O nce in a while an exhibition takes place which re-adjusts perceptions and paves the way for new models of curating. The current show from the Collection of Luiz Augusto Teixeira de Freitas, at the Fundacion Banco Santander is one such example. Entitled “There’ll Never Be a Door. You are Inside: Works from the Coleçao Teixeira de Freitas”, it takes place at the Santander Art Gallery in the Grupo Santander City, and runs from February 25 to June 9, 2019. The venue in Madrid’s Boadilla del Monte, surrounded by an olive grove featuring 1000 year-old olive trees, is itself a destination well worth visiting despite the distance from the centre of the city. Once there, the visitor is struck by the expert manipulation of an exhibition space which is not the standard white cube but features a framework of coloured wood that might defeat a less expert approach to installation. In this case it has worked to perfection.
Although not based on a thematic presentation, the show clearly illustrates the different themes underlying works in a variety of media: from painting, drawing and photography to sculpture, video and artists’ books – an area of collecting especially close to the heart of its owner Luiz Augusto who initially focused on these books only to expand later to works by conceptual artists of the 60s and 70s, documents, posters and other media - giving rise to his small artist-book publishing house known as Taffimai.
Naturally any private collection reflects the tastes and inclinations of its owner – this is in fact one of the key charms and advantages of such collections; they do not bear the burden of historical representation which falls to the large, national institutions. However here the extremely thoughtful and expert approach of curator Luiza Teixeira de Freitas (Lisbon-based curatorial consultant and daughter of Luiz Augusto) has given the kind of weight and significance to this initiative normally reserved for institutional projects. It must be remembered that the mission of founder Luiz Augusto was always to platform the artistic production of emerging artists of the last two decades. Often the pieces allude to architecture, construction or deconstruction, and building in its most diverse interpretations – the very foundations that define our contemporary existence. It is therefore no surprise that the visitor is regaled with a number of striking works that underscore the impossibility of separating art from life, or the collector from his passion.
The exhibition title is taken from the first line of the poem “Labyrinth” by Jorge Luis Borges, aligned so intimately with Luiza’s selection of over 300 works which, despite the absence of clear-cut boundaries, serve to illustrate the different sensibilities and motivations that inform the collection. The various segments explore themes such as social and political engagement, where artists like Carlos Garaicoa and Mona Hatoum tell different stories that involve us in future processes of evolution, some of which are related to the Near East, or time and death. The show also includes a drawing cabinet, with a setup reminiscent of the cabinets or private galleries that became popular during the Enlightenment; a section devoted to architecture and literature as a projection of words and forms associated with collective memory; and of course, running through it all, the importance of affect, feelings and emotions that have nourished this collection. Especially strong in works by Damian Ortega, my personal favourites included a narrative composition (Nahr El Bared, 2013) by Marwan Rechmaoui reminiscent of Grayson Perry – mapping out landmarks of buildings and thoughts. In this fascinating melting pot of a show which conveys a strong internationalism, we see superb works by artists as varied and diverse as Cildo Meireles, Jonathan Monk, Thomas Struth, Danh Ho, Sanja Ivekovic, Thomas Ruff, Walid Raad, Alighiero Boetti, and Emily Jacir among others.
“Certain artists have immediately changed the way I see art, but some have also made me start to see life differently,” says Luiz Augusto, a man who has been collecting nearly at the rate of one art work a day for the past two decades. When confronted by Ortega’s spectacular ‘Miracolo italiano’ (there Vespas hanging from the ceiling that greet visitors as they enter the gallery), one can see why. Taking the unusual view that “artists in their purest state, should not live off their art” - an idea espoused by some of the greatest art patrons in history – it seems extraordinary that this major collection of contemporary art should remain relatively unknown. That said, after this show which has coincided with the most recent edition of ARCO, this will undoubtedly change.