GET OF YOURSELF: PILAR ALBARRACÍN

The corpse of a woman is lying on the pavement of some pedestrian street in Seville. Many people remain paralyzed with fear in front of the body, others go on their way avoiding to look at the throbbing horror that remains on the pavement. The same body, now surrounded by mannequins, is part of a lingerie shop window. And those who stop in front of the glass of the shop barely distinguish between the texture of skin and that of the plastic, between the color of a living body and that of inert matter.

 

These lines that seem to describe our reality, are part of the radical bet of Seville-born artist Pilar Albarracín, who through her performances, sculptures, paintings, photographs, fabrics and installations, she masterfully evokes the violence against women, and embodies perfectly the fight against the gender and flamenco representations, often contaminated with clichés and prejudices begotten and consolidated during Franco´s regimen, and which now continue defining the cultural hegemony in which we are both victims and executioners.

A point. Serie Carne y tiempo, (2018)

Abuse against women, overuse of her body and progressive trivialization, as well as the overall package of clichés and tags that represents female identity in a equivocal manner, these compose the main lines of Pilar Albarracín’s work, an artist that understands art like an enunciation place in which social participation and criticism are possible; Albarracín illustrates it “con maña y desparpajo” (a local expression that means achieving something with great audacity and self-confidence) in each of her public-space performances, those in which the artist challenges the spectator through an unexpected factor disturbing and making the subject uncomfortable, taking him to the purest Catharsis, the same state that captures the author herself during the creative process.

 

A sort of Catharsis that reminds us of the Greek tragedies and the release experimented by Ancient Greece’s audience when they attended the performance of their own conflicts embodied in another body. There is tragedy in the dead female corpses that compose S/T (Sangre en la calle) series (1992); there is also tragedy in the display windows that exhibit disguised women wearing silk and microfiber clothes along with plastic dolls whose slender bodies are really near toxic, works from the Escaparates (1993-1995) series. There was, and continues to be, tragedy in a woman’s body.

Lunares (2000), Pilar Albarracín

However, the Sevillian artist’s work not only transpires tragic irony but also excess, lack of control, satire, mockery and madness –so characteristic of Dionysius, father of comedy– also play a leading role in her projects articulating an artistic imaginary replete with parodies and tragicomedies in which references to excess, pain, blood, bulls, wine, comedy, flamenco, female body and red color abound, the same red color that stains every scene and that which symbolizes the believe as such lo español (essentially “Spanish”), whose meaning we are still perverting.

 

Asnería (2010), Pilar Albarracín

In the video-performance Lunares (2001) we can watch Albarracín dressed in white flamenco clothing that she gradually colors by stabbing with a pin various parts of her body creating red polka-dots; or Prohibido el Cante (2000), in which the artist is wearing a Sevillian dress and she is singing her lamentations, songs that grow in crescendo until they become orgasmic wailings, until she ruins her dress and tears her heart out throwing it to the “tablao flamenco” (flamenco stage). Thus, Albarracín’s universe, which so well defines our present, strongly connects with the sacrifice tradition, very characteristic of the stark Baroque era, also passing through the critique of Spanish tradition developed by Goya, and just as through kitch poetics.

Flamencas (2009), Pilar Albarracín

The exhibition Pilar Albarracín. Que me quiten lo bailao will be on view until January 27, 2019, in Tabacalera - Promoción del Arte.

 

Buying the first work of art always instils respect. A difficult feeling to define that mixes vertigo with adrenaline. But over uncertainty and caution, a pleasurable sense of connection, understanding, and desire prevails. That work that, once seen, stays in the mind, reappears in the memory several times a day and seems to tell you that it is willing to be part of your home, is the perfect candidate to make the decision.

In the first steps, many collectors do point out that one does not start from an established plan, but rather that one acquires pieces based on taste and the connection one feels with them until, after time, they realise that the volume of works that accumulates can be labelled as a "collection". For example, this is how Alicia Aza explains it:

“I was not aware that I was collecting until many years later when a third party named me as a collector and talked about my collection. In 2005, I became aware of what collecting means and decided to articulate a collection with an identity of criteria and formats”.

Marcos Martín Blanco, co-founder, with his wife Elena Rueda, of the MER Collection, shares this same opinion:

“Collecting has been a passion, driven by a visceral state that encourages you to do so. The collection, in terms of acquisitions, has not been particularly complicated because, let's face it: it is easy to buy because they are all beautiful things and you have some clear idea of where you want to go, but at first those preferences were not so clear. It is with the time that a criterion is being formed”.

It is not always this way, of course, but for the buyer who starts out on this path, the personal connection that entails the first piece is essential. There it is the germ of a lasting relationship that is not limited to a simple aesthetic question but is an open window to knowledge, to exploration, to a world that is often unknown to us and awakens our fascination. The seed of that connection is purely sentimental, and it is precisely this impulse that determines the first acquisitions. The first piece is never forgotten.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Ana Maqueda

Exceeding the usual recommendations made by advisers and agents, rare is the occasion when the art lover decides to buy by pure investment. These paths usually open later, when the volume of pieces is large enough. In addition, there are those who are a bit against this classic concept of the traditional collector, approached from an eccentric, elitist and little accessible vision. On the contrary, art buyers are, above all, art lovers, sentient beings and permeable to creative stimulus who, at a given moment, decide to deepen the relationship they already have with art to take a piece home.

It is not that hard to overcome that small psychological barrier that turns the visitor into a buyer if one approaches the matter from a more personal and intimate perspective than from social consideration. Small-format works, graphic work or serial photography are of great help for this, whose price range, generally more affordable, allows a closer comparison to the daily basis expenses. In this way, the purchase of art falls within the range of feasible activities and becomes something close and possible.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Marc Cisneros

At that moment, a different relationship with art begins, based on pure experience and coexistence with the acquired piece. Perhaps it can be seen as an act of daring, but on many occasions, it is more a matter of necessity and transformation. Collectors also agree that the acquisition of an artwork is an exercise on personal analysis and opening up to a new field of knowledge that was previously alien to us. Alicia Aza explains that the reason she acquired her first piece of video art, by Sergio Prego, is because she did not understand it and because she saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to self-improve. This open window to knowledge creates new connections and bonds with creators, as one of the most fascinating parts of the process. Candela Álvarez Soldevilla explains that

"I think the most interesting thing in the art world is talking to artists. They are people with a special sensitivity to listen and understand.”

And Alicia Aza also says:

"I can share the satisfaction of being able to count on many artists in my circle of close friends today, and that is a long way to go."

Thus, with works that seem acceptable within the horizon of expenses that each one considers affordable, it is easy to find a piece that catches us. Since then, our home also evolves into a space in which art has a permanent place and presence, and there is no doubt that this transforms us inside.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Henar Herguera

Jaime Sordo, owner of Los Bragales collection and founder of the 9915 Contemporary Art Collectors Association, has always defined his relationship with art as a true passion and a vital necessity. For buyers who start on this path, he has the following recommendation:

“It is an essential condition that they feel the need to live with their passion to enjoy the works. Another very important aspect is that before making decisions for purchases, they are informed, so it is necessary to read specialised newspapers and books, visit exhibitions and museums and a lot of contact with galleries, which is an important and very specific source of information of the artists they represent. Finally, the presence in national and international art fairs. All this generates information and training.”

Indeed, fairs have become a good place for discovery because they condense a wide offer and allow diverse and global contact in a concentrated way. For this reason, many new generation buyers start in the context of an event such as Art Madrid, whose closeness and quality constitute a unique opportunity to meet, soak up and feed the passion for art.

(*) quotes taken from various interviews published in public media between 2013 and 2019.