GDA is a new initiative of four Brazilian artists (Bruno Baptistelli, Carolina Cordeiro, Frederico Filippi and Maíra Dietrich), an artist-run gallery aimed at self-representing their art production in a growing art scene where competition for visibility and space is always a challenge. The following interview was held in online exchanges between July and August 2023.
What is the general idea of the GDA project, in terms of lines of operation and objectives?
GDA is an artist-run gallery focused on experimental and conceptual practices by Brazilian artists, whose careers would be defined as not emerging, but not yet established. The project opened in October 2021 and since then we have had eight exhibitions and two participations in art fairs. Our practice in general consists of inviting an artist to present a solo exhibition for which we offer a temporary commercial representation with basic production support, critical text, professional photographic record and dissemination. The main objective is to strengthen the symbolic and financial recognition of artists who have a solid and coherent trajectory. Other objectives are: to create visibility and interest around artists and practices that we believe in; to try to make the artistic activity profitable through the commercialization of works of art; to incorporate healthier market practices, etc.
What led you to the idea of setting up a gallery managed by artists, the GDA? What are the challenges of this undertaking?
GDA began to be designed at the beginning of 2021 based on the suggestion of Baptistelli, with the support of Cordeiro, Filippi and Dietrich, and the guidelines have always been to create a financially sustainable project that we could use as an exhibition and commercialization platform of our work, as well as that of artists that we believe deserve more visibility. Two systemic observations served as a guide to the creation of the project: understanding the structures of visibility, both in the market and in institutional attention; and, we realized that, beyond what is considered hype, or trend of the moment, eyes are generally turned to young promising artists or established artists, leaving aside artists with more than a ten-year career who are not linked to any commercial gallery. Which is, or was, not only our case, but also the case of many artists we admire and follow. In the sense of financial sustainability, there was also the acknowledgment that in Brazil today there is a lack of public funding for the promotion and formation of experimental artistic practices such as ours, from which we realized that it was necessary not only to create our own initiative, but create an initiative with a commercial focus in order to guarantee the financial health of the project. The difficulties have been the usual ones for Brazilian artistic initiatives: scarcity of resources for more experimental projects; the conservatism of the art consumer market; and the rooting of unhealthy marketing practices that perpetuate the current power structures.
Who is connected to GDA today? How do you share responsibilities and tasks?
Currently we are four artists responsible for the project: Bruno Baptistelli, Carolina Cordeiro, Frederico Filippi and Maíra Dietrich. Decisions are made as a group and we do not have a specific division of tasks, each one contributes with their expertise and available time. As we are all artists, we divide the time dedicated to the project with the time for our own authorial practice, and other practices that bring us direct financial return. For this reason, many times some part of the group is absent due to travel or exhibitions and the rest of the group assumes the responsibilities.
Is there any model or project (current or even historical) that influenced the creation of GDA? What are the references if you have them?
Our training and early career took place at a time when there was a greater number of independent spaces and/or managed by artists in the Brazilian artistic circuit. This model, incredible as it was, when stripped of state support, had many shortcomings of long-term sustainability. For this reason, and especially when we decided to create the gallery, we looked for project models that have commercialization as a path to financial health. We look at the model of A Gentil Carioca, a Brazilian gallery founded by artists; Bombon projects, a project in Barcelona that also thinks about marketing support; and the Argentinian gallery Piedras, which was also founded by artists who, to this day, remain in the management and group of represented artists.
Do you operate from your own headquarters or “itinerantly”? Is it a question of choice, spatial management?
Until the beginning of 2023, we operated on an itinerant basis, temporarily renting spaces for our exhibitions. Which was to some extent interesting, as we always ended up looking for a specific dialogue between the space and the artist to be shown. This nomadic form was very laborious and gave the project a less permanent “on and off” character, which is why we ended up deciding to settle permanently in Barra Funda, in the same building where three of us have our studios. It’s been great to be able to stay in the same place, it gives us the perspective of consistent improvements in space and gives us greater programming freedom for more complex installations or specific events.
Do you have a defined program profile? How do the decisions for choosing the projects to be exhibited take place?
With the structure we have today, we managed to organize a program of four exhibitions per year. This schedule is drawn up at the end of each year and adjusted over the months according to the calendar of artistic events in the city. Our profile, as stated above, in addition to age, group or subject, are artists/projects/initiatives that we respect, admire and believe are relevant, and that we feel are not being seen and recognized enough. This ends up being our main motto. Decisions are made collectively in what is affectionately called “long meetings.”
What challenges arose at the beginning of the project in both organizational and physical terms? And what will you do about those for the near future (if you have already identified them)?
Our project is structured in a very lean way, without unnecessary expenses and with a lot of voluntary dedication on our part. And even so, we have been working without much financial margin for invitations and ideas that escape the yearly plan. In this sense, the biggest challenge for the gallery is to manage to have and maintain enough cash to carry out long-term planning for the gallery, which allows us to improve and expand our exhibitions and recording materials, to be able to carry out projects and exchanges with other projects and artists that are from outside the city of São Paulo, as well as remunerating ourselves for our time and dedication to the work.
We know that the art market is a very particular field, sometimes deregulated and personalized, very closed and based on very specific principles that are not clearly defined… ? Would you like to talk about any support you want to mention or any ideas of public, institutional, private support that you have had or would like to have?
The long-term sustainability and financial health of the project is our constant challenge. For the first year of the project we had the support of a Brazilian collector, who, in addition to helping publicize the project, pre-arranged the gallery’s recurring acquisitions, which gave us impetus for the first exhibitions. In this sense, like this collector, we can say that we have a small but very faithful group of collectors who believe in and support the project. We would like to be able to expand this network of buyers/patrons, so that with this support, we can make our project more structured, which would give us not only financial stability but also more voice to establish healthier art marketing practices.
Today some of you have works represented by commercial galleries already established in the art circuit, how are you reconciling this issue?
We believe that many improvements in the arts system, especially for the artists, come through a more cooperative way of working. Since we started the project, we have always believed and will support that the artists involved in it can find ways to make their practices grow and mature. Precisely for this reason, we are very happy today to be working with two galleries in a co-representation model. With Galeria Luisa Strina we co-represent Bruno Baptistelli, and with Galatea we co-represent Carolina Cordeiro. For us, this is an indication of the health of the market and of artistic thinking, not losing sight of the fact that the gallery is a structure for promoting and evolving the artist and, in order to achieve this, it must be open to loosening its structures and evolving as a model, giving up old paradigms of competitiveness.