*Featured photo: Exibition view, Aixa Portero, Courtesy Isolina Arbulu
AQUÍ la entrevista en español
Isolina Arbulu is the founder of a new space for contemporary art, a gallery housed in an architects’ studio in Marbella’s cosmopolitan context. Three rooms hosting exhibitions and cross-disciplinary projects by both established and emerging international and national artists, towards whom the gallery is committed to providing support and guidance.
Below is Isolina’s account of this project and its evolution.
You are a very young founder of a successful gallery: how did the idea for this adventure come about? To what extent was your young age an obstacle or an advantage?
I started this adventure following my passion for art, seeking to support artists in the always complicated art scene.
I don’t think age should be a factor in any case, but I do believe that keeping in touch with new trends and being open-minded to new ways of connecting with collectors and artists is always positive. I am at a point in my life where I have many years of experience, but I still have a long career ahead of me.
What are the principles that guide the gallery’s exhibition planning?
The gallery has had a very organic and intuitive evolution, at the beginning I chose the artists from a collector’s perspective, looking for those I would like to have, but over time we give more importance to the content, the trajectory and projection of the artists. I tend to look for a connection to the artist’s feeling.
We look for a balance between young and established artists, risky proposals that awaken feelings and provoke a dialogue from different artistic techniques.
The gallery’s programming features Andalusian, Spanish but also international, emerging and established artists: how do you select the artists? And between the artist and the gallery is an ongoing relationship established that follows the path and career of the artist?
As I mentioned, I need to find a connection with the artist, with their way of seeing the world, I need to understand what they are trying to transmit, perhaps not on a rational level. At first it makes sense to show works by artists who are geographically close, as there is a stronger connection, but since I have lived in different parts of the world, I find it interesting to see how we are able to connect with artists from different backgrounds and nationalities, I feel that diversity enriches us, and we often find surprising meeting points.
I try to create a bond with my artists, to support their careers in any way I can. That’s why I find it essential to work with artists I connect with.
Fiber Art and more generally related materials and techniques are often present among the exhibitions and artists of the gallery (I am thinking for example to Ana Sanchez, Aixa Portero, Nanon Morsink). In your opinion, what is the state of this language today – the response from the public, the diffusion among the artists, the proposal by the art insiders? And what do you think is the most interesting aspect of this expressive medium?
It seems to me that all art is in one way or another connected to the materials of the “earth”, sometimes this connection is more obvious, as in the case of Ana Sánchez with her use of paper, Nanon Morsink in her use of plastic and strings, or Aixa Portero in her use of feathers and other organic materials that come directly from the earth. But even in photography it seems to me that the artists we represent have a strong connection to the earth.
It is true that fibres have a very intense and pure way of connecting with the viewer, people feel invited to “touch” the pieces, a very strong connection is created with the viewer.
It is a type of art that provokes very interesting reactions.
How has the gallery’s work evolved over time, especially in the last two difficult years dominated by the pandemic?
How has the work of the gallery evolved over time, especially in the last two difficult years dominated by the pandemic?
For a little over a year now, I have been working with Antonia Cea, a childhood friend who is an art historian and curator. She has helped the gallery evolve in a more professional direction, we have started to participate in art fairs, and will soon attend our first international art fair, ZONA MACO in Mexico. Although Antonia lives in Chile, we have found a way to work remotely.
The pandemic has undoubtedly been a great challenge for all of us, but challenges force us to evolve and learn, looking for new ways. In our case, being a very young gallery, we have grown in a different way than we would have done in other circumstances.
I am proud that we have been able to maintain the gallery’s programme, as many sectors have done, we have dedicated a great deal of effort to consolidating our online presence. As a small town gallery, in many ways this has presented a great opportunity to open up to a more international market, which perhaps we would have waited longer to try to access.
Who is the audience attending your gallery? And who is the typical buyer of contemporary art in your experience? And how are these evolving in time – for example what is the interest of the young people in contemporary art?
We have a very varied public, from young professionals who are starting out in collecting and are curious about new trends, to more established collectors who are clear about what they are looking for.
Our city, Marbella, is a place with a highly international upper-middle-income public, where there is a large number of art lovers with whom we are connecting better and better.
Art fairs have undoubtedly been a way to reach other types of collectors. I feel that among young collectors there is a great interest in discovering new talents and understanding more about the art process and the work of artists.
What advice would you give to talented young artists looking for a gallery to collaborate with?
It is important to find a gallery that connects with your work, don’t try to adapt to trends and always be true to what you believe in. There are many galleries with different approaches and you should try to work with the one that understands you and shares your vision. Be clear about where you want to go and see if the gallery will support you in this journey. It is important to establish a good relationship of trust and work and to understand that to earn the respect of a gallery, you must value the work that the gallery does for the artist.
Considering the gallery’s activity so far, how would you evaluate it?
When I started this project I didn’t have an ambitious plan, I had a feeling of what I wanted to do, as well as love and respect for art. After this time I have come to love the work I do, and now I have a clearer vision of the steps needed to achieve my goals. We are now in the process of internationalizing the gallery and our goal is to help our artists become part of the international art scene. But overall I am very satisfied with what we have achieved so far.
What are the projects for the future?
Our next challenge is the ZONAMACO art fair (Mexico DF), where we will present the work of the emerging artist Paula Valdeón, together with the renowned photographer Magdalena Correa. We hope to reach international collectors and open new channels for all our artists.
We will continue to combine emerging artists with more established ones in our gallery program, and look forward to continuing our artist talks and other face-to-face activities.
In the coming year we will have exhibitions of both new artists such as Paula Valdeón, Lola Guerrera, Javier Erre… as well as exhibitions of new work by gallery artists we have already exhibited, such as Javier de Juan or Aixa Portero.
We will continue to expand online sales and viewing rooms, as they are an interesting way for our artists to reach a wider audience.
Among our plans we also hope to consolidate our position in the international art fair scene. I want to be realistic, but also ambitious because my job is to support artists I strongly believe in and that is a pleasure, but also a responsibility.