Here at Site-Specific Conversation, we have initiated a collaboration with Barcelona Gallery Weekend 2022, offering a series of conversations that will be published weekly over the summer.
The proposal takes Lucy Lippard’s novel, I See/You Mean, as a reference and uses its title to talk about affinities in the choices made by artists and gallery directors and about practices, projects and work dynamics. During the writing process, Lucy realised she was ashamed of being a woman. This same feeling has been experienced by many over the years, and still is to this day. For this reason, we have selected eight galleries exhibiting works by women at this edition of BGW. Throughout this series, we will be conversing with artists and gallery directors, focusing on the relationships generated in a field like this, where the creative is often mixed with the affective.
In this fifth conversation, we chat to Brazilian artist Vera Chaves Barcellos and gallery owner Ricardo Zielinsky, also from Brazil, who runs Zielinsky gallery alongside Carla Zielinsky. The relaxed friendship born from Ricardo’s admiration of Vera’s work and long career has led their paths to cross many times, eventually leading to this latest presentation of the artist’s work in Barcelona, a city where she has lived on and off since the ’80s. The exchange gives us a brief insight into a vast oeuvre, as we meander through different experiences, journeys, projects, and connections. The pair’s ardent passion for creativity and exuberant desire to communicate give us a crystal-clear impression of the way they position themselves in the world.
Ricardo Zielinsky / Carla, my life and business partner, and I have been familiar with Vera’s work for many years, way before we had the gallery. We’re from the same region in southern Brazil, and Vera is one of the great representatives of art in Brazil, having garnered recognition worldwide. We’re really proud to come from the same area as her. I grew up seeing her work in museums and galleries. I’ve always admired her. Our professional relationship began in 2019 when we put on an exhibition at SP-Arte, and it later blossomed into a friendship. We had a mutual friend, Yamandú Canosa, who is also an artist we exhibit at the gallery. Vera came to our stand and we talked about her art. Then we took the opportunity to invite her to Barcelona to visit the gallery and to stay in the Maresme region, at our artist residency. That first year was like a courtship: Vera came to the space in the Maresme and our interests gradually converged until we ended up inviting her to be represented by the gallery. Since then, our relationship has been evolving constantly, both on a professional level and in terms of friendship. Whenever we go to Brazil, we visit Vera’s foundation and go to her workshop. In the professional sphere, this year, we will be putting on her first individual exhibition in Barcelona. And we’re taking her work to a lot of the fairs we’re going to. We’ll take it to SP-Arte, Arco Lisboa, and SP-Arte Rotas Brasileiras this August, and then ARTBO Bogotá and Untitled Miami. This great professional development has meant we are spending more time together, and has led to real growth in our friendship.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / It’s been a pleasure working with Zielinsky. Carla and Ricardo are wonderful. Both of them truly understand my work and have real artistic sensibility, and for me, that’s essential. I have another gallery in São Paulo – Galeria Superfície – and that’s been a positive experience, too.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / I’ve had constant contact with Catalonia. I went there for the first time in 1986, and I still have a studio in Barcelona. Because of the pandemic, this will be the first time I’m going in two and a half years. For many years, my partner Patricio and I would spend six months in Barcelona and six in Brazil. That changed a bit more recently, but we used to go to the city a couple of times per year.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / Yes, on that occasion I exhibited a piece published by Antonio Zuñiga.
Ricardo Zielinsky / Some of the pieces we have presented at a couple of collective exhibitions in Barcelona were from Ediciones Originales by Antonio Zuñiga. We’ve also taken this work to fairs.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / This work is somewhat feminist, because you can see women’s legs from behind. Just looking at these legs, you can tell the women’s status and many other things. It’s like a portrait. That’s why it’s interesting. All of the marks left by life, by age, are visible on your legs. It’s from the early ’80s.
Ricardo Zielinsky / Both Carla and I are Brazilian and we’ve been living between Porto Alegre and Barcelona for seventeen years. We make the most of these journeys back and forth to build a bridge between Latin America and Europe. Our gallery specialises in Latin American artists.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / The whole project was created by eight women artists who got together for nine months and gestated the N.O. space. It was later led by both men and women.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / I never felt inferior because I was a woman. Perhaps because I was made to feel important growing up at home. My parents brought me up wonderfully. I was always encouraged to be free, though I was also very disciplined. This combination is strange: I’m disciplined, but also very free. My parents loved music and I was always encouraged to take an interest in cultural issues. They never imposed that traditional woman’s role of getting married, having kids and all that. I think that was important for me.
On another note, Brazil is perhaps an exception when it comes to women’s status in art… Ever since the country’s Modernismo movement, women have been important: just as important as some men. I don’t feel this need to fight to be equal to a man, because I already am, or even better!
Ricardo Zielinsky / On the whole, on a personal level and as a man, me giving my opinion is more of a delicate issue. I was also brought up in an environment where equality was important. But I’m not so naive as to think that discrimination of all kinds, including on grounds of gender, is not commonplace. But perhaps in Brazil, Vera is right: ever since the Modernismo movement, there have been great artists like Tarsila do Amaral, right up until the present day, with wonderful artists like Vera. Women who have stood out on the international scene. They never needed to speak out about feminism. They simply stood out because of their quality and work as artists, as people.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / There is sexism and violence against women in Brazil, but I’ve never experienced it, or I’ve been able to avoid it, I think. It’s important to be strong when you come across an imposition of this kind sometimes. I think I’ve been able to put that in its place. We are privileged, an intellectual elite who are somewhat separated from this situation.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / François Soulanges, a photography specialist, wrote a book on my work, as one of my focuses has been photography since the seventies. And I was surprised by the way he portrayed the fact that a Latin American woman has been able to produce my work, as though it were an oddity. Ultimately, that comment was sexist.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / We will use past pieces. My work from the seventies, with all its youthful energy, possesses an interesting kind of strength, which we will highlight in the gallery’s first rooms. Then we will have the video No a la guerra made more recently, as well as work from other periods, especially the 2000s.
Ricardo Zielinsky / The exhibition focuses on Vera’s work from the 1970s, but it will also include pieces from ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. We will try to represent various phases of her work.
Vera Chaves Barcellos / When I lived in Barcelona, I worked at a gallery: Galería Actual. My last exhibition there was in 1997. I’ll be exhibiting a lot of pieces from the ’80s and ’90s, when I started exhibiting my work at that gallery. But these are pieces I didn’t show during that period.
Ricardo Zielinsky / In the last two years, Vera’s work has become part of the collections at the Reina Sofia Museum and MACBA. This will be an opportunity to see her work outside of the museum context, with a little more freedom in terms of creativity of arrangement. Some of the pieces are part of the series acquired by these museums. Vera will be here too, and we think Barcelona Gallery Weekend is the ideal event for presenting her and her work.
Barcelona Gallery Weekend seeks to reinforce and make visible the rich and varied artistic scene of Barcelona, promote art collecting and highlight the work of the galleries, as culture generating spaces open to citizens, and the artists they represent. From 15th to 18th September 2022, we celebrate our 8th edition in 32 galleries, presenting the work of more than 60 artists.