What does it take to be an artist? A degree in fine art? A bursting portfolio? Friends in the right places? It just takes talent, according to the annual Salão dos Artistas Sem Galeria (Artists Without Galleries) exhibition, which invites applications from artists of all stripes – they need only be over 6 years of age, and not yet represented by a São Paulo gallery. Run by art-world maverick Celso Fioravante, the founder and editor of Mapa das Artes, SP’s monthly arts map, the event, now in its fifth edition, receives dozens of submissions each year, ranging from works by absolute beginners to portfolios by seasoned artists.
In techniques including video, photography and oil pastel as well as painting and sculpture, artworks by the ten artists picked to take part this year are on show in simultaneous exhibitions at two galleries: the uptown, top-ranking Zipper Galeria in Jardins, and Vila Madalena’s grungier, more casual Casa da Xiclet.
‘Vertical #4’, by Tchelo
The works have a similarly eclectic span, from Zed Nesti’s assured, macabre oil-paintings to Clara Benfatti’s exquisite backlit cityscapes, cut in delicate layers of paper with details picked out in white ink. Bursting with strange organic forms, Marcos Akasaki’s delirious paintings depict weird gardens bubbling over with colour and life, while in Sheila Ortega’s still-life photograph, #5, part of a series, ‘Ao Alcance da Mão’ (Within Reach), the apparently simple objects – worn-out brushes, odd plastic bits and fragments of tools arranged with apples, oranges and a white balloon – become more compelling as you study them, the battered tray they are stacked on, and the texture of the wall behind.
The artists were chosen from 149 hopeful applicants by a jury made up of curators João Spinelli and Paula Braga, and the gallerist Elísio Yamada, of Galeria Pilar. Does Yamada think gallerists visit this kind of event in search of new artists for their rosters? ‘Defnitely!’ says Yamada. ‘We did it ourselves in the case of Rodrigo Sassi, an artist who’s doing incredibly well at the moment. In fact, we’d seen his work before; but our interest was absolutely confirmed during the third Artistas Sem Galeria.’ In that edition, Henrique Miziara, Yamada’s partner in Galeria Pilar, was one of the jury members.
By the same token, is every ‘artist without a gallery’ in search of a gallery to represent them? ‘Galleries are obviously important,’ says Yamada. ‘They act as public agents of culture, in the sense that you have an open gallery with free access: open to all, and also free of charge. They’re opinion formers. But I also think that for various reasons, including the technological and the geographical – the ease with which people and things can move around and be viewed now – there are increasingly more and new ways in which artists can take part in the art circuit. I think it’s absolutely possible for an artist to become established without the help of a gallery, and I think many artists are looking for ways to do so. Galleries need to think about that too – about new strategies and new ways of working in partnership with artists.’
The 5th Salão dos Artistas sem Galeria is at Zipper Galeria and Casa da Xiclet Rua Fradique Coutinho 1855, Vila Madalena (2579 9007/casadaxiclet.com).