Apertura Gallery Weekend. Art galleries, spaces to restore our energy

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Manuel Fernández-Braso: “Art isn’t going to solve or avert a crisis, but it can raise our awareness about how to face up to and deal with one”

In recent years, September has become the time when, after the summer, most of Madrid’s galleries and arts venues kick off their new exhibition season.

Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend took place over the weekend from 10 to 13 September, with openings at the 48 different galleries that form the Arte Madrid association and featuring 75 artists from Spain and abroad, both established names and emerging talents.

For this edition, the galleries teamed up with the eight dance companies from the Canal Theatres Choreography Centre to create synergies between different art forms. What’s more, as an innovation this year, the association has offered 3D virtual tours of the galleries on its website. This annual celebration is an enriching experience, which we’ve taken the opportunity to discuss it with the president of the gallerists’ association, Arte Madrid, which organises Apertura, Manuel Fernández-Braso (Galería Fernández-Braso).

Exhibition Nacho Criado´s «Dice anni dopo» in Galería Álvaro Álcazar

Aside from fulfilling our desire to get back to the galleries, in what sense does the new season “restore energy,” as you put it, after these months of intense personal experiences, vulnerability and loss of freedoms?   

I’m talking about the energy that comes from such a wide range of artistic proposals: 48 galleries opening at the same time. The energy that emanates from every single artwork. The energy of the gallerists talking about their shows. The press, reporting on it all. The energy that flows between the visitors to a gallery. The dancers, taking inspiration from the exhibitions. It’s the same energy that holds every one of the different events together. It springs from our eagerness to reopen the galleries, to welcome visitors and meet new faces.

Can these artworks lift our spirit or do they dwell in the comfort zone of vague melancholy?

The impact or meaning of any artwork to different people or groups is difficult to identify, measure or explain. I imagine it depends on a range on factors including chance, logic and emotion: a person’s background, their education, character, sensibilities, training, culture…

In the same way that experts simulated a pandemic scenario in Event 201, which artists have managed to create works that transcend time and respond to our current political situation or collective experience?

What we’re going through now is new to us but not to the history of humanity or art. Painting and literature have been addressing plague, pandemic and death in all kinds of ways for centuries. You have all those images of St. Sebastian shot through with arrows, symbols of divine rage (plague) against humanity. Now our punishment is not divine but human, and art has been reflecting that for decades through works, or even more, through performance and installation. Think of the conceptual art movements of the 1960s and 70s and their interest in themes of ecology, social equality, capitalism… Our failure to resolve or reduce social tensions and excesses has generated others: the effects of globalisation, nationalisms, migration, the environmental crisis…all of which are reflected in current-day exhibitions. Art isn’t going to solve or avert this kind of crisis, but it can raise our awareness about how to face up to and deal with one.

Exhibition: Isabel Muñoz´s «Coup de Coeur» in Galería Blanca Berlín

Can these exhibitions give us a feeling of being freer or is that too much to ask? Is it just about evading reality for a while?

If you step into a gallery filled with certainty and leave filled with doubt, then you’re experiencing freedom: it’s the freedom that comes from seeing a different perspective, of questioning what we’ve learned, of going beyond what established powers might hide. The experiences, emotions or ideas that artworks can express make us freer and make us feel freer. In any case, even if it were just escapism, it’s worth it.

In the mid to long term, can these initiatives contribute to a rich ecosystem in which artists and galleries can both grow?

This initiative generates wealth in the whole contemporary art sector: for artists, professionals (curators, managers, mediators…), the media, the small companies that are also involved. And it’s a huge effort for the galleries: exhibition spaces, production costs… Galleries help artists grow and artists help galleries grow too.

Exhibition : Rafa Fortalez´s «En bucle» in Galería Ponce+Robles

After so much unexpected suffering, is a new kind of art emerging? 

At Apertura there are shows by artists who are dealing directly with the ideas, experiences and perspectives that this unexpected suffering has brought. Others, more indirectly.

In recent years, September has become the time when, after the summer, most of Madrid’s galleries and arts venues kick off their new exhibition season.

Photography: Oscar Rivilla

Translation: Rebekah Jane Rhodes

Music: Electrophorus

Art direction: Oscar Rivilla and Carolina Verd

Main picture: jacket by Civit; pants by Marella; blouse by Essential courtesy from HI-IP MADRID. Ankle boot by Liujo courtesy from Finally

Photo 2: dress by Simona Corsellini; top by Mangano courtesy from HI-IP MADRID. Mou boots by courtesy from Finally

Photo 3: animal print coat by Civit; skirt by Essentiel courtesy from HI-IP MADRID. Mou boots courtesy from Finally