Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend 2023

The 14th edition of Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend took place between September 14 and 17, opening the city’s exhibition season with an event that brought together the 56 galleries of Arte Madrid (Association of Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries of Madrid), together with museums and bookshops, in an extensive programme, offering an opportunity to examine the range of practices that shape the national and international art scene.

Whilst walking around the Lavapiés and Salesas neighbourhoods, one could notice the bustle around the event which, over and above the mainstream context, is striving to expand the audience for contemporary art, turning the city into a hub not only for the usual big names in art – Madrid is renowned for housing some of the world’s most celebrated pieces – but also for contemporary creation.

Between the different genres and discourses, we find shared conversations and themes between the artists – both established and emerging – during the course of the exhibitions. Using humour and irony as a tool for re-signifying symbols around historical and socio-political topics can be seen at F2 Galería, with the exhibition Mecanismos del humor by Spanish artist Pere Llobera, and at The RYDER, with La Yegua de Santiago, by Chilean-Peruvian artist Ivana de Vivanco.

Pere Llobera presents an “essay on painting”, where drawings, canvases and objects spread out and overlapping on F2 Galería floor and walls are representative of the artist’s studio, blending tradition and humour through characters from historical paintings associated with pop culture icons. By offering clown noses to the visitors at the entrance, the provocative approach to the art establishment attempts to break down expectations regarding what is usually encountered in galleries and art institutions.

Ivana de Vivanco develops a site-specific installation at The RYDER, located in a former horse stable. La Yegua de Santiago subverts the notion of the hero on the white horse from the legend of St James, as the horse of Spain’s patron apostle is turned into a pink mare. Employing irony and theatricality as strategies to address complex and structural issues in society, such as colonisation and male domination, the artist’s reinvented iconography praises the liberation and importance of Égua de Santiago in her own life.

With a cross-generational motif, Galeria NoguerasBlanchard presents A sense of possibility, by Nancy Spero, featuring works from the last thirty years of the American artist and activist’s output. The female experience is a centrepiece of her work, dealing with subjects such as Western privilege and abuse of power. Spanning thousands of years of history, Nancy Spero crafts a language based on motifs from universal archaeology, repeating patterns that challenge male historical hegemony, positioning women as the main characters.

Galeria NF/Nieves Fernández presents La cárcel a cielo abierto, by Mexican artist Moris, on the subject of migration and political and economic power. Boxes used by the Bank of Mexico to carry money represent the country’s borders, notorious for the dangers and tensions faced by those who attempt to reach the United States. Putting the idea of freedom into question, the artist emphasises the territory as a prison and the ongoing war at the borders, portraying violence and condemning Mexico’s social reality, a colonial legacy shared by many countries in the Global South.

A selection of works by Portuguese artist Ângela Ferreira is on display in another room of Galeria NF/Nieves Fernández, as part of the Cultura Portugal Gallery Walks programme. This is the first year of the Portuguese Embassy’s collaboration with Arte Madrid and ARCO Gallery Walks, during which four itineraries were designed featuring 23 Portuguese artists in different galleries during the Apertura Gallery Weekend.

Juan Silió Galería is exhibiting I danced myself out of the womb, by Belén Rodriguez, centred on ecology. The Spanish artist has drawn a portrait of the forest from the shapes and textures of fabrics dyed with natural pigments, bringing the vegetation itself into the gallery. At Galeria Lucía Mendoza, the exhibition Producing world among nets and thickets, by artists Bárbara Fluxá and Lucía Loren, brings together elements of the ecosystem and fractal structures designed to mirror the interconnecting and interdependent networks between the human and non-human worlds, emphasising the need to protect nature.

Galeria Carlier | Gebauer shows Luz, the first exhibition by Swedish artist Cecilia Edefalk in Spain. Made in her Stockholm studio between two major projects, something unassuming breathes life into the contemplative exhibition. This is a spiritual glimpse into nature, where the small and medium format paintings reveal the dawn and dusk lights, where the sun is never at its peak.

Following a guided tour of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, exploring the European avant-garde and its intertwining influences, a surprise came by chance: Un acto de ver que se despliega, an exhibition from the Susana and Ricardo Steinbruch Collection. Curated by Manuel Borja-Villel in collaboration with Beatriz Martínez Hijazo, it features several Brazilian artists, many of whom took part in the Neo-Concrete Movement, along with contemporary artists such as Jonathas de Andrade and Fernanda Gomes. The exhibition also includes artists from Eastern Europe who participated in the anti-art movements in the former Yugoslavia, breaking away from the narrative and the usual Europe-United States axis, providing new stories.

Apertura Madrid Gallery Weekend is an open-air cultural experience, where people can discover, in the city’s streets and buildings, multiple practices – between trends and relationships – that coexist in contemporary art.

Ana Grebler (Belo Horizonte - Brazil) is an artist, curator and writer. Graduated in Fine Arts at the State University of Minas Gerais (UEMG) and postgraduate in Art Curatorship at Nova University of Lisbon (FCSH). Participated in group shows in Brazil and organized the exhibitions Canil (2024), Deslize (2023) and O horizonte é o meio (2022), in Lisbon. Contributes with Umbigo Magazine with essays, reviews and interviews, and works on the platform's international partnerships. At the intersection of practices, reflects on contemporary visual culture, creating dialogues and imaginaries between spaces and artistic processes. Currently lives and works in Lisbon.

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