An important element of all art fairs is the attention to new players – artists and galleries who are forming part of the fair circuit for the first time. As Artissima approaches, we were curious to know more about these newcomers, and so we reached out to Lisbon’s Galeria Madragoa, a gallery with a double presence at this year’s edition of the fair.
An important element of all art fairs is the attention to new players – artists and galleries who are forming part of the fair circuit for the first time. As Artissima approaches, we were curious to know more about these newcomers, and so we reached out to Lisbon’s Galeria Madragoa, a gallery with a double presence at this year’s edition of the fair: they will be forming part of New Entries, the section dedicated to emerging galleries, and also Present Future, the section dedicated to emerging artists, where the gallery will be showcasing the work of Renato Leotta.
Galeria Madragoa opened this past April, so it’s still a ‘baby gallery’ as co-founder Matteo Consonni affectionately called it. Nonetheless, a baby with a very clear vision for its future. In this interview, Matteo Consonni talks about his expectations for this year’s Artissima, and the responsibility of the art scene in Lisbon to make the most of the city’s current wave of popularity.
Artdependence Magazine: Looking through the work of the artists you represent, at first glance they all seem so different – there’s the vibrancy of Luis Lazaros Matos, and the monochrome of Joanna Piotrowska, Rodrigo Hernandez incorporates sculptural works, and Sara Chang Yang explores the universe in a sheet of paper. What, if any, is the unifier?
Matteo Consonni: Well, first of all, we started Madragoa with the desire to have a program with artists that we wanted to support, and whose practices we love. It’s true that the practices among these artists are very different, but for me this is enriching, because it means we are able to work and support practices that have very different dynamics.
With the gallery, we aren’t looking to make any statement in relation to any kind of specific art practice. But, I have to say that there is one unifying element for the program (which is not meant to be a statement, it is just something that happened naturally), and it’s the fact that all the artists are from my generation. So, all the artists that we are representing now are from the 80’s – ’82 to ’89. This happened quite naturally, in the sense that a young gallery working with artists that are from the same generation is doing nothing new. But, this is one thing all the artists have in common for now.
Apart from that, it’s definitely a program in which you find diversity, but which also places strong attention to practices that contain a conceptual base, and where there is a strong relation to the making. These are artists that often are working with materials or attitudes that are almost obsolete, in relation to some art practices nowadays.
AD: In Artissima, you’ll be participating as a gallery in the New Entries section, and with Renato Leotta in the Present Future section. You’re basically very much in the “up and coming” scene. What do you expect to see from other artists and galleries that are in this position?
MC: I’ve come to Artissima for many years. I grew up, professionally, in a gallery in Torino (Galleria Franco Noero), so Artissima is the one fair that I know very very well. One element that is important about this fair - which is the most important contemporary Art fair in Italy, but still a local one, let’s say – is the opportunities for young galleries. I’ve seen a lot of young galleries presenting in Artissima (a fair with a very, very refined public), and basically starting their history from there, with presentations that were of very high quality.
So, what I expect from the New Entries section...well, I’m not so familiar with the program of some of the galleries in the section so firstly I’m expecting to discover. And I’m expecting from young colleagues the braveness to present substantial works, which would not necessarily equate to commercial success. But, you know, Torino is a place where there are good institutions, and very very good collections. So, I’m hoping everyone will put out their best.
And, regarding the Present Future section - I think it’s a wonderful occasion for artists to present a solo project, with a decent sized space, in a section that has a very central position. So, I’m expecting to see some really good shows!
AD: You opened Madragoa this year, and already you’ve had a lot of activity. What is your approach for an art fair like Artissima? Could you say there is an approach?
MC: Well, so far we haven’t done so many fairs. The gallery opened in April, and Artissima is going to be our second fair. The first was ART-O-RAMA, which we did last August in Marseille.
Regarding the approach…Well, nowadays fairs are a phenomenon that, for a good number of years already, cannot be avoided. One can like them or not, but they obviously provide a wonderful platform. Lisbon is not in the center of the world - although there is a lot of attention towards the city currently - still, it’s not the center of the world, and therefore fairs are a good instrument for the gallery.
Right now, the gallery is at a young stage, where we are presenting a whole new program with artists that are building their careers. So, quality is definitely the one thing where I don’t want to compromise, especially now. And that’s really the approach: we want to present to the public of the fairs what we would present in the gallery. In the same way that we are presenting meaningful projects in our gallery, that is what we want to bring to each fair.
AD: Talking about Lisbon, the city has been enjoying a lot of attention recently, as you’ve mentioned. Your work partner Gonçalo Jesus is from Lisbon, and you have been going there for years. How would you say things look for the future of art in the city?
MC: It’s been four or five years since me and Gonçalo first started thinking about opening this gallery. And in these past couple of years, Lisbon has gotten lots of attention – in terms of tourism, in terms of people moving there, but also in terms of attention from the art world. Things are happening in the city: there was recently the opening of MAAT, which is going to be the new museum of contemporary art; there are some great institutions like the Culturgest and Gulbelkian, and ARCO, who decided to open a branch of the fair in Lisbon; and, of course, there are more galleries opening. So, there is definitely movement, and there is quality in terms of the things that are happening – both from new and, let’s say ‘old’, players.
How do I see the future? You know, Lisbon is not going to be cool forever, because this is something that’s always transient. But we are happy to ride this wave, in this moment, with the gallery. Having said that, I also think that for us, and for the rest of the art scene in Lisbon, there is now a big responsibility: to manage this moment, to work towards quality, so that when Lisbon is not ‘the cool spot’ anymore, it will still be a place that people want to go to, because there will be interesting things happening. And that’s a responsibility that I want to take, and that I would like everybody in Lisbon to take.
top image: Matteo Consonni and Gonçalo Jesus in front of the gallery space in Lisbon
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