Gonçalo Conde has been feeling the urge to be connected to the art realm since he was 13. His greatest passion is fashion, but the gateway to this world has been the antiquities he has collected since his twenties. Life led him to opt for dentistry, but he never forgot his dreams. In 2005, he attended Ar.Co’s evening course on contemporary jewellery with the intent of absorbing information that would allow him to materialize an idea he had in mind four years before: to open an art gallery. This dream became reality on 16 February, 2019 and is called Espaço Real.
The gallery’s name – ‘real space’, in English – is not merely an allusion to its location – Príncipe Real. It is the mirror of an intention. The objective to establish a freedom-laden area, far from the strictness of scientific thought that takes hold of half of Gonçalo Conde’s daily life. A place that welcomes the need for deformation, dropping any preconceived labels attached to the artists surrounding it. “And that makes perfect sense in the contemporary context, where we encounter a need for the message, for experimentation. There are no materials, no strict aesthetic rules. There is a need to disrupt any existent patterns. That’s my primary mission with this space”, he declares with a shy smile.
This shyness is a constant element during the conversation, as he attempts to convey the right message. He doesn’t think that Espaço Real will provide the artists with something entirely different compared to other already established galleries. Each has its role. “But I felt that there is an urgency to communicate and those who communicate have a wider space”, he explains. There is a need to bring art closer to the audience, making it less hermetic through the artists’ direct discourse. “Espaço Real is that. A real space, of real, accessible communication. I don’t think there is a need to digest information and provide it already chewed up, but one needs to be available and make their presence noteworthy to motivate people to research for themselves and develop interest”, he concludes.
A real heart
The process of choosing artists for the gallery relies on an emotional criterion. “I don’t know if that is good or bad, but I want to give voice to those who welcomed me, who teach me and build me”, Gonçalo Conde affirms. The jeweller Inês Nunes is a pivotal figure. She was his teacher at Ar.Co and the fascination was felt immediately. “I was a bad student, I must admit it. I had the goal to create this space, to absorb things. I often sat down and just wanted to hear Inês talking. Inês has been a guide. She is the one who explains the realm of contemporaneity to me, the necessity of the message that is beyond the technique itself, that surpasses anything. There is plenty of Inês in this space”, he says.
As a matter of fact, Espaço Real’s identity is experiencing a transformation. Antique items are found alongside contemporary art pieces. Among the antiquities, half is from Gonçalo Conde’s private collection and the other half are pieces of the Ricardo Espírito Santo Foundation (Espaço Real is the first gallery to represent the Foundation). But if, at first, antiquities were the crutch required to take this step, they start to look superfluous. Right now, it makes sense to walk towards a space devoted to contemporary art and nothing else. “Antiquities are quite impersonal and static. The happiness I felt with the inauguration of this space and the way we were all in this process offered me a much more humane perspective of art, something that antiquities simply cannot do. This connection to the artist is much more fruitful and so is the bridge to the curator who plunges into the work of an artist who is no longer in this world. This human bonding derives from my profession as well. I love people, to take care of them. That is what I extract from the health sector: to treat and to care”, Gonçalo explains.
However, there is no need to hurry while paving the way. A somehow surprising (and satisfying) thing in the eyes of Gonçalo Conde is that the artists who step into the gallery want to propose works in tune with the space, under a dialogue with the antiquities. And that can only mean that something is right. On 3 May he inaugurated Fábio Colaço’s exhibition A God Called Money, gathering together installation, video and photography, in a conversation with Espaço Real’s antiquities. Carolina Quintela as the curator, yet another cornerstone of Gonçalo Conde in the construction of this project, who will have her own show at the gallery in September, with an exhibition that marks her return to sculpture.
Before that, in June, Diogo Ramalho displays his work at Espaço Real, with Inês Nunes assuming the curator role. “This is also a deformation. To invite the artist to do something different, out of their comfort zone. Because they can and know how to do it”, Gonçalo explains.
Nevertheless, he never interferes in creative and exhibitive freedom. All artists are comfortable to move, add and remove whatever they want. Espaço Real is a place of absolute freedom, since it is a reflection of the evasion that Gonçalo Conde always attempted to attain for himself. Getting closer to this goal is something felt in the heartbeat of the walls. Here, one can breathe deeply and exhale without haste.