Interview with Bernat Daviu and Joana Roda, founders of the gallery Bombon Projects in Barcelona
Be wild and have fun. This is what the founders of Bombon Projects tell their artists. Bernat Daviu, an artist with experience in an auction house, and Joana Roda, an art historian, opened their gallery in Barcelona despite the difficulties of running such a business in the Catalan city. But they seem to do just fine, thanks to their humorous approach.
Who are the founders of the gallery and what is your background?
Joana Roda and Bernat Daviu. Joana studied History of Art and then moved onto working in a commercial gallery. At the moment she combines the direction of the gallery with a position in an art center coordinating the program. Bernat is an artist who worked for several years at one of the main auction houses in London and also managed other artists’ studios. He has been running a project space, called Passatge Studio, for the last 5 years.
When did you open the gallery
Why did you choose the format of the gallery?
We decided not to call ourselves Gallery so and so in order to avoid the weight of the term. This gives us the freedom to do the projects we want, inside or outside the gallery space. This ranges from exhibitions to “artistic meals and conversations” with artists that are long dead.
However, it is true that we carry out many of the tasks of a gallery: the primary one for us is to represent and promote the artists we believe in, and to find a market for what they do.
Additionally we had always heard that opening a gallery in Barcelona is a business destined to fail, so that made the challenge even more exciting.
How do you see the role of a gallery today?
We feel we are part of a network (together with art institutions, artists, project spaces, publishers, and so on) that works to make contemporary art relevant and exciting. Our role as gallerists is to promote our artists, help them to develop their projects and find people interested in supporting such endeavors.
What kind of art do you represent?
We mainly represent artists from our generation; artists that we know well, who are close to us and with whom we have worked before. We often get the question regarding the type of art we are interested and represent at Bombon, and to be honest we never know what to answer. We are open to any type of art or artist that excites us, no matter what medium or subject matter. Maybe in the future we will be able to trace a line, a common link between our artists, but at the moment we can’t tell. For now we tell our artists to be wild and have fun.
Can you make examples from your program?
Our first exhibition was a group show with some of the artists we work with. It was a mixture of artists and mediums. In fact, one of the activities of the show consisted in a conversation between Enric Farrés, a young conceptual artist from Barcelona, and Joaquim Mir, a painter who lived in the beginning of the 20th century and who is now long dead. Enric had two pieces in the exhibition: an omelette that was eaten during the opening and a flower that eventually dried out. Joaquim Mir’s work was a landscape painted in 1906. This example is a good one to explain our multiple interests.
This exhibition was followed by Leisure, an exhibition by Josep Maynou which totally transformed the space. It felt very domestic: Maynou filled the space with tables, benches, sofas, rugs and lamps that he made. It was also used as a set to listen to Maynou’s stand-up comedy.
The third show was a painting exhibition by Olarn Chiaravanont, with a very conventional hanging.
If anyone finds a connection between these exhibitions, we will happily appropriate it in order to have an answer about our “style”!
What does the name of the gallery mean?
Bombon means a chocolate in Spanish. We like the meaning and the sound of it. Even if people don’t know what it is, the sound is pretty catchy.
What kind of space do you have and why did you choose it?
We have a little space in the center of Barcelona. Our side of the road had been pretty empty of business activities since the Chinese wholesale shops that operated in the area moved to bigger spaces outside the city. At the moment Trafalgar, the name of the road, is still in limbo, a mixture of empty spaces, clothing wholesale shops, a couple of galleries, and small shops that are gradually opening up.
We went for this space because we felt it was a perfect size to start with. It is around 75 square meters, with high ceilings, and a pretty square shape, with two windows on the street. Bombon is also near very interesting contemporary art spaces of all kinds: the project space Espai Colona; art foundations such as Blueproject, Foto Colectania, and Fundació Gaspart, and galleries such as Rocío Santa Cruz, Fidel Balaguer, and Senda.
Tell us about your series of humorous editions
Bombon projects has become “the headquarter” of many of the projects we have been doing during the last years. Arts&Clothes was initiated by Bernat Daviu and Enric Farrés, members of the family of Bombon. These editions are clothing accessories based on iconic artists from the 20th Century. It plays down the myth of the artist through humorous anecdotes. For example there is Martin Kippenberger’s belt, made to prevent him pulling his trousers down during openings as he used to do. The Art Dealer’s Mat, which invites guests to wipe their feet on the neighbour’s mat, is based on Daniel Henry Kahnweiler’s habit to use the next door mat instead of his.
We believe Art&Clothes editions and the other ones we produce with our artists are an important part of Bombon. They are inexpensive and catchy objects that introduce new audiences to the gallery program. And humor definitely plays an important part, as it does in the rest of the activities of the gallery.
Do you sell art online?
No, we don’t know what we will do in the future but at the moment we think a more personal relationship with our collectors is important.
Is there someone who influenced you in a particular way?
We feel close to people who are multifaceted. William Copley, E.L.T Mesens, or Marcel Mariën are the kind of people who come to our minds; people who were dealers, publishers, artists and many more things at the same time.
The happiest and most difficult moment in your career as a gallerist?
We haven’t been open for very long, but we can tell you that every day is difficult. However, this difficulty excites us and challenges us. Every day is a new story.
The happiest moment should probably be the day we opened, however we were so overwhelmed that we can hardly remember what happened! Happy moments there are plenty: when we see the projects of our artists being accomplished, when shows are up and looking great, when the gallery is full of people during the openings, when our job is recognized and of course, when we make a sale!
How do you see your gallery in a decade?
We would love to have more storage! Basically for us the most important thing is to be able to carry on doing what we love.
Bombon Projects participates in the 11th edition of ART-O-RAMA in Marseille from August 25th to 27th 2017.
Wednesday to Friday: 4pm–7pm
August by appointment only