Amid Catalan Separatism, Barcelona Launches its First Gallery Weekend

Barcelona's art scene is entering a new phase.

Photo: via Turistum

This past Sunday, the separatists won the regional elections in Catalonia, an unprecedented outcome that may result in the independence of the province from the Spanish state. For the local art scene in Barcelona, this week is also a pivotal one, but for other reasons.

Following a successful model implemented in cities like Berlin, Warsaw, and Madrid, the first edition of Barcelona Gallery Weekend will kick off this Thursday across 40 spaces all over the city, encompassing exhibitions not just in commercial galleries, but also in art institutions and artist-run-spaces.

The 21 commercial galleries that are participating include young ones like ADN Galeria, Nogueras Blanchard, and Galeria Trama, as well as established ones like ProjecteSD, Galeria Senda, àngels Barcelona, Galeria Estrany – de la Mota, and Galeria Joan Prats.

Francesc Ruiz, The Surroundings (2015).<br>Photo: Courtesy Estrany – de la Mota gallery

Francesc Ruiz, The Surroundings (2015).
Photo: Courtesy Estrany – de la Mota gallery

Barcelona’s premier museums—including Fundació Joan Miró, MACBA, Museo Picasso, and Fundació Mies van der Rohe—will also participate in the weekender, hosting special exhibitions and events and offering special opening hours. At Fundació Joan Miró, the Berlin-based young Spanish artist Rubén Grilo, fresh from his residency at London’s Gasworks, will show a range of new works in a solo exhibition curated by Martí Manen, curator of the Spanish Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

A cluster of independent spaces and nonprofits—including Bar Project, Homesession, and The Green Parrot, which is currently staging a solo show of the Madrid-based artist Teresa Solar Abboud—are also taking part in the initiative. The inclusion of these non-profit organizations is particularly salient as they can be credited with bringing a new lease of life to a stagnant art scene whose public art institutions have struggled of late with directorship woes and slashed budgets.

Installation shot of Teresa Solar Abboud’s exhibition at the Green Parrot.Photo: Roberto Ruiz Arguedas Courtesy: The Green Parrot

Installation shot of Teresa Solar Abboud’s exhibition at the Green Parrot.
Photo: Roberto Ruiz Arguedas Courtesy The Green Parrot

Barcelona Gallery Weekend also features “Compositions,” a program of five specially-commissioned interventions curated by Latitudes, the Barcelona-based curatorial office formed by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna.

“We liked the idea of being involved at an early stage in building an exciting new initiative in the city that would be about advocating its cultural capacity and the artists working locally,” they told artnet News.

Presented as a curated program to punctuate and interrupt the calendar of exhibition, “Compositions” will present works that six artists active in the local art scene —David Bestué, Dora García, Jordi Mitjà, Rasmus Nilausen & Pere Llobera, and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané—have made in response to very specific locations; public or private sites that are significant to these artists’ practices for various reasons.

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Table with various work objects (1998-ongoing). Installation view at CRAC Alsace, 2014.<br>Photo: Courtesy BGW

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Table with various work objects (1998-ongoing). Installation view at CRAC Alsace, 2014.
Photo: Courtesy BGW

Fittingly, García will hold a talk-based event and publication display in Barcelona’s Freudian Field Library, while Steegmann Mangrané will present a sound installation among the subtropical plants of a 1887 shade house in the Ciutadella Park, to mention two examples.

“None of the venues are art spaces, and it has been all about trying to match-make the potential contribution of a venue’s history and legacy with the practice and desires of each of the artists,” the curators told artnet News. “We really wanted to highlight public and private locations that are perhaps esoteric, overlooked, and underappreciated, and work with fantastic artists who we knew would respond to this ‘hidden’ side of the city. Many of the venues will be completely unknown to locals as well as to visitors perhaps more used to the orthodox venues for encountering art,” they added.

Mariana Cánepa Luna and Max Andrews, from the curatorial office LatitudesPhoto: Courtesy Latitudes

Mariana Cánepa Luna and Max Andrews, from the curatorial office Latitudes
Photo: Courtesy Latitudes

Barcelona Gallery Weekend, thus, is keen to offer new vistas and more dynamic approaches to those interested in the city’s local art scene. It is a fitting and timely initiative that arrives at a key moment, not just in the political sphere at large, but also in the institutional one.

After a few years of scandals (like the one that resulted in the resignation of the former director of MACBA, Bartomeu Marí earlier this year), disorganized management, and lack of funding, Barcelona’s museums are entering a new phase. MACBA, for example, has a new director, Ferran Barenblit, and so does the Fundació Tàpies, the reputed curator and critic Carles Guerra. The storm hasn’t passed quite yet, but Barcelona—which for years was considered to have a more interesting art scene than Madrid—is now ready to reclaim the limelight.

“Barcelona Gallery Weekend” runs from October 1-4, 2015, at various locations in Barcelona.

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