Today we are meeting Maria Gracia de Pedro lives and works in Madrid, and has lived In Italy and United Kingdom. María is the co-founder of hiato projects, director of Badr El Jundi and teacher of Contemporary Art Market at URJC.
In this interview we are going to talk about her career and her point of view as a collector in the art world, specifically in her home country: Spain.
Hello, Maria! It's a pleasure to speak with you, could you please give me a brief introduction and tell me about your artistic activities?
Hello Jagienka, nice to speak with you. Of course! I have been working in the arts since I graduated, having different experiences from non-for-profit organizations and institutions to commercial galleries. The emerging artists have always been my interest, how they develop and find their path within this contemporary art market, not so transparent, neither evident. Indeed, in 2018, I co-founded with Alessandro Leggio, Hiato Projects, a platform that supports emerging artists in different ways, exhibitions, talks and artworks promotions. Following this interest, I recently completed my Ph.D. on emerging artists and their challenges, as well as their journey from education to the "real" market, which is where the galleries are and where I spend the majority of my time, particularly in Badr El Jundi. A contemporary art gallery that I’m the director since its opening in mid 2020. In addition to this, I write about exhibitions and artist practices as well as interview artists to understand the way they see the world, why they produce works and how they try to navigate in this world.
On the website of the Badr El Jundi, it is said that non-traditional spaces in the gallery allow for the display of artworks in unconventional locations. Can I ask about the types of works that are presented in those venues, and how do you decide what is appropriate for 'traditional 'and 'non-traditional' spaces?
The traditional space, in my opinion, is and has always been the white cube. A place where the artworks can be viewed without being distracted. We have both traditional and outdoor places where we can display sculptures. We place them in the garden to "interfere" with people's paths, to"disturb" them and get them thinking about art. At same time, they can see how the work canlook at their outdoor spaces.
What would you say are some features of the art market in Spain, as someone who has lived and worked in a variety of locations? Do you notice any significant differences in comparison to England or France, for example?
The art market, much like rest of the world, has transformed in recent years as a result of the pandemic. Due to their inability to leave their homes, Spanish collectors have been seeking around and beyond the boundaries. As a result, the art market in this country has changed, mostly in terms of the skills employed and acquired, as well as in terms of the understanding that internationalization is necessary. In Spain, oil on canvas is still the most popular form of contemporary art, with audiences applauding it and writers criticizing it, while installation, performance, and media are gaining popularity among the general public.
Could you tell us a bit more about the location of Badr El Jundi and how the gallery managed to find such a place?
Badr, the founder, has been living in Marbella since he moved to Spain and he wanted to contribute to the contemporary art scene of the country. The space was ideal for displaying artworks in a traditional manner as well as arranging them invarious spots where individuals who may not be familiar with art might have experiences with it and be drawn to it.
Do you think the exhibition space should remain consistent with the exhibition's content, or should it perhaps contradict, challenge, and therefore offer a new, but riskier, way of experiencing art?
I guess that all depends on who is our public and what we want to transmit. We have a yearly programme with exhibitions generated by the team. However, we always try to bring new works, emerging artists, content that the public is not familiar with, or that they have never got the chance to see in person. The relevance of creating new experiences is crucial.
Could you explain what is the idea behind Hiato projects?
Our initial idea was to support emerging artists. However, later on, we opened the frontiers of our project because we though that Hiato could work not only as aplatform for supporting the artists but rather a platform for facilitating the understanding of the art world.
Where do you think the line should be drawn between becoming an international artist and earning recognition in a new cultural context while maintaining your own cultural identity?
I cannot see a line drawn between those two concepts to be honest. I deeply consider that nowadays an artist needs to be global, as the art world is. With social media, that has been facilitating artists careers (as well as difficulting in other situations), artists can be seen by gallerists, collectors and institutions all over the world. Being visible doesn't mean that you will lose your own cultural identity or that you will separate from yourroots, the essence of your work needs to stay the same.
Is there anything in the art world or the art market that you're not convinced of right now, or that you perceive as posing a threat to artists or gatekeepers?
The art market is constantly changing, so probably something I’m not convinced today will change tomorrow. However, flipping is a practice I am not happy withas it provokes unreal results on the price of artists.
Do you notice any sort of, let's call it hierarchy, in today's themes? That some subjects are more popular, and thus more valuable in the art market?
The answer starts similar to the previous one, the market is continuously evolving, so the subjects today are more popular, probably tomorrow they won’t be. It is my impression that artworks with subjects that recall happiness are more engaging, probably because people have been experiencing tough moments such as the pandemic or the instability that the war in Ukraine is causing in the last few months.
Is there a current theme or art direction you'd like to create an exhibition around, and if so, what would it be?
I’m currently co-curating an institutional exhibition with Claudia Elies: “Roots by default”. The tradition that concerns us, explores the idea of residue, friction, fault or vein. It intends to think through an accumulation of knowledge that is transferred. We thought of the tradition from its roots and its etymology.