Fede Pinya and Eva Shakouri.

23-03-2017Humphrey Carter

Yesterday was ArtPalma Brunch, the first of three major art events of the year organised by the Association of Contemporary Galleries. Fede Pinya is the president of this association, and Eva Shakouri plays a major part in it, as do the ten galleries which are part of a body which is working extremely hard in Majorca and overseas to promote Palma and Majorca in general as a leading art destination.

Fede owns the Pelaires gallery which is the oldest running gallery in Spain. His father opened it in 1969 and it is the only gallery in the country to have never closed, while Eva owns La Cala Blanca gallery just a few metres away in calle Can Veri.  

Fede and his gallery has been the driving force for decades behind contemporary and modern art, exhibiting some of the world’s leading artists - his father was a great friend of the likes of Miró and his contemporaries. La Caja Blanca is an independent art gallery located in the heart of Palma’s historic quarter. It focuses on producing innovative art projects by emerging talents selected internationally from fine art faculties across the world. The gallery’s International Guest Artist Residency Programme is recognised as one of the most interesting platforms for young artists in Spain today.

"What I try to do is help up and coming talents. Obviously they have to have credentials before I exhibit them, like having exhibited in museums or other leading galleries, but I like to work with the cutting-edge artists of the future," Eva explained.

"Richard Mosse, for example, presented his first solo show at La Caja Blanca prior to completing his MFA and became one of the most celebrated contemporary photographers after representing Ireland at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Majorca has always been a magnet for artists, but Palma is really making a name for itself.

"Today, you are quite easily going to see art which has been exhibited in the Tate Modern, MOMO or the Guggenheim, and there is a group of around 300 extremely serious art collectors on the island. Over the years the likes of Rebecca Horn, Christian Boltanski, Roland Fischer, Jason Martin, Jannis Kounelli, Mark Francis, Rachel Howard, Sean Scully, William Kendridge, Nan Goldin and Idriss Khan (coming soon to Pelaires) have exhibited on the island, while artists like Kira Ball (sculpture, mainly porcelain), Amparo Sard (sculpture, and works on paper), Alert Pinya, James Lambourne, Joan Costa, Ricard Chiang, Pep Llambias, Ian Waelder, Bel Fullana, Marcelo Viquez and Bernardi Roig all have studios on the island.

"And two leading UK-based galleries, Hauser & Wirth and the Lisson Gallery, are looking at opening in the Balearics because the location and the market is becoming extremely interesting, attractive and exciting. But apart from trying to promote Palma as an art destination, we’re also doing all we can to encourage the general public to engage in the art and cultural scene more.

"We have the famous Nit de l’Art which last year attracted some 20,000 people, many from overseas. Last summer we launched an evening tour of participating galleries which was wonderful. We started when the sun was still up and finished over dinner when it had gone down. and the mixture of people on the tour was great. We have dealers, artists, art lovers and people who want to learn more about art, so we will be doing that again."

One very important event which takes every week is a two-hour guided tour of a selection of galleries in Palma.

"Malou, an art historian, conducts the tours and they are always in English. These take place every Saturday at around 11am. They not only serve to show the galleries and the artists off, they also give people a proper introduction to Palma’s art scene. They quite often attract people into galleries who normally would not bother. There is still that feeling of ‘if I go in I will have to buy something’ and that is a barrier we want to break down. We want people coming into our galleries, we want the public to see the objects of art we're exhibiting and consider worthy to be exhibited, that’s part of the whole idea. We also offer the chance for people to visit artists’ studios and meet the artist, learn about the history of the work and watch them at work and that’s a wonderful luxury.

"And what is so good about Palma is that it so compact. All the galleries are so close together, so in a just a few hours a good number of galleries can be taken in. We don’t want Majorca’s art world to be a closed shop."

Fede, whose association is very much behind all of these initiatives, was keen to stress that they make little or no money out of the events and tours.

"We’re not doing these events for financial gain. Obviously they benefit the galleries and more importantly the artists, should people decide to purchase a piece or commission a piece of art or small format (photography). They're designed to open up the art world. They are working and we see a bright future. We have people who come back for the Nit de l’Art every year from overseas, it’s a fixture in their diaries.

"But Palma and Majorca are also becoming popular for artists to come and work. We know the island has been an inspiration for artists for decades, but artists are coming here for two to three months for a specific commission or a collection. We who live here take it all for granted. When we fly back to Palma from a holiday or a business trip, we immediately feel relaxed. The sun is shining and we switch off. You can see it when you walk around Palma. The locals are all in a rush with the heads down, the visitors are strolling around with their heads up admiring the architecture and the monuments, taking in the history. All this acts as a great inspiration for artists. I see it when I meet them. They arrive with a totally different energy. Instead of switching off at the airport, they switch on and see the island in a totally different light - from another angle.

"Moreover, coming and basing oneself in Palma or Majorca is cheaper than say having to go to London. It’s also less hectic and competitive. And in this day of super technology, art has an important role to play. I know, I have a two-year-old girl and while eating breakfast she will watch cartoons on my phone. I know it’s not right. We now live in such an instant virtual world where so much is fake. People, children especially, have so many tools - iPhones, tablets, etc. There is little time for contemplation and thought. Everything goes straight through the eyes and into the back of your head.

"With art, it gives people time to contemplate, to think and to take all the time they need to engage with a piece of art they may be looking at: time to try and understand the work, the history behind it and the artist. Hours and hours of hard work and skill go into these pieces. They don’t deserve to be exhibited on Instagram for example."

For more information about the guided tours - gallery@lacajablanca.com (tel: 971 722 364) and the association: info@pelaires.com.

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