When NoguerasBlanchard opened its first space in Barcelona, in 2004, the city experienced a small gallery break with the openings of DNA and ProjecteSD and a renewal of the map of galleries that had traditionally inhabited Concell de Cent street and its surroundings, with the mythical Toni Tàpies, Carles Taché or Estrany-de la Mota. The model was the classic one. Then there was neither WhatsApp nor Instagram and everything worked with laborious personalized paper dossiers with scanned images that the photographer still handed out in hand and in clichés. The fax machine was still good at making an offer and the websites were simple and homemade. Álex Nogueras and Rebeca Blanchard come from that school. When they thought to open their own project they gave a logistic turn of zone and they settled in full Raval, in a space in Xuclà street, to three minutes walking of the MACBA that then directed Manuel Borja-Villel and to ten of the CASM that Ferran Barenblit took.
The next step was to change the idea of a local gallery and expand it to a global one. Hence, in 2012 they opened their second space in Madrid, seeking the same neighborhood complicity of the Reina Sofía Museum and La Casa Encendida, as well as an axis of galleries already installed on Doctor Fourquet Street. That meant another outbreak of openings and he drew a new map of the galleries in the city. Rozando already the fifteen years of way, they continue giving spatial turns looking for that model of gallery according to the changing times and the disparate economies. The idea of leaving the small space in the center of Barcelona to settle in the large premises in the outskirts, in Hospitalet del Llobregat, was risky at the beginning, but after two years has returned to this project that experimental pulse to which they have always Been attached. And they are not the only ones. It contributes, and much, the fact that the area has become a new cultural district, with the arrival of other galleries and many artists. Although above all there is the opening of work offered by this gallery, most of the time converted into a project space, open many times to the look of curators. The last one is Rosa Lleó. In your hands is this year the cycle Margins of Ten, which has just opened the Ad Minoliti exhibition.
They have always sought to create a different gallery model in terms of their relationship with artists and their careers. They have always been clear that artist and gallery are not two independent entities but are closely linked in the production and promotion processes. Delimiting the responsibilities of the gallery with the artist and vice versa is its greatest aim at a more sustainable model change for creation and business. We talk to them all about them when they prepare the first Mercedes Azpilicueta individual in their space in Madrid.
Let's start with a brief diagnosis of the moment. Are we still in crisis?
If we understand the term "crisis" as a moment of change, with not necessarily negative connotations, we are indeed in a moment of crisis. In our sector, this change affects all the actors: it changes the model of artistic production, there is a change when it comes to bringing art to the public, it is sold in a different way, and art is also seen in a different way, from majority through the prism of social networks. Technology has facilitated our work, but it has also changed the habits of use of the public, be it the mere spectator or the collector. In this sense, we are in a paradigm shift, although from the gallery we vindicate the idea that art must be experienced, see it, be in front of it in order to appreciate it in its totality. The thousands of art consumers via Instagram seem to want to contradict us on a daily basis.
Is an art gallery profitable?
The galleries, like any business, are profitable if you take the management with your head and not with your heart. The problem is that gallerism is a vocational job and responds to personal motivations, and that is not good for any business. We must be able to have a balance to create a project with personality, that is genuine to the gallerist's spirit, and at the same time be financially viable. Surely with a good manager next door the life of any gallerist is easier.
Is there shame to go on the part of the people? Has that barrier been broken yet? To what extent is it the fault of the gallerist himself?
The space of the gallery is still seeing an elitist space seemingly vetoed to the general public. With the new forms of communication it is much easier to teach what we do, but still we have to do a lot of pedagogy so that people get closer to us. We are the first space where the artistic production that comes out of the workshop is shown. We are the primary source of information, and access to our exhibitions is always free.
It seems that the pop-up formula is the new format of the international gallery. Are the fairs open to that?
The growth of the pop-up model has to do with the exhaustion of the fair model. We have seen that fairs still serve to sell art, but they have also failed in those other areas that have been sought to promote, such as the promotion of artists, or as places of discovery or knowledge. Great efforts are made to organize talks with professionals, or work groups with curators and the result is a highly segmented effort that only reverts on that specific field and that does not add tangible value to the gallery that is paying the stand. In the end, a fair is not the best place to see art, and the curators have been aware of it for years. As for the galleries, the fair model suits us as long as there is a business opportunity. In terms of symbolic capital or returns looking to the future, it is surely an error to participate.
