It’s not easy being an artist. And it’s particularly difficult to be an artist when you have no gallery to represent you.
The paulistano artist Rodrigo Sassi knows the drama involved in going it alone: ‘Having to deal with business takes time away from production – from being an artist,’ he says. Sassi, a painter and sculptor, invites potential buyers to his studio; but once the piece is sold, he has to deal with logistical problems like transportation and paperwork. Gallerists have precious contact lists, too, he says, and access to the kinds of networks young artists can only dream of.
Sassi is one of ten artists selected to take part in 2012’s Salão dos Artistas sem Galeria – a third edition of the ‘Artists without Galleries’ exhibition. A jury of São Paulo curators picked the lucky ten from 143 who applied, and from 27 January 2012, each will display four to six pieces divided between two venues, Estúdio Buck and Casa da Xiclet.
Tiago Santos, the producer and one of the creators of the Salão dos Artistas Sem Galeria, believes that around 60 per cent of the artists selected for the show end up in galleries. Such a high percentage is possible because the Salão sends the artists’ portfolios out to SP’s curators and galleries. ‘Most of them also come to the show to seet the pieces with their own eyes,’ says Santos. He mentions Bartolomeu Gelpi and Betina Vaz, who both took part in the first edition of the Salão in 2010. Gelpi is now signed to Central and Vaz to Zipper, two of the most cutting-edge galleries in town.
Bringing artists and gallerists together, says Santos, was exactly the objective when the exhibition was first conceived. ‘The art business is growing,’ he says, ‘but it’s a very closed market.’ The inspiration was the 1863 Salon des Refusés in Paris, which featured works by artists like Manet and Cézanne, excluded from the Salon de Paris since they weren’t members of the French Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
A select few
Akio Aoki is the director of Galeria Vermelho – the gallery selected by the majority of the Salão artists as the one they would most like to be signed to. It’s very flattering, says Akio; but it’s not that easy to get onto Vermelho’s books. ‘The relationship between an artist and a gallery is like a marriage,’ he says. ‘You don’t marry someone you’ve only just met.’ Vermelho represents 33 artists, most of whom have been there since the gallery’s start ten years ago, and receives around twenty portfolios a week.
It’s easy to see why Vermelho is so popular. ‘We have fifteen employees to support the artists, and only three to deal with sales. I guess they feel privileged,’ says Aoki. The gallery takes on just one or two new artists each year, most of whom found their way onto the gallery’s roster through exhibitions selected by invited curators. But don’t be mistaken. It’s never love at first sight. ‘It takes time. It takes personal contact and lots of talk before we sign an artist’.
But even if Vermelho doesn’t go in for active talent-spotting, some galleries do. Central is known for signing young, contemporary artists. For the owner, Wagner Lungov, the Salão dos Artistas Sem Galeria is a useful way of getting in touch with what’s new. ‘I also like to check out the exhibitions at Paço das Artes, at Maria Antônia and the showrooms outside São Paulo – in Ribeirão Preto and Belém do Pará,’ he says. These places open their spaces up to artists who haven’t yet had their big break and are another option both for unrepresented artists and buyers looking to take a punt on an as-yet unknown talent.