State of the arts: Spain - the Netherlands
Interview Mariana Cánepa Luna

Issue no1
Feb - Mrt 2023

At ARCO it is all about the Netherlands this year. How does the Dutch art climate relate to the Spanish? What are the differences and what problems does Spain face today?

Metropolis M in conversation with Mariana Cánepa Luna, from the Barcelona-based curators’ duo Latitudes (with Max Andrews). They are the organisers of the Dutch Assembly at ARCO; a programme of debates, performances and presentations by Dutch artists and institutions.

—Jolien VerlaekFrom what I've heard in the talks the last couple of days, the speakers of the Dutch Assembly reflect on the crisis and the current extreme climate of the arts in the Netherlands. What is the impact of the crisis on the arts in Spain?

—Mariana Cánepa Luna'Extremely deep. The difference with the Netherlands is obviously that we, Spain, were never healthy. We've always looked up to Holland as an enviable model. Especially the need to support artists from the very early stages. That is done insufficiently in Spain. There are grants, but they are not taking artists to the next level. It doesn't cover all the stages of an artist's career. In the Netherlands you have the university level and a great network of studios. Because of the extremely high rents here, not many artists can afford a studio. It's very hard not to generalise, but here the work place of an artist in Spain is often a desk with a computer, a mouse and books. Not having that physical space to experiment and produce determines the practice of an artist. I've always envied that about Dutch artists, that they are funded that way. We've never had that in Spain, and I don't think we will ever have that in the next years.'

—Jolien VerlaekHas it declined recently?

—Mariana Cánepa Luna'Absolutely, it has for many years. We have a great network of museums. We still need a step between the studio and the kunsthalle, and between the kunsthalle and the museum. A lot of artists are therefore looking to live abroad. One of the things we have tried to emphasize with 'The Dutch Assembly' is the presentation of a whole range of curatorial and artistic practices that demonstrate that an institution can take all manner of forms, can be small and flexible and that the most important emphasis should be the programme not the building, that is, the content not the container.'

—Jolien VerlaekSo there is a lack of smaller institutions. If we would do this in reverse, a 'Spanish Assembly' on a Dutch art fair, the result would be poorer?

—Mariana Cánepa Luna'We wouldn't have the diversity that we have in the Dutch Assembly. We have invited post academic programmes, art spaces, museums, and we have made the deliberate choice to invite artists; sometimes they are institutions in themselves. In Spain we don't have many artists that individually shine brightly, only if they are teachers followed by their students. In the Netherlands there are many important names that have come up in the last years, because they are supported from the very early stages and throughout their careers. Holland is a very small country with a very high density of art centres and museums and critics.'

—Jolien VerlaekHow would you compare the situation of Dutch artists and Spanish artists?

—Mariana Cánepa Luna'There is a different level of professionalization, and in the way society perceives the need to have artists. In the Netherlands you are an artist and you are taken seriously. Maybe not so much today, as it has the tag of a "left wing hobby". I am curious to see how the perception of art and artists changes over time. Here, it seems as if some how as an artist you're always struggling, always poor, you have a day job to pay your bills. Not many young artists have galleries, because there are not many young galleries. People are not taking the chance to open a space. Risk-taking and entrepreneurship are not being given a chance given the expense and bureaucracy of setting up a small business or being self-employment. There are some amazing artists here but there is a great frustration with the lack of opportunities. However, it is impossible to directly compare things with the situation in the Netherlands. It is also interesting that most of the Dutch artists we've invited are not Dutch-born, they are Dutch-based. That is an important characteristic of the Dutch art context. It is very international and cosmopolitan.'

—Jolien VerlaekWhat do you think the local visitors of ARCO get from the Dutch Assembly and the Dutch problems? Do you think they understand it?

—Mariana Cánepa Luna'People do know there is a world crisis, they probably don't know the details of what is happening right now in Holland. Even if the Dutch government cuts the culture budget in half, there's far more left than here. A lot of Spanish artists are still thinking about going to Holland, because it still has an amazing infrastructure and wealth of artists. The crisis was never meant to be the only focus of the project although of course it was bound to come up. Perhaps the most important element is what knowledge and experience can be exchanged - not in a patronizing or 'capacity building' way but as international colleagues. Perhaps partnerships can be built and new collaborations triggered.'

—Jolien Verlaek'Assembly' is a word associated with protest movements, such as Occupy. What was your aim for the Dutch Assembly?

—Mariana Cánepa Luna'It means more "to assemble". We are occupying ARCO, in a positive and discursive way and each of the presentations we think of like depositions or dispatches. We know the situation can seem grim in the arts in both Spain and the Netherlands and we don't want the project to be either overwhelmed by introspection or the one hand or be celebratory on the other. The concept in its simplest form was to bring together a range of agents, producers, institutions and ideas, to use as many hours as possible and to fill them with ideas and see if people get inspired.'

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 1 — 2023