Interview with the Director & Curator of Galería Rafael Pérez Hernando

Although its origins date back to 1996, Galería Rafael Pérez Hernando officially opened its doors in Madrid in 2004. It has since concentrated on promoting unknown or little-known artists. The gallery’s main interests lie in young emerging artists. It’s therefore no surprise to see them host an exhibition titled EMERGE. The show is a joint collaboration with Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (a university in the outskirts of Madrid), who annually hosts a prize for graduating art students from all over Spain. This year, they were given the opportunity to see their work shown at this gallery. The exhibition runs until 2 February, Aesthetica writer, Rubén Cervantes Garrido, speaks to Francisco Carpio (the curator, as well as a professor at the university) and Rafael Pérez Hernando himself.RCG: How did you decide to open an art gallery?
RPH: It was out of pure necessity.

RCG: What is, in your opinion, an art gallery’s function?
RPH: It has to show what you believe in.

RCG: When I visit your exhibitions, it seems that the artists you choose are artists you truly like. What do you look for in “your” artists?
RPH: They’re artists I like, that motivate me, that unsettle me, that say something…

RCG: What percentage of passion, risk and pure impulse goes into your job?
RPH: It’s a hundred per cent of everything.

RCG: How is the economic crisis affecting the world of art galleries?
RPH: The same as above, one hundred per cent.

RCG: How did the collaboration between the gallery and Universidad Francisco de Vitoria come about?
RPH: Pure coincidence; I think they liked our space.
FC: This is the first time we have ran EMERGE at Rafael’s gallery. We were looking for a larger space, with more flexible exhibiting possibilities. I’ve known Rafael practically since he opened the gallery and I’ve always liked his interest and promotion of young artists.

RCG: How was the selection process?
FC: As curator, I’m in charge of this process, and had to choose from the recent graduates of our university as well as from others from around Spain. In this case, I’ve selected five artists from the universities of the Basque Country, Barcelona and Cuenca.

RCG: What’s your view on the result?
RPH: Interesting. I wasn’t too convinced on how it would turn out, but Francisco Carpio has done an excellent job. The majority of the works surprised us considerably.

RCG: When you’re dealing with artists as young as those selected here, what do you see in them that makes you think they have a promising career ahead of them?
FC: I see if they have their own voice. Although influences are necessary, it’s important for them to provide their individual views.

RCG: In exhibitions like these, the role of the curator is essential. Do you think this is also the case for more renowned artists? Do you think that, in some cases, the curator can overshadow the artists?
FC: For sure, in projects such as EMERGE, the role of the curator is fundamental in constructing a coherent narrative. I also think it’s very important when the artists are more renowned. The curator acts as a link between the artist and the art sector, and provides a key conceptual support.

RCG: The works in EMERGE each come with an essay written by the artists themselves. Do you consider these types of written discourses to be indispensable in art today?
FC: It’s becoming increasingly important to base the works of art on coherent and eloquent discourses. Absolutely.
RPH: Without them, the spectator is left out of the game.

RCG: What do you demand from a work of art?
FC: I want it to move me and never to leave me indifferent. I want it to make me feel and also think.
RPH: Perhaps I ask too much, something impossible, and that is for it to be timeless, alien to the pass of time. When looking at The Descent from the Cross by Roger van der Weyden at the Prado Museum or Mantegna’s Dead Christ at the Pinacoteca Brera in Milan, one can only say, “My goodness!”

RCG: A few weeks ago, Félix de Azúa [acclaimed Spanish writer and philosopher] said that there’s been no art for the last thirty years or so. How do you see art today from your respective positions?
RPH: Art is not the same as art market, which is terribly manipulated. I am an active member in this market and, since I opened my gallery, I visit the Prado and the Reina Sofia much less than before. And don’t forget I opened my gallery out of pure vocation.
FC: With all my respects for Félix de Azúa, I consider him to be a better poet than a critic… I think exactly the opposite: the world of art is ever more varied, complex and exciting, and it’s something I see each day in my pupils, future artists.

RCG: Despite the fact that the economic crisis is being hard on culture, do you think a young artist can somehow take advantage of the current situation?
FC: Never before has there been so many opportunities for young artists: scholarships, residencies, contests… The only positive aspect of the crisis, if any, is that it will act as a necessary filter so that only the more personal and authentic voices remain.
RPH: Probably, a young artist has the same difficulties now than before. He or she must continue, knowing that they have a mission to accomplish. Normally, no gallery will take them very seriously. That’s why I say: keep going!

EMERGE runs until 2 February, Galería Rafael Pérez Hernando, Orellana 18, 28004, Madrid.

1. Ignacio Lobera. Negras, rayas y blancas. 2012. Cintas de película VHS. Medidas variables.
2. Andrea Ganuza. ME AND YOU ‐THE SKYPE. 2011‐2012. Fotografía analógica. 12 fotografías de 30,5 x 20,5 cm.