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Interview with Gema Lazcano, director of Art Madrid

Gema Lazcano (on the right) andPatricia Blasco (Artfacts.Net)

AfN: How did you come to the art world?

Gema Lazcano: It was in 1999 when I opened an art gallery specialized in New Spanish Realism, focusing our efforts in promoting young artists. It was open until 2004, when I got the offer to run Art Madrid. Such a project was totally incompatible with the gallery, so I decided to leave the stage as an art gallery owner and turn over a new leaf as corporative manager.

AfN: How was Art Madrid born?

Gema Lazcano: Art Madrid arose from an idea of 18 widely renown Spanish gallery owners who realised that there was a gap in the art market, especially in the private collecting, that had to be filled. So, coinciding with ARCO, they decided to promote a private initiative, as it is the case in other European cities, where art fairs hold up the whole market. The promoter committee intended to create an art fair which would include all aspects of Contemporary Art, from historic -lately forgotten- avant-gardes to recognised artists from the 70's and 80's, all the way up to emerging art. But always paying special attention to traditional artistic supports: painting, sculpting.

AfN: In the first edition of Art Madrid, numbers reached 15.000 visitors and 7 million Euros in sales. How would you evaluate the first edition and what would you expect from the second one?

Gema Lazcano: The first edition was quite a positive experience. We had to face many inconveniences, such as a change of location in the last month, which forced us to close the fair on a Saturday evening, something very unusual. However, 15.000 visitors came to the fair. Moreover, we had a very specialised -and therefore eager- public, we could notice it after taking a look to the fair. That determined a surprisingly high amount of sales.

AfN: In 2006, the fair included around 50 galleries. This year, nearly 80 galleries are participating in the fair, a fourth of them foreign ones. To host all of them, the exhibit room space has doubled. What would be the format for Art Madrid to be consolidated?

Gema Lazcano: Due to the large number of application forms received this year, we were quite sure that we would fall short of space by using just the Pabellón de Cristal (Cristal Pavilion) on the first floor. But then we decided not to fit out more exhibit room, to let the fair grow coherently. It was very important for us to maintain, improve and consolidate the good line initiated last year, establishing quality as our fundamental criterion. Thus, we had to limit the number of galleries to 80 that would join the show. Next year we expect to enlarge the fair, to reach the number of 100-120 galleries, but not exceed it, to keep the fair smooth for visitors.

AfN: There is an important presence of Latin American and Portuguese galleries, whose number, in words of the Art Madrid management, will keep increasing. In addition, Art Madrid will attend a retrospective exhibition from the Portuguese based artist Mario Cesariny. Could you explain us your positioning strategy to step us as a spokesman for the Latin American market?

Gema Lazcano: Art Madrid tries to open and to bring the Latin American art to Europe. We noticed that art fairs taking place in Latin American are focussed on European art, as it is the case in Basel Miami. Then, fairs focussed on Latin American Art are very locally placed, very small and focussed basicall on the own national art market. That made us try to be the entrance door for Latin American Art in Europe. For the time being our project is fulfilled with the current presence of Portugal an Latin America, but we intend to increase the percentage of their presence up to 25% of the galleries taking part in Art Madrid. Embassies and diplomatic corps of these countries have welcomed our project with open arms, they are very interested in participating on this plan as an investment in the future, so we will keep working on this line of work, to open this entrance door from Latin America to Europe.

AfN: So this Art Fair is focussed on private collecting.

Gema Lazcano: Yes, it is basically focussed on private collecting, but it doesn't mean that institutions don't come to Art Madrid. They do, and they also buy.

AfN: Regarding the contents and artistic supports being present at the fair, how much space is given to emerging art and new media?

Gema Lazcano: They are given an important attention. But the biggest difference among other fairs is that Art Madrid contains a little of everything. As I said, it covers historic avant-gardes, 70's, 80's and 90's, emerging art and new media, but there are also works from young artists working on traditional supports.

AfN: Will Art Madrid keep being held at the Casa de Campo's Pabellón de Cristal, or are there any plans about moving to another location?

Gema Lazcano: Not for the moment. We will consider it in the future, but not in a short or medium term. We don't expect the fair to be much bigger than it is now, so for the time being the place fits perfectly the fair.

AfN: As you said before, in many cities the formula consists in a main consolidated art fair complemented by additional art fairs focussed on other points of view (as it is seen in Berlin, Miami, London or Basel.). They cooperate with each other, and even the city throws itself into promoting them together, expecting to be the thematic focus in the art world. Art Madrid coincides with ARCO, but we haven't seen so far what I would call a collaboration. Why didn't it work here? Is there enough market for more art fairs? Can you imagine this scene in Madrid in the near future?

Gema Lazcano: I hope that we will start to develop a process of cooperation in the near future, to let Madrid be the European Capital of art for ten days. At least by now we couldn't reach this goal, but that doesn't mean we don't want it. It is our greatest desire to have -for example- transport services connecting both fairs, opening hours that would make easier for the public to visit both fairs…well, we wish no more than what already happens in other cities in Europe right now. And I think that there is enough room for more art fairs, as we have seen in Europe, where more specialised art fairs are being held in parallel. We are certain that there is a project for a Video and Digital Art Fair in Madrid, but nothing definitive. But surely, the more fairs we have, the bigger incentive is given to the art market.

AfN: So there are new initiatives being set…

Gema Lazcano: Yes, but what happens is that they are still up in the air, so that is not up to us. There is this project for a Video Art Fair, but I don't know if it is for the next year or in the near future. But this is certainly the only way to dynamize the market. Art galleries cannot get ahead with the visits one gallery receives day by day. There must be Art Fairs, and otherwise, artists cannot be made known and galleries cannot make a living.

AfN: Lately, many Art Fairs and Centres for Contemporary Art have been created in Spain. How do you see Spain in an international context, regarding to art market, production and art trends?

Gema Lazcano: The creation of new Art Centres is a notable fact, but we disapprove of the fact that all of them are creating very similar collections. It is interesting to realise this by visiting the MUSAC, the Patio Herreriano, the MARCO or any other new Museum. They have the same contemporary art collections, and I feel that this is very negative for Spanish Art, because if the works that are being produced now are not paid sufficient attention, they will have no historic relevance in the future. Institutional collecting dynamizes the market, but by always buying the same, the Spanish market is reduced to twenty names, which doesn't correspond to the facts.

AfN: Do you have a personal definition of quality in art? Which requirements must an artwork fulfil to make you call it "good"?

Gema Lazcano: Regarding the fair, our requirements are given to the galleries, not to an artwork. The requirements we demand to participate in Art Madrid are easily verifiable, they are about promoted artists, exhibit room, etc. It is true that quality depends on each one's taste, but also that we can fix some quality parameters, attending to the artist's evolution, from his studies to his first exhibitions, Curriculum Vitae or the galleries in which he has exhibited. It doesn't mean we don't give a chance to emerging artists who are starting their careers. We do. But usually artists need a CV behind their work, and I think that is the only way to measure quality without making mistakes, otherwise it depends on each one's taste.

AfN: Thank you very much, Gema.

Gema Lazcano: Thank you.

Interview: Patricia Blasco
Translation: Manuel Caballero

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