Interview with Felipe Pena, co-founder of the gallery Cavalo in Rio de Janeiro
Awarded at Artissima 2016 for its work of research and scouting of emergent talents, Cavalo is a new contemporary art gallery from Brazil, opened in January 2016 by Ana Elisa Cohen and Felipe Pena.
Who are the founders of the gallery? What are your backgrounds?
Cavalo was founded by Ana Elisa Cohen and myself, Felipe Pena. Ana Elisa has a background as a designer and photographer and worked for several years in other galleries. I’m educated in art though I never was a practicing artist, I also ran a project space for a while. Parallel to this we met each other while working in another art gallery in Rio back in 2013, and quickly realized we had a lot of common visions for what a gallery could be in the context of Rio.
When did you found the gallery?
The gallery opened in January 2016. We spent some time looking for the right place, and when we finally found our location everything went quite quickly. In six months we constructed the gallery space, contacted the artists we wanted to collaborate with and from that the identity of Cavalo took shape until the inauguration – a group exhibition with almost all the artists we are currently working with.
What did motivate you to open a gallery?
Rio is a city where many great Brazilian artists live and work, but it lacks a united gallery scene. We wanted to contribute and create a place that is alive and is used by people. So far we feel embraced by an audience, our openings and other events are usually very full and many people visit the gallery regularly. As a young gallery we have a lot of freedom in our flexibility, and can create a program we believe in.
What does the name of the gallery mean?
Quite literally the word ‘Cavalo’ is Portuguese for ‘Horse’. It was a name we had with us as our imaginary project while working together before opening the gallery, the name under which we put all our absurd ideas. It made sense to keep it.
Do you represent only Brazilian artists? Are you going to open up to international artists?
We opened the gallery representing only Brazilian artists, some of which were exhibiting more in Europe previously, and were not so well known inside the country. This first year we have already shown three artists from outside of Brazil and have plans to keep working internationally this coming year.
What kind of art do you represent? What is the fil rouge that connects your artists?
It would be very hard to put all the artist we represent in the same group show (even if we already did), since their poetics and approaches to art are very different. They are all in our gallery because of our interest in their respective strong body of work and development which we want to be a part of.
What kind of space do you have and how did you choose it?
We are located in a 1930s building, with wooden floors, high ceiling and big windows. It is a space with personality and warmth, where people seem to like spending time. There are two main exhibition rooms and a backyard where we sometimes show projects independent of the main exhibitions. The gallery is central in the neighborhood Botafogo, an area known for its growing cultural life.
What is the role of a gallerist today, and how is it changing from the past?
I don’t believe there is one definite role for a gallerist, but my interest is in the relationship with the artists, helping to build their careers and being able to change with them. Other than that I believe a gallery should be able to shape its own time and scene.
If you could choose to exhibit any artist, even from the past, who would you pick?
We both really admire the work by Arthur Bispo do Rosário, someone who did not think of himself as an ‘artist’ but was acclaimed by critics and curators after his death in 1989 and left behind a very powerful collection of objects assembled throughout his life, mainly within a psychiatric institution in Rio.
Rua Sorocaba 51
Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
Tuesday to Friday: 12pm–8pm