Longitudes

Two texts by Manuel Segade and Max Andrews analyse the current Spanish art scene

Two recent texts reflect on the current Spanish art scene, both noting the damaging effects of not only the ongoing budget cuts, but on the deleterious political interference in the programming of numerous museums and art centres throughout the country – perhaps the most notorious of which saw the resignation of MUSAC's Eva González-Sancho after three months as director of the León museum, followed by the resignation of the museum's artistic committee

The texts are written by Manuel Segade, a Spanish-born independent curator based in Paris; and by British Barcelona-based curator Max Andrews of Latitudes, offering critical and analytical perspectives from both the inside and the outside of Spain.
 
"Art and Society in Spain on the Edge of Critical Emergency" by Manuel Segade written for the September 2013 issue of Artpress (see pages below), offers a brief genealogy from the 1990s until today, mapping the rise and the activities of art centres, museums, art fairs, commercial galleries and artists. (Click on the images below for a larger view of the text.)



"On a Shoestring – Institutions in Catalonia" written for the October 2013 issue (#158) of frieze magazine by Max Andrews of Latitudes, focuses on the art scene of the Catalan capital and the effects of its cultural policies towards the creative industries. Mentioning the documentary MACBA: The Right, the Left and the Rich (1h 27m, 2013) [watch it here – in Catalan with Spanish subtitles] as an example of a critical strategy, the text questions the direction of the city's politics with regards to art.  

 (Click on the image for a larger view of the text, or else you can read it here online.)



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Süddeutsche Zeitung reports the "malaise" of Spanish contemporary art

Last weekend an article on the Spanish art landscape appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (pdf 248KB), which was later reported and summarised in English by Jennifer Allen in Artforum.com's International News Digest (week 12 January 2008).

According to the writer, Merten Worthmann, the Spanish art scene lacks experimentation and this is effecting Spanish galleries as well as ARCO, the country's main art fair. The whole discussion as to why Spanish contemporary art is not where it should be on the international map is not an easy one to tackle. The truth is, there is not one reason – there are as many as there are challenges. Although a lot has been achieved in the last 30 years of democracy and today we have many museums and art centres, the question is now not just about more, but about improving and investing in the existing quality.

Here is a 'shopping list' for starters: renewed focus on debate and theory with productive confrontations; targeted resources for medium-scale institutions; engaged art magazines and cultural supplements with less 'press release-y' or purely descriptive writing; simplification and modernisation of the 'cultural-export' model of funding and bureaucracy to reflect contemporary practice; wider transparency in selection processes for key curatorial positions; pragmatic vocational teaching at graduate level (and a life for post-Picasso art history); a competitive postgraduate art practice programme that meets the international standards of Amsterdam's Rijksakademie or Frankfurt's Städelschule; improved teaching of foreign languages; fiscal benefits to autónomos (self-employed) on a par with other EU countries...

The list continues. Without trying to sound profound or political, changes have to be made from within through sheer initiative, and that, alongside rabid generosity, is surely the way forward. It is certainly not all doom and gloom (we would not be here otherwise!), but the current economic climate will certainly focus the minds as well on the 'values that we value'. Onwards 2009!
Here is Artforum's summary...

REPORT FROM SPAIN (Artforum.com, International News Digest)
 
In anticipation of ARCO, the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Merten Worthmann delivers a mixed report from Spain. According to Worthmann, the young Spanish arts scene is missing some experimentation—a deficiency that has had a negative impact on both galleries and the Madrid-based fair. Moreover, the Centre d’Art Santa Mónica—which has featured exhibitions by younger artists—will be closing at the end of January, according to a directive from the Catalan minister of culture. “Barcelona is a kind of anti-Berlin,” says Bartomeu Marí, head of Barcelona’s MACBA. “A city that doesn’t know how to attract any artists.” For Worthmann, the closure of Santa Mónica is a sign of a larger malaise. “The Spanish arts scene suffers from its weak connection to central Europe, the center of the market, and of discourses,” writes Worthmann, who cites the lack of both an international public and a national network. “To be an artist in Spain is a handicap, both inside and outside the country,” artist Jorge Galindo told the newspaper.

Ferran Barenblit, who was until recently the director of Santa Mónica, and who now heads the art center Dos de Mayo outside Madrid, believes that Spain doesn’t have enough international pull and has lost its “exotic” status in the ever-expanding European community. “Barenblit can be very critical with respect to the homegrown arts scene,” writes Worthmann. “But he holds the unclear reception from outside the country responsible for the lack of resonance.” Chus Martínez, who headed the Frankfurt Kunstverein before recently heading to Barcelona to direct the MACBA collection, adds some “geopolitical” arguments. “Germans, for example, orient themselves above all toward the United States and, since reunification, strongly toward the east,” Martínez told the newspaper. “Spain long existed on the outside. We were never a stop on the Grand Tour, nor could we profit later from the Marshall Plan.” The Franco dictatorship, which ended just over thirty years ago, also played a major role in the isolation of the country’s artists. Despite the end of the dictatorship, many artists still leave the country. And despite the rise of several spectacular exhibition sites—MUSAC in León, MACBA in Barcelona, Herzog and de Meuron’s Caixaforum in Madrid, Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, and Madrid’s Matadero, a multidisciplinary center that will be fully complete in 2011—few institutions have managed to create a “solid profile.” “For regional politicians, often the architectural gesture was more important than the ongoing maintenance of an ambitious program,” writes Worthmann, who adds that museum directors are often at the mercy of changing ruling parties of the government. Despite new directives for running museums from the minister of culture, the sudden closure of Santa Mónica as an art center is a case in point.

