Growing up in my own art gallery

I grew up in a house full of strange sculptures. A crying black iron baby stood in the living room and elsewhere in the house is a semicircle of white figurines and a seven foot tall carved wooden woman who looked like my godmother in a terribly fortuitous way. I was also surrounded by photographs – a Robert Mapplethorpe by Patti Smith, an image of a building in Paris being demolished and a devil child with red hairy ears. Paintings too. Lots and lots and lots of them. The Jane hammond who stood above my cradle is etched in my memory. Above my parents’ bed is Keith Haring’s “Radiant baby, dedicated to my father and a bunch of grapes.

What once the bare white walls of my house began to fill with works my parents collected in their lifetime. It had always been their intention to surround themselves with art, although the path to get there had not always been so clear. My father gave up his law studies to devote himself to his true passion. He studied art history at the University of Barcelona and opened his first art gallery in 1991. He met my mother a few weeks after opening, in an art gallery in New York. They started dating soon after and married in 1995.

She becomes director of the Barcelona cultural center, Caixa Forum, while continuing to develop the gallery and its name within the city and the art world. This is how my house was born: from the soil of the old quarter of Barcelona and the pillars of worldly art.

I haven’t always been drawn to art. I remember I was about eight years old and dreaded my parents would take me to museums and walk mile after mile, seeing things that were beyond my comprehension.

One summer, my father needed help taking inventory in the gallery warehouse. I had been to this place many times before, but never really seen this. Previously, I had seen the warehouse as a storage place that housed our winter clothes. Alarm off, lights on (only those needed to find the anorak and suitcases full of mittens) and I would mindlessly walk past the rows of stacked paintings, meticulously marked with initials and numbers.

But that summer, stepping into the archives was like stepping into a new kingdom. I felt like I was in a sacred space, a space that made me want to whisper and tiptoe around, being careful not to touch anything that hadn’t given me permission first. . I have not left this kingdom since; it was the threshold that I crossed to begin the journey to become who I am today.

Last March, while I was still in Ann Arbor, my dad asked me to join his team this year ARCO Madrid art fair. I couldn’t wait to have something to look forward to, and that was it.

Fast forward to July 5th, we took a train to Madrid and started the madness running at an art fair. Each day was a routine, but each was also different from the last. ARCO started off in a hectic way and calmed down over the days. The first three days were only open to “professionals”: art collectors, artists and the press, the other days were open to the public. Then, when the days ended, the nights also involved work, but a different kind of work – business dinners, award ceremonies, and lack of sleep.

As exciting as it may sound, no one talks to you about your body aches: from your cheeks after having “smized” for 12 hours straight to your toes, to the boots that complemented the long blue dress you wore. day our majesties visited the stand. No one tells you about the difficulty of dealing with visitors who are more interested in you than the work itself. Who teases you with a “are you coming with the paint?” Nobody teaches you a good wardrobe when it’s a 95 degree July either. Or the burden of dealing with four customers at the same time, of explaining a work so many times that we have internalized it like a mantra, of eating so much tabbouleh from the supermarket that we can no longer think of couscous without to be nauseous.

But I still found charm in it all. There is something so rewarding about helping sell your first painting. There is something so wonderful about arriving at the hotel at night, looking at the news and seeing yourself talking while representing the gallery. Something so rewarding to see a team doing their jobs meticulously, always with a faint glint in their eyes.

It was interesting to see the works that people tended to stop at – they weren’t the ones people wondered about the most. I learned to distinguish simple art lovers from art buyers. The latter looked at the works as if they were at home: admiring the crossed arms, inspecting the surroundings, breathing peacefully. I was surprised by a buyer, who took about two minutes to close a deal, not even knowing who the artist was. It was love at first sight, I guess.

The art world is a web that involves a multitude of strings, each pushing and pulling in different directions. All that is big is suddenly small. Money is expressed in simple units: “what is the price of it?” – “fifteen.” The world is reduced to the confines of one place. Hundreds of languages ​​are reduced to one: English. Interactions with complete strangers take on a closeness that wouldn’t happen in other situations. And while the 24 hours of the day dilates to what feels like an eternity, it’s an eternity I wouldn’t hesitate to get stuck in.

I can only remember this week as one of the greatest experiences and opportunities of my life. When I left, I felt that I had not only learned a lot about the art world, about business and about myself, but I also took the opportunity to strengthen the bond I had. already with my father. I am fortunate to have mentors of what I love so close to me.

The artistic editor of the daily Cecilia Duran can be contacted at ccduran@umich.edu.


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William E. Bennett

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