Daniel Silvo and Semíramis González curators of JustMAD9, an interesting and entertaining alternative art fair

by Vanesa Cejudo
Semíramis González and Daniel Silvo
The contemporary art fair JustMAD9 is taking place in Madrid between 20-25 February. They have a new venue, at Nuñez de Balboa 32, which will be called JUST SPACE, is a 1,500 square metre space and is situated in one of Madrid’s most dynamic and central districts.
We sat down with the curation team, Daniel Silvo and Semíramis González, to find out a little more about them and what they’ve got in store for us in their ninth annual fair.

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One of the first things that we’d love to know is how you manage to direct and curate an art fair like JustMAD as a duo. We know that JustMAD usually has groups of curators, how do you manage the decision making?

Although it’s pretty rare to come across projects directed by two or more people, we think it should be more commonplace. We feel very comfortable working together. After all, we get to share the burden of all the decisions we have to make and the responsibilities that we take on. It also keeps mistakes to a minimum – when we’re faced with a problem, we have two different points of view on it, which helps us to consider and solve these issues. In any case, we’ve always got the experience of the people from Art Fairs, the company that promotes this fair, to back us up. Whenever we’re in doubt or have questions about how things should be done in this area (which we’re both new to, by the way), we can turn to them, so that also gives us a real sense of security.

Could this way of working signal a shift in how art events and fairs are directed towards a more collaborative approach? How do you split up the workload?

I think this way of working is the logical result of a world which is becoming a more and more shared space, where pyramid structures are being replaced by other, more complete, less rigid, shapes.

Our roles are constantly being shaped as time goes on. Little by little, we’re starting to realize what each of our strengths are and so we share the tasks accordingly. The truth is, this first year is just the beginning of a way of working that we’ll keep on discovering and reinventing in each festival that we direct.

What do you think the pros and cons are of working like this?

Well, like I was just saying, there are so many pros, among them the security of making decisions together. As for the cons… well we haven’t actually encountered any yet!

© Maya Saravia / AVAM

© Maya Saravia / AVAM

JustMAD is not a brand-new fair like so many others that have popped up in the last few years, nor is it a traditional one like ARCO. Where does JustMAD fit into the Spanish art market?

Yeah, it’s not a brand-new festival, for sure, but that said, we are at a point of complete renovation. After nine years, there are ways of doing things that just need to change, and that’s why we’ve come onto the project. We wanted to take it back to its roots, which is the foundation of any renovation really – get it back to being a fair of discovery, back to being a place where you can meet new galleries, back to creating a certain shock factor that should always be at the heart of any art fair that wants to call itself ‘alternative’.

In your application to direct JustMAD, you proposed new ways of approaching contemporary art. Could you tell us which of those proposals we’ll see at JustMAD9?

Well, over the last few months, we’ve been developing different ways of bringing new people to contemporary art. Amongst those, Parkour deserves a special mention. It’s a whistle-stop tour of the new galleries we have in Madrid and some studies of hand artists from the visual artists’ association Madrid AVAM. Another project we have is the Genalguacil residency, where four of our artists went to live alongside the people of Málaga for a month, creating works that’ll be on display in the fair.

Could you tell us how the JustResidences were developed, particularly the Genalguacil one, and is you think it’s important to create artistic residencies in our country? Do you think that perhaps Spain doesn’t have enough of these frameworks in place?

We don’t think there are too few residency frameworks in Spain, from where I’m standing it seems that there are loads of good examples of artistic residencies in our country. We didn’t create JustResidence because there weren’t enough already, it’s more that we believe there can never be too many opportunities to bring creators and the public together. If we want to be a fair where people can come to discover current art, then an artistic residency is a way of taking that idea to its ultimate conclusion – we’re not only showing you what artists have made, but also what they’re making right now, sometimes even what they’re going to be making in the future! We’re bringing the point of production and the point of sale as close together as possible. What we’re selling at the fair is hot from the oven, from our very own oven!

Semíramis González and Daniel Silvo

Semíramis González and Daniel Silvo

And as for this Genalguacil residency, well, that’s been an extremely intense experience. We relied on the direction of Asier Mendizálbal, an excellent artist who has just recently been awarded the Arte y Mecenazgo prize. His direction was an incredible help to the four artists that took part in this residency: Ana Linhares, Azahara Cerezo, Eloy Arribas and Hernani Reis Baptista. These artists belong to the Kubik (Oporto), Addaya (Majorca) y Herrero de Tejada (Madrid) galleries. Their work on Genalguacil, a small town in the Ronda mountains, was developed during a month of absolute contact with nature and the rural population.

Given your experience during this past year, how do you both feel about the Spanish art market?

The image of a trampolinist comes to mind, getting ready to jump. After a few years of cautiously waiting, his time has come. With incredible momentum building up behind him, he’s about to take flight. There’s already a lot of demand to go back to purchasing art, and the conditions for doing just that are looking good right now.

Our Spanish artists are good, and they enjoy international recognition. What do you think needs to happen for Spain to become a leading country in the art selling world?

Spanish artists themselves already receive a lot of international recognition, or rather, the recognition they deserve since, as you rightly pointed out, we have excellent artists. One of the things we absolutely must do to make sure we get taken seriously on the world stage is that we take ourselves seriously within our own country. We need to strongly support Spanish artistic creation, in both the public sector and private sector. We need to buy Spanish art, and not be afraid to buy art from our own country. When foreign collectors see that Spanish people are buying work from Spanish artists, they’ll also start buying it. But until we start leading by example and have blind confidence in our own country’s creations, nobody else will do it. And of course, we need educational initiatives to encourage sensitivity towards art and culture.

And a very Brit Es question now, are we aware of how many good Spanish artists are currently creating art abroad?

We’re acutely aware, yes. Bear in mind that we’re part of a generation that has had to travel abroad to get adequate training to manage to get ahead. So we have loads of friends living outside Spain, lots of cultural agents and curators, and we stay in contact and maintain good relationships with all of them. London, New York, Mexico, Paris, Berlin are all cities where we can easily find people that we respect and admire from our generation working in the same profession as us.


[su_note note_color=”#eaeae9″]Translated to English by Ben Ffrancon Davies[/su_note]


Emerging Art Fair / 20-25 Feb 2018.
Núñez de Balboa, 32, Madrid
Full info: www.justmad.es

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