ART PARIS | Southern Stars | Carolina Grau Interview

Following last year´s section on Latin America, Art Paris‘ Southern Stars is set to present the art scenes of the Iberian cities Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon and Porto. Curating this section is independent exhibition curator, Carolina Grau. Carolina has worked as a curator for the last two decades and has come to know the cities and their art scenes intimately.

Umbigo spoke to Carolina about her intentions for the section, its presentation of these cities´ art scenes, their positions within the European art market and their relations to one and other.


Myles Francis Browne – What prompted the decision to feature the Iberian cities at this year’s ART PARIS?

Carolina Grau – The decision to feature the Iberian cities was taken by the Artistic Director of Art Paris, Guillaume Piens who invited me to advise on the selection. We thought it was important to highlight, in Paris, the artistic production of the Iberian penninsula (which suffers from a lack of visibility on the international art market) while reflecting the changes the four cities have experienced since 2008.

MFB – How is Southern Stars structured?

CG – Galleries from the four cities will be spread around and identified by a specific signage at the fair itself as well as in the communication tools. There will be parallel projects including a video programme related to the four cities, specific installations at the entrance of the Grand Palais and on the walls of the Nave… Two round tables organized conjointly by the Instituto Cervantes and the Gulbenkian in Paris will discuss the present and future of the four cities.

MFB – What are those works or artists featured that, for you, demonstrate the spirit of their respective cities?

CG – Galleries will bring historical figures from the turn of the XX century to the younger generations in their mid 30’s. The final list of galleries will be approved by  Art Paris selection committee next 9th December. So let’s wait and see !

MFB – How do these cities´ art scenes assert themselves amongst others in Europe, such as Paris, that are considerably monolithic?

CG –  The four cities’ art scenes have changed in the last years, their increase or decrease in size is the result of the economic fluctuation of the market. For instance, some galleries have moved to more industrial spaces and new small galleries have opened, run by a new young generation of art dealers. On the one hand, Lisbon and Madrid are seeing an increase in the arrival of private foundations, new spaces with residencies for artists and some international galleries are opening a second base in these cities. On the other hand Barcelona and Porto have had more an alternative art scene with artist run spaces and non-profit spaces becoming a key element in the art scene as well as the municipal public spaces.

MFB – There is certainly a political disparity between Madrid and Barcelona. How does the exhibition engage such enmity, or does it rather seek to reconcile these two cities?

CG –The art scenes of Barcelona and Madrid are entangled together. Both cities have created a connected networks with artists being represented in both locations by different galleries, we have directors who have worked in public institutions in both places and there is presence of La Caixa exhibition program touring between the two cities. For instance the actual director of the MNCARS was the director of MACBA in the past and the new director of the MACBA comes from running the CAM2 in Madrid.

MFB – Even between Lisbon and Porto, there is something of a cultural dissimilitude. How does Southern Stars discuss the nuances of their respective micro-cultures and art scenes?

CG – Both cities are different and their diversity and similitudes in the art scene would be discussed in the round table that will happen during Art Paris at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Paris with cultural representatives of both cities.

MFB – You recently relocated to Barcelona. How did this influence the conceptualisation of the exhibition?

CG – Since 2000 I have worked with artists and institutions from the four cities. My first trip to Portugal was 1997 and since then I have gone almost every year. I came back to live in Barcelona in 2011 after 15 years abroad but I have been involved in the art scene of Barcelona and Madrid for more than 20 years. My idea is to represent the four cities equally.

MFB – The propagation of the ´Star Curator´ has become something of an art world phenomenon. We increasingly regard the curator and their practice in the same stead as that of the artist and their work. What are the implications of such dynamics, and do you perceive them to be threatening to or encouraging?

CG – I think the phenomena of the ‘Star Curator’ belongs to the 80’s, 90’s 2000’s that started with Harald Szeemann. Nowadays it is disappearing. There are so many curators working freelance doing a variety of exhibitions, events, discussions and festivals that there is not room for ‘Star Curator’ anymore.

The curator in their practice always needs the artist and its work in order to develop exhibitions, events etc … The artist doesn’t need the curator to produce their work.

MFB – How does Southern Stars distinguish itself from the homogeneity that has become of the art fair and its modes of exhibition?

CGSouthern Stars would be spread in the fair in two ways. On one hand you will have the galleries from established to upcoming from the four cities placed in the main area; on the other you will have presentations of Portuguese and Spanish artists by French and international galleries. There would be also an area with a display of videos reflecting the four cities art scene and a presentation of a selection of works from a private collection. Two round tables would discuss the present and future of the art scene in Barcelona/Madrid and Lisbon/Porto.


Art Paris from 28 to 31 May, at the Grand Palais.

Myles Francis is an arts journalist & writer, originally from London, now based in Lisbon. He has worked with such publications as Nicotine, TANK, Vogue Portugal, and now currently writes at Umbigo magazine.

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