One of Brazil’s most passionate gallerists talks to a leading collector about supporting and expanding—at home and abroad—Latin America’s developing art scene. MARCIO BOTNER: Frances… so many years we’ve known each other, even better since we opened A Gentil Carioca with Ernesto Neto and Laura Lima. That was in September 2003. I used to say it was one day before Independence Day in Brazil… that we were born independent because we needed to have our liberty and could not depend on the Brazilian government or independent companies for help. We wanted to be this commercial space that bridged social projects and educational projects and, most importantly, did art fairs. And our collectors, like you, have been so supportive of the program. I remember when we started the project on the façade, you walked by on the street and were the first person to support it—the Gentle Wall, where we invite an artist not part of our program to create a work. … It’s a project that is specifically for the neighborhood in downtown Rio, and with it I see how art can really affect people in a positive way—to maybe think about a different life. We also face a big, open market with many immigrants—Arabs, Jews, Chinese—and with each new project of the façade—30 different projects to date—we see how the community connects with the art and is involved with the continuity of the program. FRANCES REYNOLDS: I remember when you came and told me about the façade project. … I think the mission of your gallery is amazing and your commitment not only to Rio but to Brazil and its culture. As a Brazilian collector, I thought it was super important to support you, but also thought this “urban intervention” of the public space would create a nexus in between the gallery, the collector, the artist and the public in general. It is a simple example, with a very clear message, of how one can create an urban interaction with the artist and the community… so I’m game to do it again whenever you want! BOTNER: Yes, the idea is also very much about education. I really think that today’s artists are now like philosophers in old Greece. … Artists can kind of open doors of new possibilities and a better society. I remember an exhibition we did in 2005 called “Education, Look!,” where we invited over 60 artists to present drawings, and the idea was that drawings are kind of the first alphabet of the artist, the first thought, the first idea. REYNOLDS: I’m a big fan of drawing and I think it’s an intimate part of the artist’s world. And many artists have difficulty showing their drawings. … Even Ai Weiwei—his drawings are like the unmaking of his real, true, beautiful soul. And for some artists, drawings are particularly important because in this crazy world of technology, they feel that that intimacy should be shared because it will bring people to connect themselves in ways other than through an iPhone or iPad or Instagram. BOTNER: You have been involved with the careers of many of the artists that we’ve represented since the beginning, like Ernesto, my great partner and friend, and Laura, who on January 18 opens a show at the Prada Foundation in Milan. You and these artists have grown together. … Why do you love to go to the studio to be with the artists, to talk, to be involved with the creation of art? REYNOLDS: I think there’s something really fascinating, magical and amazing discovering a new artist and liking his or her work, but also liking them as a person. I could never buy art from someone I don’t like as a person, and I think also that for me and my collection, the concept of harmony is very, very important. Because at the end of the day, if art is surrounding us all day, I need that inner harmony around me, and whoever comes into my home should feel that they’re in a nurturing space. I was very lucky that you introduced me to Arjan Martins, whose work I liked from the start, and now on this last trip to Rio, I had the chance to meet him and visit his studio. … He’s an amazing human being and I loved listening to him talk about being inspired by the Old World masters, globalization, his Afro-Brazilian origins and something like human trafficking that’s happening currently around the world. His sensitivity and generosity as a person is a very important element for me. ... We receive [it] and we should pass it on to other people, and obviously the experience of sharing and evolving is what makes us better people. BOTNER: And I think that this is something very special about you. You open your heart and your house to all artists, creators and collectors. You are kind of our ambassador in Rio and of Latin American art. And you listen. I remember when Weiwei was recently here, you were talking about a very important piece for him that was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and then he said, “This piece should be with you,” and you immediately and generously agreed. REYNOLDS: Thank you. My grandmother told me if you have jewels, share them, otherwise don’t have them. And so I have this lovely home in Rio, and trustees and people from around the world come. I always make sure I invite all the artists and the galleries and intellectuals, because it’s a platform for Rio, for Brazil. BOTNER: Let’s discuss your foundation, the Inclusartiz Institute, a bit. I think that it’s important as a gallery that we are now doing the show of Pascale Marthine Tayou, an African artist based in Belgium, whom you are bringing from abroad at the same time you bring curators to do a residence. How do you think this connection is important? REYNOLDS: Well, it sort of blends into my mission for life and the art of sharing. I just felt that we have this lovely space here in Rio, let’s invite artists and curators, critics and writers and poets to come and use this as a place for innovation, for a new experience, to get an immersion in Brazilian art. We convene a selection committee once a year, and we decide what curator and what artist can work together, who would have great chemistry. … [It’s] important because they’re living under the same roof for a month. I have to thank Hans Ulrich Obrist also because it was his suggestion to have a curator as part of the initiative each time. Usually the project that they end up working on turns out to be something totally different than proposed, which is normal because sometimes they’ve never been to Brazil and they have no idea what they might start feeling. We introduce them to the artistic community, the museums, the directors and the curators; we take them to see the underground culture of Rio, the samba schools, people living on the street. And then at the end of the residency, we do a pop-up show. An artist like Prem Sahib was picked up by Mendes Wood as a result of him doing his residency here, and he just did a show with them in Brussels… and Christopher Page, the English artist who came to do a residency, will be doing a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio in December. And when that happens, when they start flying on their own, it’s a very gratifying experience. BOTNER: It is our responsibility to think about the new generation and how you as a collector, us as a gallery, we are part of that growth… bringing new artists here and developing their thoughts and ideas. Also, what you do is important to Brazilian art not only here but around the world with your connections to institutions. How important is that international experience? REYNOLDS: I think for one, if you’re living in a city, you have to support the institutions regardless of what nationality you are, so in London I’m on the Tate board, I’m at the Serpentine at the Royal Academy of Arts. Then in Paris I’m involved with the Centre Pompidou, in New York with the MoMA, and with MASP in São Paulo. I’m on the Beyeler committee in Basel—Sam Keller wants to do a big project with Ernesto and the Zurich railway station, and of course I’ve known Ernesto for many, many years and think that the project is super important when considering that these huge installations are going to impact millions of people from different worlds who go through the station every year. BOTNER: For sure—it’s an amazing piece, an amazing artist, in a public space, which opens up the possibility for so many people to be involved with the art. In closing, I hope all the readers of this magazine can share a little bit of our passionate Brazilian art. REYNOLDS: They should come to Rio and experience it.
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