As for ARCO, a public initiative dating from the 1980s, the new director Lourdes Fernández will be decreasing the number of Spanish galleries in order to increase international participation at the fair. Last year, the fair dedicated more space to curatorial projects featuring artworks with an experimental edge. “And the display window has long functioned in both directions,” writes Worthmann. International collectors acquire Spanish art while Spanish collectors are increasingly acquiring works by international artists. In 2009, all purchases may well be welcome, whatever the artist’s origin.

On another note, Matt Elmore from the The Art Newspaper has also written about the Barcelona art scene, though giving a much more simplistic and superficial account - including mistakes such as the "Santa Monica space as a visual arts centre devoted to Catalan artists...", when only one of the three exhibition spaces it had was penciled for Catalan or Spanish artists. See archive of previous shows to see exhibition history between 2003-9.

'Greenwashing' en El Cultural (13 Marzo 2008)

Ibon Aranberri 'Light over Lemoniz (without shockwave)', 2000–4. 
Cortesía del artista e Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin.

A continuación una selección del artículo 'Verde es el color del dinero' de Mariano Navarro que se publicó en el suplemento 'El Cultural' de 'El Mundo' el 13 Marzo 2008:

"Greenwashing se ocupa de un tema pujante, la situación del medioambiente en el mundo, y cómo su título indica lo hace desde una óptica tan amplia como determinada. Greenwashing es un neologismo que define la injustificable apropiación de las virtudes medioambientales por parte de la industria, los estamentos políticos o las organizaciones, con la finalidad de crear una imagen positiva de sus actividades o productos y una imagen mistificadora que distraiga la atención respecto a sus propias responsabilidades e impactos medioambientales negativos. Green significa verde, washing, lavar, y podría traducirse por “lavar con verde” o, más irónicamente, por “el verde lava más blanco.”

El comisariado ha sido un trabajo colectivo entre Ilaria Bonacossa, jefa de exposiciones de la Fondazione, y el estudio Latitudes, formado por Max Andrews y Mariana Cánepa Luna, colaboradores del programa Arts & Ecology, autores del libro Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook, organizadores en la Bienal de Sharjah de un simposio sobre el tema y editores de un número de la revista UOVO, de Turín, con el tema Ecología, Lujo & Degradación. Cito esta parte de su curriculum porque sin el conocimiento previo del temario tratado, difícilmente podrían haber llevado a cabo una lectura que, sin ilustrar tesis preconcebida alguna, resulte tan rica, tan alertadora e instructiva, en el mejor sentido del término. Tampoco para la Fondazione, que ha dedicado esfuerzos en esos aspectos desde 2001." 



Art&Co Nº1, 'El arte después de la ecología' por Max Andrews


En primer número de la revista Art&Co se incluye un texto de Max Andrews donde se analiza la obra de los artistas Amy Balkin, Cyprien Gaillard, The Bruce High Quality Foundation y Allora & Calzadilla – cuyas obras estaran presentes en la exposición co-comisariada por Latitudes 'Greenwashing. Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities' (véase http://greenwashing.lttds.org), que inaugura el 28 Febrero en la Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino (exposición abierta del 29 Febrero al 11 Mayo).



Max Andrews, 'El arte después de la ecología' / 'Art after Environmentalism', Art&Co, Número 1, Invierno 2008 / Number 1, Winter 2008, pp.28-32 & 116-118 (English translation). Descargar pdf aquí (3.7MB)

Revista trimestral editada por la Asociación Amigos de ARCO.
Directora Editorial: Ángela Molina
Contacto: [email protected]
Números anteriores: http://www.arco.ifema.es (véase menú 'Publicaciones')

'Greenwashing...' preview in January's Artforum

Two corrections:
  • Curated by ... Mariana Cánepa Luna, NOT Cánapa.
  • The exhibition will be on view until 11 May.

José Antonio Hernández-Díez

José Antonio Hernández-Díez

Galería Estrany de la Mota, Barcelona, Spain

"... Hernández-Díez seems to have hastily assembled all the elements for a dizzy new religion ... "

Max Andrews's review at Frieze.com


Review of the publication 'With/Without: Spatial Products, Practices and Politics in the Middle East'

Max Andrews's Frieze (Issue 110, October 2007) review of: 'With/Without: Spatial Products, Practices and Politics in the Middle East' edited by Shumon Basar, Antonia Carver and Markus Miessen and published by Bidoun and Moutamarat, Dubai, 2007.

Bidoun sub-site here.





Pyramid Power: Issue 3




Issue 3 of the sharp-suited Vancouver-based Art/Design/Literature Pyramid Power has just come out with an extended version of Max Andrews's interview with Revolver founder Christoph Keller, originally published in the Latitudes-edited UOVO issue 14. Here it is titled "Still Not a Hippie: Interview with Christoph Keller on the Future of the Book & Life on a Farm"

http://www.pyramidpower.ca/

Unfortunately the mind-blowing products from Herr Keller's
Stählemühle distillery can only be ordered within Germany.

Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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