Interview with Alex Nogueras and Rebeca Blanchard, founders of Nogueras Blanchard in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Madrid
After 10 years in the city centre of Barcelona, in 2015 Nogueras Blanchard has opened a new venue in l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, where the avant-garde meets a vibrant young and-coming art scene. Here as well as at their second branch in Madrid Alex Nogueras and Rebeca Blanchard work on a program that evolves around conceptually motivated practices which offer an interdisciplinary view.
How did it all start?
We felt that the gallery scene in Barcelona was conservative and aimed at small collectors. This was at the beginning of the 2000’s and we felt that artists needed more ambitious spaces to show ambitious projects. We were also encouraged by artist friends like Leandro Erlich and Ester Partegàs, who immediately joined our team to start our gallery project. Both Rebeca and I had worked in both private and public art institutions and thought that we had the energy and potential to carry a project that would be in touch with the contemporary international discourse.
What motivated you to open a gallery?
Somehow the architecture of Barcelona has cast a big influence on the gallery scene and the exhibitions that have been traditionally carried out in commercial spaces – late XIX century buildings have shop environments aimed at small commerce, very much in line with a petit-bourgeois society. The limitation in space compromises a gallery project and it especially compromises any art project that would be conducted within it. In the end, most gallery exhibitions seemed composed of small, home-sized artworks, and there was little room for truly ambitious projects, both size and concept-wise.
The next step was to run your own gallery. When did that happen?
We opened our first space in 2004, in the centre of Barcelona. The space was wellocated because it was located in the middle of a cultural axis shaped by MACBA (then directed by Manuel Borja-Villel) and the CASM (at the time managed by Ferran Barenblit). Visitors would stop by our gallery all the time, and the activities generated by both institutions guaranteed a certain amount of international visibility. This stopped after CASM was dismantled by the local government and the MACBA was affected by an internal crisis. We decided to open a second space in Madrid in 2012, to regain visibility and to aim at a more ambitious and changing collecting scene. Spain is like a wheel when it comes to communications, so it is easier to get to Madrid from Majorca, Santander, Bilbao or Lisbon than it is to get to Barcelona. Suddenly we gained visibility not only to Madridians but to interesting people from all over Spain who visit Madrid very often.
In 2015 you moved from your former location in the centre of Barcelona to L’Hospitalet de Llobregat south of Barcelona. Please tell us more about this.
We finally felt that the space was limiting and that our visibility in Barcelona had been reduced by external changing circumstances. We felt it was a good time for a change, and we also needed a bigger storage space. Prices in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat are still very affordable as it is an up-and-coming district, very much connected with the city of Barcelona and also completely overlooked by the art scene until very recently. Some artists rented studios in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, and they suggested that we take a look at the area. We are fascinated by the potential of the old empty factories and their proximity to the centre of Barcelona, only a few minutes away by subway.
Let’s talk about your two locations. Why did you choose these neighbourhoods? What was the purpose of the buildings before?
In Madrid, we chose to be close to the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, because we think it is a focal point a museum in Europe. As before in Barcelona, this guarantees quality visits and international attention to our gallery programme. Also ARCO is a good context to reinforce our presence in Madrid. As for L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, it is starting to have a vibrant young up-and-coming art scene, and we feel connected to it both generationally and conceptually. We’re very involved and we feel that we’re at the core of something new and unexpected.
Do you see any pros or cons of running a gallery at two locations?
With online communication and today’s technologies, there are only pros to having two (or maybe more in the future) locations. We reach out to more people and we have a diversity of exhibitions and activities. Our goal is to engage the public in both cities and also to gain international attention. Nowadays this can be done by clicking a few times on your screen.
Does digitalization affect your work as a gallerist?
It is essential for our daily work, especially when it comes to communication within our team in two locations. Also we have a fantastic database program which makes our lives much easier. We are now looking into expanding our online communication schemes, as some sales have been made to clients who have never set foot in our Madrid or Barcelona spaces. Digital information is definitely essential to project the appropriate image into the world.
How would you describe the program of your gallery?
Obviously the program is a very personal choice, so I would say that it is a reflection of both Rebeca and me. I think we have grown and have both broadened our interests in the last ten years, and we are refining our decisions. We like to grow with the artists we represent, and our initial programme hasn’t changed a lot – we made very good choices from the beginning and we still work with artists like Anne-Lise Coste, Leandro Erlich or Wilfredo Prieto after 12 years. We have also incorporated new artists like Michiel Ceulers, Francesco Arena or Perejaume that we think add to the dialogue we are trying to encourage which is contemporary and engaged, at the same time somehow timeless.
And how do you find your artists? What do they have in common?
We like to say that often, artists find us. Even they may be formally diverse, their works converge conceptually, and we are very concerned about the content of an artist’s discourse. It needs to be genuine, informed and at the same time somewhat visionary. We like that artists make us see the world differently.
After 10 years in business, which are the biggest challenges a gallery must face?
The biggest challenge is always financial. Art is flexible enough to make our daily lives enjoyable or stressful, but at the end of the day we have chosen this profession because of a genuine passion. What we haven’t really chosen is to do our VAT statements or deal with unpaid bills, or struggle with accounts. Now we’ve been at it for more that ten years and we are growing – we still need to figure out how to make it a really profitable business.
What were the key moments in your career in the art world?
Mostly, as a gallery team, it has been every time we see one of our productions in a museum or public exhibition. Having Wilfredo Prieto’s “White Library” touring from Venice to Singapore biennales in 2006 was an early high. Later on in 2013, Ignacio Uriarte’s solo show at the Drawing Center in NY was also very important for us. Mainly because we have been these artists’ first gallery.
Is there anyone who has influenced you as a gallerist?
Over the years we have built a good network of fellow gallerists who are influential and with whom we talk a lot. We take advice from a range of galleries that we respect, from Hollybush Gardens in London, to Ellen de Bruijne in Amsterdam, Supportico Lopez in Berlin, or Monitor in Rome. We like the way they work, with honesty and without the greed for money that defines other galleries.
What are your plans for the future?
We need to boost our Barcelona – L’Hospitalet de Llobregat – project so it well known. We would like to gain access to a range of local collectors that we’ve just met or become acquainted with with this move. In Madrid, we also need to make our project more established and influential locally. In general, we would like to to reinforce our international network so that our artists are present in the right contexts. To do so, we have teamed up with Wilfredo Prieto to start an exhibition space in Havana that is currently undergoing restoration. It is an old colonial house that will host exhibitions and hopefully will offer residencies in the near future.
Nogueras Blanchard takes part in the 3rd edition of Granpalazzo from May 27th to 28th, 2017 with a selection of works by Marine Hugonnier.
Nogueras Blanchard takes part in Liste–Art Fair Basel from June 13th to 18th, 2017. The gallery will present a selection of works by Christopher Knowles.
L’Hospitalet de Llobregat
Isaac Peral 7
08902 L’Hospitalet de Llobregat
Monday to Friday: 10:30am–7pm
Doctor Fourquet 4
Tuesday to Friday: 10am–7pm