Art in positive
He has lived in Spain for six years, but the marked Italian accent of Ivan Cicchetti (Bolonia, 1988) doesn’t fool anyone and is part of his trademark. Tall and slim, he’s a man with a lively spirit and big ideas, forever sketching out plans and turning them into projects. The proof? The gallery that’s opened its doors two and a half years ago, Espositivo (Loreto y Chicote, 4), an art gallery of which he is now director. It is an independent space for contemporary art that’s had work from the likes of Desi Civera, Borondo, Wences Lamas, Joaquin Jara and Nathaniel Evans hung on its walls. From this very space in the Malasaña neighbourhood, we discuss the promotion of young artists, the process of cultural transformation in Madrid and the evolution of Espositivo. And we defend the idea that yes; buying art is possible.
Have you always been involved in the art world?
I had a glasses design studio with a friend and before ‘coworking’ became fashionable, our idea was to set up a space to bring creative people from different disciplines together. We wanted to create a small space dedicated to expositions and workshops of other products, with an area for painting… But before all of this, a project popped up in Yasta, Madrid, where we put on Blind, a session of nights in which we brought together electronic music and art. It was during this project that I met the photographer Edu Santamaria and we begun to hatch plans together.
And so begun Espositivo?
There were ten of us that got together, all friends of friends that were involved in the art world, and we all shared the same vision of wanting to launch projects. In the end, we reduced to seven, and when we found a space to set up the gallery we distributed jobs between us; some in charge of communication, others videos and filming, photography, finances. Edu and I were the curators. Next to that each of us took turns in the day-to-day dealing with the public.
What does one need to set up a gallery?
Three basics: resources, passion and a lot of commitment. You only find out if a gallery is going to make money in the long run, so above all you need determination (laughs).
I suppose it wasn’t easy carrying out a project together with so many people?
Some left because they weren’t satisfied with the work that we were doing as a group, and others realised that they weren’t capable of carrying out their role under conditions. We got to the point where there was no progress and I decided that it was either me or the others. In the end, I stayed. I dropped all of my other side projects and I pulled through with the help of friends. Finally in March this year, Cintia Ramírez got involved to restart the project with me.
Espositivo first began as an urban art gallery but how has this project evolved?
That was a completely different concept that has now changed as we were still defining our identity. We began focussing on street art because it was what people around us were doing and they were very well regarded in this ambit. It is always easier to pull together people who are closest to you; they’re easier to get involved. We have since distanced ourselves from this concept and now move more towards contemporary creation.
What is the criteria with which you choose artists to exhibit in Espositivo?
Simply by looking. I look online, on art blogs… And now with Instagram it’s much easier. If I like them, they’re in. It’s nothing more than this. To this day, we don’t look at their quotations because I purely select artists based on their quality. But we have to stay within our limits of what we can afford: anything from €100 to €20,000 per piece of work. You can like them or not, many of our expositions aren’t based on ‘pretty’ themes for someone to hang in their dining room, but art doesn’t have to be merely pretty.
Is it easy to sell art?
We are surrounded by young people that seem unable to afford this expense… or are they. An art book here costs €15, the same price as those three beers you drink after work. Or the print that costs €50 is the same price as dinner in a restaurant and the entrance to a club. We can afford art, but it isn’t a necessity and at the end of the day, it is aimed at a certain type of person, one who, above everything, believes in artists. One of the projecs we are launching soon is looking to to support young art collectors by allowing them to pay in instalments and also includes a course that aims to turn the idea of art collecting on its head: we want to show people that it isn’t just for the rich.
What is buying art all about?
When you buy a piece of art, what you are doing is sponsoring an artist, giving them the opportunity to keep doing what they like. At the end of the day, you are participating in the cultural growth of our surroundings. Thanks to your collaboration with this artist, they are able to keep producing work and moving strings to create new projects and help the artistic environment grow and prosper.
How do you see the art market?
Broadly speaking, it is quite a dirty world.Auction houses are one of the biggest problems: they can destroy an artist and make the reputation of others skyrocket. Some artists produce art purely based on what the market demands as if it were any other product, and many collectors buy art ‘in bulk’ because the bigger the collection of art, the easier it is to hike up the price.
The Triball area is booming at the moment, how do you involve yourself with the neighbourhood?
We curated an exhibition with our neighbours in the ‘Microtreatro por Dinero’ (Loreto y Chicote, 9), we run the art space through the new concept store Amen (San Andrés, 3), we participate with neighbourhood associations in street events… We do everything that’s possible within our energetic and budgetary capacities! (laughs)
What is next for Espositivo?
We are looking for a place to create a studio for artists. Next to that, we want to launch Espositivo as a pop up gallery around the world: We already have plans for London and Sao Paulo, and we want to send artists to different parts of the world to work with what they find in their environment. Those that come to visit us will know what Espositivo is, our essence and what we want to transmit.