer very unconfortable indeed with the moral isuues involved.

Nick Cage

Nick Cage – ‘Drive By’

Nick Cage, also an American, first developed the soundsuits or ‘wearable fabric sculptures’ he is currently showing in the Bienal for his performances in the early 90’s. In ‘Drive By’ Cage goes one step further and creates a video installation showing twenty five performers dancing, jumping and rolling all dressed in these other-wordly suits and filmed over a soundtrack of indigenous drums and electronic effects. The overall impression reflected the Caribbean atmosphere of Cartagena through a ballet of colour and form. 

Sheila Hicks - 'Lares and Penates'

Sheila Hicks – ‘Lares and Penates’

In a nearby room Sheila Hicks, who studied in the United States and now lives in Paris, exhibited ‘Lares and Penates’ and ‘Viking’, two soft sculptures made of French natural linen and other textiles recovered from the streets. Hicks, who was heavily influenced by pre-Columbian textiles when living in Mexico in the late 1950s, has been one of the pioneers of incorporating craft traditions into contemporary art. In her Bienal pieces she combines her long-time passion for traditional manufacturing techniques from Peru and Mexico and the idea of worship and deity, referencing the relics of Roman mythology. ‘Lares and Penates´is made of compact textile pieces in vivid colors, attached to a wall and ready to be worshipped.

Katie Holten

Katie Holten – ‘137.5°’

Irish artist Katie Holten also works with fabrics in his wall installation ‘137.5°’. She combines the traditional elegance of Irish crochet work with found objects recycled into textile materials. She emphasizes the impact that humans have on the natural environement by creating a map or labyrinth of wool and tags which almost results in a man-made landscape painting. From the detritus of life she creates an objet d’art.

Guillermo Mora -

Guillermo Mora – ‘Penta Pack’

Spanish artist Guillermo Mora, winner of the recent ‘Audemars Piguet’ award at ARCO Madrid 2014, uses acrylic paint as a mechanism to question the structural mechanisms of painting. In ‘Penta Pack’, a group of works made by laying coat over coat of acrylic, paint is transformed into a tissue which is then tied together to create physical sculptural forms that challenge the role of the stretcher that’s usually its support.

Teresa Serrano - 'Quetzalcoatl'

Teresa Serrano – ‘Quetzalcoatl’

Teresa Serrano‘s double work ‘Quetzalcoatl’, made of embroided sheets and leather mounted on an iron structure representing two rivers, is an hommage to the Mexican village of Tepoztlan, which is one of the corners of the geographic triangle where the Aztec man-god Quetzalcoatl was born. The two symbolic rivers, one red and one blue, are meant illustrate the rigidness of iron in contrast to the liquid sensuality of the embroidered duvets. They are also meant to highlight the male and female duality of human beings.

Bill Viola - '

Bill Viola – ‘Walking on the edge’

Having seen this wonderful space, I decided to go for a walk and have a look at some of the smaller spaces and open air installations around the city centre. At Calle Playa de la Artilleria, a unassuming former warehouse right next to the walls of the city, I found ‘Walking on the Edge’ by Bill Viola, who has undoubtedly been one of the major figures involved in introducing video as a central part of contemporary art. His piece portrays two men walking towards the camera, their trajectories bringing them together, crossing and then beginning to diverge again in a representation of the inevitable separation between father and son when they choose different paths in life.

Clemencia Echeverri - 'Sacrificio'

Clemencia Echeverri – ‘Sacrificio’

I then decided to return to the Museum of Modern Art where I had only briefly been able to view the video installation by Clemencia Echeverri on the evening of the Gala Dinner. I was absolutely right to return quietly and be able to experience the amazing power of ‘Sacrificio’, depicting a public and collective sacrifice of cattle. Surrounded by the crush of the charging cattle one is terrified and engulfed in the action, sometimes feeling as if one were indeed one of the cattle themselves.

Yoko Ono - 'Wish Tree for Cartagena'

Yoko Ono – ‘Wish Tree for Cartagena’

I finished my visits to the artworks at the Bienal with my last stop to see Yoko Ono’s ‘Wish Tree for Cartagena’, a participative work of art in which the spectators can write their wishes until the branches are fully covered. I had been lucky enough to see another ‘Wish Tree’ installation in Copenhagen at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art where I had indeed made a wish on her tree and was able to do so again.

‘Wish Tree’ is a charming idea where people of all ages and backgrounds can realize a little hope. My hope and my wish was that I would return to the enchanting city of Cartagena many times in the future and that I would have had more time during this visit to see all the works being exhibited in the Bienal. I believe Cartagena is fast becoming an epicentre for art, music and literature and heartily recommend if possible try to visit the Bienal yourself as it runs until April the 7th.

Next week travel with me to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro where I explored for the first time the art world of Brasil.

International Bienal of Contemporary Art of Cartagena

March 5, 2014

Hello again everyone,

As promised, although a few days later than initially announcedhere is the first instalment describing some of the most interesting works and projects I visited during the initial week of the International Bienal of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias, which runs from 7 February to 7 April this year. 

This is the first Bienal in Cartagena and it is showing the works of over 120 international artists in fourteen historical buildings throughout the fortified city centre as well as in the open air spaces around the city. So of course I couldn’t see them all, but I hope you’ll find these highlights interesting. Congratulations go to all the organisers of the Bienal and especially to Nohra Haime, Cartagena / New York Gallerist, the spearhead of the event, and Berta Sichel, Artistic Director for an amazing success.

photo

Press and Artists Reception – Caribe Hotel

The festivities began with a press and artists reception the night before the Great Opening which was held at the fashionable Caribe Hotel, the first built in Cartagena de Indias in 1941 and a National Monument in itself. Artists and press mingled discussing venues, artworks and of course the wonderful setting provided by the walled city of Cartagena.

