Interview with Matteo Consonni, co-founder of the gallery Madragoa in Lisbon
Lisbon is attracting more and more attention for its art and creative scene. Last year the Spanish art fair Arco opened a Portuguese branch here, which will be celebrating its second edition in a couple of weeks, and in October 2016 the Edp Foundation inaugurated its new museum, the Maat. The terrain is also fertile for new galleries opening their headquarters here. One is Madragoa, an initiative by Portuguese Gonçalo Jesus and Italian Matteo Consonni, who told us his story.
Tell us about the history of your gallery.
Madragoa opened 2016 in Lisbon, on April 28 to be precise, with a one person show of Renato Leotta. We are just about one year old, so it is difficult to talk about a “history” of the gallery, but I can say that in these past months we have been working hardly on important projects for the artists we represent, and traveling a lot to participate in international art fairs.
What is your background?
After getting my art history degree in Milan, I had my first experience working in a gallery at Kaufmann Repetto. Then I lived in London for two years, where I studied curating at Goldsmiths, and after two brief jobs at MOT International in London and Jan Mot in Brussels, I moved to Turin to work at Galleria Franco Noero, where I was director for five years.
Why did you choose Lisbon? How is the art scene developing there?
The idea for Lisbon arose in conversations with my partner in the gallery, Gonçalo Jesus – we met in London in 2008 and after some years began to fantasize about the possibility of opening a gallery in his city. Over the years when I visited Lisbon with the prospect of working on a project here, I found a city with low costs, few galleries, a small but very interesting art scene, with the ability to produce locally and in general a city of great potential.
The art scene here has developed from a solid base of great colleagues and institutions, and at this moment is expanding internationally thanks to the many people who are moving to live here. There is still a lot to do, but the terrain is terrifically fertile.
What is the meaning of the name of the gallery?
Very simply, it is the name of the small popular neighborhood in the historic center of Lisbon where we opened.
What kind of art do you represent? Can you give us some examples?
We don’t have a particular agenda in our program, except that the six artists we represent right now were all born in the 1980s. As far as the geography of the gallery, we work with two Portuguese artists: Sarah Chang Yan and Luís Lázaro Matos; two artists from Central and South America: Rodrigo Hernández from Mexico and Adrián Balseca from Ecuador; an artist from Poland: Joanna Piotrowska and finally my compatriot Renato Leotta.
What kind of space did you choose for your gallery?
A space we could paint ourselves! Joking aside, we opened the gallery in a small 18 square meter space, opening onto the street. This past January we expanded by renting the small apartment above the gallery – this gave us the opportunity to host the artists and to work on a parallel programs of shows.
What do you think is the role of a gallerist in today’s art world?
The role of the gallerist who does his job well doesn’t change with the times or change the system: the great thing about my work is the chance to sustain and to help develop the careers of the artists I love, producing special projects and supporting them economically in this process.
What have been the greatest and most difficult moments of your career as a gallerist?
Driving from Turin to Lisbon with my girlfriend this past February, knowing that we would not stop until we reached the ocean. Paying the bill to the mechanic for repairing my old Land Rover!
Madragoa takes part in Granpalazzo on May 27th-28th, 2017. The gallery will present a selection of works by Sara Chang Yan.
Madragoa takes part in Liste–Art Fair Basel from June 13th to 18th, 2017. The gallery will present a selection of works by Luís Lázaro Matos and Rodrigo Hernández.
Rua do Machadinho, 45
Wednesday to Saturday: 2 pm–8 pm