Hospitalet de Llobregat seems the antithesis of the focus of Doctor Fourquet Street. Center versus periphery. Do both models work?
In a street like Fourquet it is possible that several galleries share public, and that is good because it creates a network that feeds back. Creating a system like Fourquet where there are very varied exhibitions and you can also start or finish at the Reina Sofía Museum or La Casa Encendida is like an antidote to the boom of online culture consumption. Organizing joint events creates community and that is very important for the small artistic ecosystem in which we operate. At the other extreme is the space in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, although there we are also coordinated with our neighbors, which are also galleries and artists' workshops. In L'Hospitalet we work as a space for projects, with a more limited visit ratio but with great potential at the social network level. It is a very large space that allows us to store comfortably and work quietly. It is a de facto logistics center with a large exhibition space. Since sales are no longer always made in the gallery, it forces us to communicate in a more personalized way and to attract attention in another way. Having two different programs (one in Madrid and another in Hospitalet del Llobregat) forces us to communicate very well so that there are no confusions.
What has changed most in the gallery over time?
Although our spirit has always been to represent and work with emerging artists, fifteen years of gallery give us a perspective that forces us to mature. Follow our commitment to today's artists, since we understand that the language they speak and continues to be ours. On the other hand, we began to incorporate artists who are referents and who speak a similar language, connecting different generations in the program. We do not want to be a monochrome gallery, but one where artists express a similar sensibility in different ways.
Are we critical enough in the field of criticism?
Except for honorable exceptions, the critique of exhibitions has become a descriptive chronicle. Luckily, cultural supplements approach exhibitions with a certain subjective vision, which in the end is what the criticism is about. But the newspapers have banished the criticism of their pages and the specialized magazines have been disappearing so we are very lacking in spaces for serious criticism.
NoguerasBlanchard was among the first to launch a Open Call for curators. Are they good travel companions for the galleries? Do they guarantee so much?
We launch a Open Call for curators because this idea of generating synergies that obsesses us from the beginning. If something is clear to us is that a gallery is a collective project, and of course, the curators are a voice that we have always wanted to incorporate. They bring us, just like the artists, their own discourses and new visions, and the collaborations that we have had so far have given some of the most transcendent moments of our short history. In fact, after 10 years, the Open Call it was a single collective exhibition and now it has mutated into an invitation to schedule the entire season in L'Hospitalet, under a conceptual umbrella that Rosa Lleó is in charge of this year.
Looking at Barcelona and MACBA … How do you see your future?
With worry It is urgent to talk about the future of MACBA and the political struggle between the Department of Health, the Culture Department and the Barcelona City Council. Purely partisan interests threaten the natural extension of the MACBA in the Chapel of Mercy, which would provide sufficient space to expose a large part of the permanent collection that is in the reserves. Creating a satellite museum away from the Plaza dels Àngels is a bad idea and losing the current agreement will condemn the MACBA to be a small museum, without ambition and without capacity for growth.
And the future of the profession?
I think we all share a feeling of alienation. Alienation in all relationships among all participants. Alienation in an environment where space and time for reflection, debate and personal identification with the form and content of contemporary art have become incompatible with the ever-increasing demand for constant global participation, production and competition. Proof of this are the closures of reference galleries in New York, Zurich and London in recent months. The urgent questions that we must ask ourselves and our environments: What are the circumstances and ideals in which artists, gallery owners, collectors, curators and writers want to work today? What are our responsibilities and reciprocal options? And, more specifically: Why do we all support a system built in a completely different market that today works only for a small number of artists and galleries and for the rest is based on self-exploitation or privilege? What is the difference between creation and entertainment? And for whom is a game where power and participation diffuse so unequally?
An urgent issue for the political table?
The Law of Patronage. Each day that passes are opportunities requested. It's not that difficult: we have the English model and the French model each with its history of successes and weak points. Political gentlemen, choose one and apply it!