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Exterior wall of galeri featuring work by CB 1 MAG 1 and Bàlu.
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On the face of it, art is everywhere in the city of Barcelona. From the cacophony of Gaudí’s imposing Modernista forms, to cutting-edge contemporary design and streets spray-painted with impressive murals, it seems every taste is catered for: from smaller, independent galleries to the larger and more salubrious spaces of the MACBA and CCCB.
But despite the presence of art in all its forms, it’s not always easy for artists—new or established—to find a platform for their work. Lack of affordable space and high gallery commissions plague Barcelona’s art scene, creating particularly difficult conditions for artists to find new audiences and make a living. To address these issues, a string of art-lovers and business minds have created their own enterprises, taking a fresh approach to presenting work whilst putting practitioners in closer contact with their local communities. In doing so, they are reimagining the city’s art scene as one which is more diverse, more challenging, and more supportive of its numerous and undoubtedly talented artists.
In the vibrant neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, the light and airy surroundings of galeri provide an inviting space for artists and clientele alike. Its cofounders, architect Luis Eustaquio and fine-art restorer Eva Rodríguez, set about realising their vision for a more ‘democratic’ artistic space in 2014. “Often people feel like they can’t enter galleries because they feel like it’s an elitist environment,” said Eustaquio. “We try to lure people in by having our shop at the front—we want to provide an alternative for people who don’t necessarily want to go to a traditional gallery space.”
So far, galeri has exhibited around 40 artists, all of whom are creating work in the city. Its walls feature a veritable feast of young talent, from the elegantly feminine mixed-media works of Catalan-born artist RAL, to the beastly animal skulls of French artist Benoit Peleran. “One of our objectives is to have a really diverse mix of artists—illustrators, urban artists, designers, ornamental and decorative artists,” said Rodríguez. “We’re not really an art gallery, we’re more a showroom of the art environment.” The team sell both original works and prints, and aim to give customers a highly personalised service.
The crowd-pleasing exhibition launches at galeri typically feature DJ sets, something the pair say has been vital to building their image and drawing in the locals. “We’ve been working with DJ Mychel Castro to create really enticing events that activate all your senses, not merely the visual.” The team have also experimented with live painting, and are in talks with dancers and musicians to collaborate on upcoming events. A small garden and exterior wall offer a charming extension to the main gallery space, the latter currently showcasing an urban art collaboration between CB 1 MAG 1 (Carlos Margone) and Bàlu, both familiar names on the Barcelona scene. The team aim to commission new collaborative murals on an annual basis. galeri’s current offering, Nibiru Alert, is the debut exhibition of Barcelona-born artist Edmumo, and runs until April 9th.
DJ Mychel Castro at galeri
Creating a welcoming and supportive platform for emerging artists is also at the heart of Moraima, a multidisciplinary arts space that opened two years ago. Tucked away on a backstreet in the Raval, the sounds of gypsy and folk music can be heard bursting out from its doors throughout the week. Inside, the works of a variety of Spanish artists are exhibited alongside an intimate performance space and bar. Founder Monica Parejo wanted to create a springboard for new artists and musicians under one roof, as well as a meeting point for cultural exchange. “The city is known for design, but not for art or music,” she said. “Most artists have to go to Madrid if they want to make a living. In terms of musicians, it’s very difficult for people to get permits to play: it’s either the metro, Razzmatazz or Apolo—there’s not much in between for people who are just starting out.”
Moraima’s packed schedule of events encompasses everything from exhibitions to poetry open-mic nights and film screenings. “Previously, when I’d been to galleries in Barcelona, the atmosphere was very cold. You’re not sure whether you should go in or not. I wanted to make a space where you feel close to the art, where you can enjoy it and not be overwhelmed or put off by the rules of a gallery.” Upcoming exhibitions include a photography series by Dani de los Muros (whose work has previously appeared in galleries across Spain), and a collective showcase of seven different photographers working in analogue format.
Meanwhile, 3PGallery founder Karine Heckmann has done away with a permanent space altogether. Instead, she is working to connect her growing roster of artists (both local and international) with the owners of thought-provoking, alternative spaces, whilst also selling their work online and organising visits to their studios. “I really think the traditional model of the gallery is not so important,” said Heckmann. “If I had to buy a gallery, I know I’d have so many fixed expenses, and that afterwards I’d have to take a higher commission, and I don’t want to do that. I want the artists to get the most out of the experience, so I try to find spaces where it’s a win-win for all involved—the artists showcase their work, and the owners promote their spaces. We also try to keep it very low on expenses by finding food and drinks sponsors for the events.”
Visitors at Philipp Pawelka's photography exhibition
Heckmann carefully selects spaces that complement and create a dialogue with the work of her artists, a prime example being the Tibetan cultural centre Casa del Tibet de Barcelona, which last year housed the work of Zen sculptor Jesús Reigosa and a photographic series on Nepal by Philipp Pawelka. Previous exhibitions have taken place at the Hotel Villa Emilia (Eixample), the WSG European Headquarters (Born), and at the vast studio of Miquel Aparici, another of Heckmann’s artists (Santa Eulalia, L’Hospitalet).
Applying her business acumen gained as a financial and business consultant for major international companies, Heckmann strives to ensure that the artists receive a fair deal. “I am trying to best represent the artists and to limit the number of intermediaries in the process of selling artwork.” 3PGallery is also working on building connections to the city’s big corporate names, an area Heckmann said is still relatively underexplored within Barcelona’s art scene.
Although operating on a relatively small scale, these enterprises are making gradual headway in reshaping the city’s art scene. Through collaboration across disciplines as well as industries, they are all making the small steps required if Barcelona is ever to be considered a world-leading contemporary arts hub.