NEREA UBIETO, CURATOR OF ONE PROJECT ART MADRID'19

"It is essential that artist and curator walk hand in hand, it’s the most exciting part of this work."
The curator and independent art critic Nerea Ubieto takes over from the ONE PROJECT Program of Art Madrid'19. Fresh air and a personal and philosophical narrative to enrich this "showcase of young talents".

For those who don’t know yet what an art curator does and what its role is, could you tell us in your words what you do and what is the function of a curator?

A curator is a connector of aesthetic ideas, a mediator in the broadest and most positive sense of the word: he establishes links between artists and the public, the artwork and space, between the pieces that are part of an exhibition, between the discourse of the artists and other possible speeches... I used to like the definition of the curator as an "ideologist of an exhibition" because it emphasises the reflexive question as opposed to the purely practical, something like a visual philosopher. However, nowadays I find it a bit pretentious and short. The discourse is necessarily forged from the conversations and the exchange with the female artists, therefore, they also "think" the exhibition. It is essential that artist and curator walk hand in hand, it’s the most exciting part of this work. On the other hand, the exhibition is not the only format to channel these artistic connections; there are other ways, visible and invisible. I believe that, currently, reinventing these formats and strategies is a primary task. We have to rethink our function a lot, broaden horizons of action, mix and open ourselves in collaborative ways.

 

  Thinking about the public that visits an art fair or an exhibition… what does this curated perspective provide?

Reaching an audience - of all kinds - is very important the way I understand the curatorial practice. I want to believe that the curated perspective has a lot to offer, first of all, a new look regarding the relationships that may occur between the proposed works. This vision facilitates - but does not make it easy - that the spectator establishes its own interconnections. The curatorial context, extensive reading and, why not, generates an attractive speech that can serve as a hook for an audience that otherwise would not have approached certain speeches. In my opinion, the curated perspective should bring the viewer closer. I try not to lose sight of this and imagine what my parents would think when they come to the exhibition.

“A curator is a connector of aesthetic ideas, a mediator in the broadest and most positive sense of the word: he establishes links between artists and the public, the artwork and space, between the pieces that are part of an exhibition, between the discourse of the artists and other possible speeches”.

 

  The "discourse" is the great contemporary theme... Do you have a discursive fetish? What topics interest you?

I'm not usually closed to anything because, even the topics that interest me less at the beginning, pose a challenge and involve unforeseen learning, but yes, I have preferences... In my projects, I usually work with philosophical bias, especially the personal identity understood in a broad way, from the recesses of nineteenth-century interiority to digital exteriority. Problems around feminism, queer, expanded corporalities, sensory experience, new materialisms, phenomenology... it's very difficult to define, I am passionate about many subjects!

 

  It must be complicated to get a reflexive pause before a work in these days of continuous news, haste and oversaturation of images ... How do you do it /try it?

Yes, it’s tremendously difficult, even more if you have a mind that doesn’t rest... I get it by forcing me to stop, specifically through yoga, practice to which I try to dedicate a time every day.

 

  What is the role of fairs on the stage of contemporary art?

Serve as a showcase, take the pulse of current art, promote the work of artists and, of course, sell it!

“In my projects, I usually work with philosophical bias, especially the personal identity understood in a broad way, from the recesses of nineteenth-century interiority to digital exteriority”.

 

  How do you approach your incorporation to the Art Madrid team? What will you contribute to your program with?

With excitement, but also as a challenge. Curating within a fair is complicated because of undergoing factors that are beyond my control and go beyond the curatorial work: the commercial part, the competition between the fairs, prejudices, fears... I’m aware that dealing with all this is tricky.

I will contribute giving the best of me, presenting interesting proposals and betting on a project 100% female artists. The goal is to radically balance a percentage that has never been on our side. Also, I think the selection is going to happen naturally since the vast majority of artists I've worked with this year are women.

 

  How do you understand the ONE PROJECT Program and how do you value the work of Carlos Delgado Mayordomo, the curator that you relieve?

I understand it as a necessary window and an opportunity for artists who are emerging and need a push. Beyond the possible sales and the visibility that a fair brings, being part of a curated program is a plus for the artist since it means going hand in hand with someone who believes and bets for her work. Also, my intention is to work with these artists outside the fair. With regard to Carlos, I can only assess in positive: I admire his curatorial work in general and the work he has done with the One Project during these 5 years, despite the difficulty. I hope to be up to the task.

 

  BIO NEREA UBIETO:

Zaragoza, 1984. Graduated in Art History from the University of Zaragoza, she works as an independent curator, manager and critic in various art publications. Among her last exhibitions they stand out: "Return Flight Tickets" in the gallery Max Star (Madrid); "The invisible threat" in Sala Amadis (Madrid); "The place where I live" in Galería Ponce Robles (Madrid) or "Keep calm and carry on", inaugurated in Tabacalera Madrid and itinerant by the AECID Cultural Centers Network in Latin America. She has recently been selected in the 2017 V.O. of curator of Valencia with her project "Artfulness" that will take place during September 2018. Among the awards and grants received are: the Residence Scholarship abroad of the Community of Madrid, developed in HIAP-Helsinki International Artist Program (2016); the International Award Exhibition of the CPR (2016), or the international residency Curatorial Program of Research in Estonia and Finland (2015). She is a regular contributor to the cultural television program Metropolis. She combines her work as an independent curator with cultural management, teaching and other projects in the artistic field.

 

 

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.