The next morning I walked to the old city centre of Cartagena where I began my tour attending the performance of Gijs van Bon, who wrote poems on the pavement of the Plaza de los Estudiantes through a swinging vessel which deposited sand  taken from the beaches of Cartagena. After the poems were finished, the sand was swept away in the same way the sea would roll in each evening to take away any imprints on the beaches.

gijs2

Gijs van Bon – PresentPerfectContinuous

Just a few streets further along I found the work of Oscar Murillo, the Colombian-born, London-based artist who recently had a one-man show at the South London Gallery. His work reflects his memories of the first 10 years of his life spent in the town of La Paila, a small village in a characteristically rural valley of Cauca. His pieces are layered with chaotic marks reminiscent of the street life that artists of humble origins experience. Murillo is a mediator between two different worlds: that of Latin American immigrants and the elitist contemporary art world.

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Oscar Murillo – Excursiones

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Oscar Murillo – Escursiones

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Oscar Murillo – Excursiones

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Oscar Murillo – Excursiones

Nearby at Casa 1537, a wonderful colonial hospital and chapel transformed into art space for the Bienal after more than three hundred years of being closed to the public, I had the opportunity to see the amazing joint project by the Colombian artist Ruby Rumie and the French-American Justine Graham. The photographic work is based on the relationship between Latin American housekeepers and their employers.

rubina

Ruby Rumie & Justine Graham – Lugar Comun

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Ruby Rumie & Justine Graham – Lugar Comun

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Ruby Rumie explaining her work

I was pleased to find the well known Colombian artist Ofelia Rodriguez, whom I represent in London, portrayed in one of the pictures forming part of the project. The installation examines the inherited colonial prejudices surrounding domestic work by producing a exercise in equality as the women are dressed the same way and posed exactly the same way to undermine any bigotry. The size of the installation is staggering, increasing the power of it’s message.

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Ofelia Rodriguez and her housekeeper Elves

In the same building, just a few steps away, my attention was drawn to the work of Eduardo Abaroa, a Mexican artist who produces sculptures and installations addressing social and cultural issues from a critical perspective, often referencing cultural violence and consumerism. His Bienal piece, under the title of ‘Project design for the demolition of the Museum of Anthropology’ included a series of serigraphs, a model, a video and more shockingly, a pile of rubble containing broken prehispanic figures. This is a work of fiction which reflects a fascination with Mexican indigenous art and artefacts of the past which sometimes ignores their presence in the present. They are more than a tourist attraction.

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Eduardo Abaroa – Proyecto de demolición del Museo de Antropología

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Eduardo Abaroa – Proyecto de demolición del Museo de Antropología

I continued to wind my way through the city and after a short, five minutes walk, I was at the Museo Historico of Cartagena de Indias, former home of the Spanish Inquisition. There I was fascinated by the work of the Uruguayan artist Richard Garet. In his installation, apropiately named Liberation of Meaning‘, Garet took fifty-three recorded poems of the well known Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti, cutting out words or fragments which he then merged in hundreds of random combinations. This fragmented presentation introduces chance creating a new structural effect every time it is played, drawing attention not only to sound and the process of hearing but also to the possibilities of language, its semantics and its subjectivity. The piece will be reproduced indefinitely without ever repeating itself.

garet

Richard Garet and his work ‘The Liberation of Meaning’

A little bit later that day I found myself at the Casa Museo Arte y Cultura La Presentación to visit another sound installation ‘Anestesia’ by the Colombian artist Oswaldo Macia. Maciá proposes a fascinating journey through the etymology of the word ‘aesthetic’. As you can see in the picture below it consists of suspended spheres representing beehives from which one can experience a series of sound-textures constructed from the communication of bees through vibrations as well as inhale the fragance from the olfactory composition, created for ‘Anestesia’ by perfumer Ricardo Moya of IFF. This installation is a sensory delight.

Oswaldo Macia – Anestesia

Oswaldo Macia and Oscar Murillo discussing ‘Anestesia’

To finish the day, I headed to the Museo de Arte Moderno de Cartagena, founded in 1959 in a former Customs House on the corner of Plaza San Pedro de Claver. In this beautiful colonial building I had the chance to see the work ‘Presentimiento Oceanico’ a surprising sculpture of a body stuffed in a seashell by the Colombian artist Adrián Gaitán. Gaitán, who lives and works in Cali, is a multidisciplinary artist that uses all types of disposable materials and elements borne from our daily lives such as damaged lamps or plastic bags in his works, making references to their usefulness and practicality.

Adrián Gaitán - Presentimiento Oceánico

Adrián Gaitán – Presentimiento Oceánico

In a way I felt a bit like Gaitán’s figure, engulfed by the seashell after a very hectic day but I found my second wind and finished the first day by going to the Gala Charity Dinner at the Museum of Modern Art with Rurik Ingram and his wife Ofelia Rodriquez and many special guests in attendance. Rurik couldn’t resist snapping a shot of Ofelia’s two gallerists as we were living…myself and Norma Uparela of Gallery Arte Cartagena. A fantastic if exhausting day it had been and I was off to recover for another day of visiting the Bienal tomorrow. 

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Gran Gala Benéfica

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Gran Gala Benéfica – Rurik Ingram, Ofelia Rodriguez and Norma Uparela

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Gran Gala Benéfica – Norma Uparela, Ofelia Rodriguez and me

Later this week look for more of the highlights of the Bienal and in the following posts next week I will also share with you my experiences in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bogota as well as post articles by artists and journalists whom I have asked to contribute to my blog. So much more to come and if you have an interest in South American art and you have been following this blog, please get back to us so we can include you in the mailing list and keep you updated with any news.