BBC Radio Interview

August 1st, 2010 § 0 comments

BBC Radio Interviews Joao Correia
February, 2004
Luis Rebaza-Soraluz assisted translating from English to Spanish real time
English version below

BBC Radio: How did you get into the art business?

Art was in the family. My father is an artist, my uncle, and so is my grand father. I spent my childhood in his studios. I watched him painting, researching ideas and materials, discussing art and current affairs with politicians, social scientists and art critics. Although he always sold very well, he insisted that Brazil lacked a good impresario in the arts. He taught me the secrets of his success. He gave me the artist’s perspective of what the art market should be like. He set me to sell art, manage his studio and discuss art and the art market with his clients since my early teens. This caused a strong impression and sense of mission in me, and ever since that, I could only feel that the art world was my natural environment.

BBC Radio: How did you come up with the realization that Latin American art was needed in London?

As I said, I was brought up in a very rich cultural environment in Sao Paulo. Then, I got on the plane and came to London. As most visitors usually do, I went around the museums. After seeing thousands of paintings in the National Gallery, the Tates, the Wallace Collection and a number of commercial galleries, I could only remember a handful made by Latin American artists. This experience seemed like a disproportionate contrast to what I was used to. How come there was so much interesting art being produced in Latin America, and London – with such a rich art world – so unaware of it? So I thought I’d move here and contribute to sharing that with the city.

BBC Radio: Why London hasn’t had a Latin American art gallery yet, what inspired you to found the first one – Tambo Gallery -?

There are three answers that come to my mind. The first one is that no one thought of it before or the ones who did, didn’t have the right conditions to make it last. Secondly, it takes an individual who has strong links with Latin America yet prepared to go through all the hurdles of understanding how to make business happen in London, while personally putting up with a culture that brings a very different life style than that we have in Rio or Sao Paulo. Thirdly, there seems to be historically less proximity between Britain and Latin America, than, for example, between the continent and France. When living in Paris I felt that Brazil wasn’t as far as I feel after crossing the channel.

BBC Radio: Tell me more about Tambo’s origins?

Tambo Gallery has been a project for a while. I have spent hours discussing it —from its name and its cultural and market objectives up to the selection of artists— with people I know in different areas of the art world in London and Latin America. It then took me some time to understand the British business culture and form the necessary network to successfully launch a gallery. Now, the whole project has been made possible thanks to the strong support of my team and friends. We are ambitious with regard to the future of the gallery and believe that our audience will enjoy a great number of surprises we have for them, from unknown artists to innovative events exploring all the amazing cultures we have in Latin America.

BBC Radio: What type of art will you be showing?

We will be showing established Latin American artists, mostly painters. The artists in our programme have achieved international or local recognition but are not readily accessible to Londoners. As we are aware of the novelty of what we are showing, the art on show will express Latin American culture through the fine arts, while we will devise an engaging seminar and artist talks programme in order to raise awareness about Latin America. We at the same time know there are many stereotypes surrounding it and its culture but are very keen on breaking them. The gallery is about generating a space for the highest ranked Latin American artists to see eye to eye to their British and European counterparts.

BBC Radio: Is London receptive to this project?

Latin American art is growing in popularity in continental Europe and the US both in terms of sales and public. As we know, London is still the gravitational centre of the contemporary art market, and examples such as Tate’s appointment of a curator for Latin American art and the formation of an acquisition committee. Doris Salcedo and Gabriel Orzco’s recent shows at Tate Modern, or Vicente Todolí visiting Bogotá’s ArtBo before he retired are also good signs that the London market is keen on learning about what happens on the other side of the Atlantic.

BBC Radio: Please talk about some of the first artists you will be showing.

We are planning to show the Argentinean Antonio Seguí. He has a very interesting work about life in the urban centres, which I believe will suit London very well. It is also a work that carries a good dose of sense of humour. He is having a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris over the summer and we thought that it could be a good opportunity to do a commercial show of his works at the same time. After him, we plan to show Jesus Rafael Soto, one of Latin American’s great masters in Kinetic art. Soto is very well known around the world. He had a solo in the Guggenheim museum in NY and represented Venuezuela three times in the Venice biennale. Surprisingly, he had very little exposure in London. We also plan to show Arnaldo Roche, Mario Gruber, Jacobo Borges, Carlos Alonso, Moico Yaker and Carlos Cruz-Diez. We have in our program as well non commercial exhibitions developed in partnership with Latin American based museums, in order to give our audience the opportunity to see some of our masterpieces.

BBC Radio: What is special about Latin American art?

When we say Latin American art, we are talking about thirty seven countries! In the same way that it would be difficult to describe European art encompassed under one category, the same happens with Latin American art. I believe that Latin American art is special because of its fascinating cocktail of origins and cultural dynamics. I also think that there we have a special relationship between artists and the public, which benefits artistic production. As local economies and politics can often fail to meet people’s expectations and vision, the idea of national identity frequently falls in the artists’ hands. They somehow give a voice to what being Latin American means that economy and politics fail to do; and this contributes to it being especially expressive and develops into a naturally committed role of Latin American artists.

BBC Radio: How has the market for Latin American art grown over the years?

The development of the Brazilian economy is certainly raising the number of Brazilians – based both locally and internationally – who are able to build substantial collections. This is happening in other countries in the region. There is also a global phenomenon of diversification of culture, perhaps due to technological advancements. Galleries and museums constantly have to show different art to keep their audiences engaged. In this sense, Latin American art is, different enough to be new, similar enough to be familiar and allow visitors to relate to what they see. The accumulated totals for the Latin American art sales at Christies and Sothebys seems to be growing year by year and Miami Basel art fair is one of the most successful international fairs around. Over time, this has made Latin American art also a good investment option. Prices are rising and they will continue to do so if current trends go on.

BBC Radio: Is your London gallery audience mainly Latin American?

No. London is doubly one of the greatest cultural centers of the world and I get special fulfilment when works I’ve always known and liked in Brazil to are appreciated by an international audience. Most of the collectors who purchase from me never bought Latin art before, but they walk into my gallery and see something they like, recognize the quality and for a good price, they buy it. It is very simple in the end.

BBC Radio: What is your favourite art movement?

Maybe, following the up bringing with my grandfather, who is a master in Magical Realism, I became very familiar and attached to this movement. Magical realism gives both the artist and the viewer the possibility of exploring their fantasies and their contact with reality. It is a movement affiliated to Surrealism but with references of local myth and legends. Magical realism is a movement that represents in different art forms what many internationally known Latin American writers such as Alejo Carpentier express in their literature. It inspires me as it communicates a mystery that we feel we can spend our whole life trying to decipher.

For further information visit the website www.tambogallery.com (no longer live)

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