Julio Crivelli: Collecting as a Form of Expression

No. 126 – July 2005

He is a lawyer and writes poetry. He says that in his profession he has to follow precise rules and in art he finds freedom to express his deepest feelings. This is how he collects, based on what moves him, without following fashions or trends. He confesses that sometimes he makes mistakes in his choices, which he calls “regrets”, but considers it part of his commitment to collecting. He lives with artworks by De la Vega, Noé, Kazuya Sakai, Cogorno, Alonso, Presas, Prior and Garófalo among many others. And he has a very critical opinion about current culture, which he comments on in this interview.

Arte al Día: When did your interest in art first emerge? 

Julio Crivelli: I have been interested in art and art history since I was a child. I found that the only form of expression of wisdom and spirit is art.

A.D: When you buy a work of art, do you want to have a piece of the artist’s mind? 

J.C: Yes, but probably in what represents me. I feel that collecting is one more a way of expressing myself, like poems. I think that a collection expresses in some way what each person believes, feels, and their way of understanding wisdom.

A.D: Your collection is very eclectic, there is a strong personal stamp. 

J.C: Yes, because for me the basic criteria goes through the emotional connection that the work has with me, and that connection can be thematic or not. I’m very interested in informalism because of the theme of consciousness, of painting inwards, it seems to me like an infinite world. I have never had a connection with art that aims to be a language in itself isolated from the soul, in those cases I disconnect from the works.

A.D: Are you referring to conceptual art, for example? 

J.C: If, in general, conceptualism in art gives me the feeling of a directed art, it has a lot to do with art after the Counter-Reformation. Now it’s no longer the church, it’s a group of critics who think about what needs to be done, and this lowering of the line is assumed by an enormous number of artists. But well, without generalizing, there are those who separate themselves from that too. 

A.D: Art as a cultural industry of Biennials and Fairs….

J.C: This art is directed by a group. Within this, what is extremely interesting is that in art there are always phenomena of subversion, that is to say, the true artists go outside of these lines and sometimes in the contradiction of this is where one sees, for example, the Mannerist painters, where one realizes that the artist was being told to do a certain thing, he does everything apparently following what he is told to do, but no, he goes outside the norm.  When I went with my grandmother to the Sistine Chapel, she told me that I was going to see two gods: one is up on the ceiling and the other, terrible, is on the wall. And there are two gods, there is a god of the Renaissance above, he is a god full of illusion that gives life, who is generous, good, peaceful and balanced; and another terrible god where perspective was abandoned, which is in the middle of an ellipse, all figures are revolted. He says he judges but instead he seems to condemn because he has a hand raised and he is going to hit everyone. Both the blessed and the condemned, all of them, have a face of terrible anguish. There was a very strong rule and evidently Michelangelo rebels against this rule, because it is very provocative. Also in modern conceptual art there are those who somehow put something of themselves very strongly into a formal scheme that is given to them.

A.D: Who, for example?

J.C: Alfredo Prior. 

A.D: Then, today there is freedom in art, but it is only superficial, illusory… 

J.C: The Counter-Reformation in art generated Mannerism and Baroque. It was necessary to paint in a certain way, according to the rules that the Council of Trent admitted. However, this was later deformed because in the 17th century the whole mythological theme began to appear again.

A.D: Who would be the Council of Trent today?

J.C.: Today the Council of Trent would be some critics that impose through attitudes and terrible harshness a certain way or a certain language. Moreover, they have managed to reduce art to a language, when in reality art uses a language, art expresses through a certain language, it is not a language in itself. 

A.D: So then, what is art?

J.C: One can accumulate a very large amount of knowledge and data and still not know anything, what one has in that case is a great illustration. It takes a creative act for that to become wisdom. Hegel says that wisdom appears as a gunshot in the conscience and art is like this expression of the soul, which is wisdom expressed in a direct way without the need to go through a conceptual way or a mathematical way. Conceptual paths are walked by philosophers. In that sense, Nietzsche is enormously skeptical because he says that the only way for the expression of metaphysics is art, the rest is pure talk. I don’t know if we should have that skepticism, but I do know that art is a direct expression of the most internal and profound thing we have, that is, it is the soul of the soul. I believe that you can’t reduce art to a specific aspect. In the case of the Counter-Reformation of the Council of Trent it was a problem of trying to catechize the universe, and now it is a series of games with strictly social references. The concern for conscience, for religion, for fear, for anguish, for death has disappeared… Today it seems that we all have to look and feel the same, therefore it has to produce the same thing for all of us.

A.D: How does this aspect of critique reduce art to a language?

J.C: The attempt to reduce to a language in the 20th century has been made in many things, for example in psychology, in philosophy -many French authors-, to try to reduce everything to a problem of nominalism and in art as well. Then the problem of the mediums is discussed, less focus is placed on what is represented, which is so profound that we carry within, let’s call it provisionally soul. If the vehicle is important, then everyone makes an effort, to see if they pile up reams of paper or if they put a television set with a Moroccan speaking in Berber dialect, and I don’t know why he is protesting, I pass by and am amazed at the Moroccan who speaks on the television or a number of little knots on a wooden frame with some ingenious title. So all the emphasis is on this search, the searches are for language, for vehicle.

A.D: Are you referring to the nominalism that places art in categories?

J.C: The nominalism that reduces philosophical thought strictly to a problem of language.

A.D: If it’s a language, then it communicates.

J.C: It doesn’t communicate anything, because in reality the emphasis has been placed so much on the communicator that communicating has disappeared, and this is what I see in the latest trends, but it’s not a modern phenomenon that we should get angry about. 

A.D: How does the art market work in all this? 

J.C: The market is a much stronger downward spiral. The market rules, people believe that what they feel is wrong, and in short the problem of language is serious because of this, whenever a new stage of culture appears, it is true that a new language appears. Cave painting was painted on the stones until it was taken out and sculptures began to be made, first of stones, then of bronze and later came the canvas. But in general the evolution of the mediums is an almost automatic and unwanted consequence, what the artist is trying to say is inside the medium, he is not really worried about what the medium is.

A.D: You are referring to the fact that the form is part of the content and not the other way around. 

J.C: There are moments when art is natural and spontaneous. Hauser refers precisely to this, that there are moments when art is free. And when it isn’t, it can be directed by the Church, a group of aristocrats, the market, certain critics. The art of the Renaissance is not directed, but the art of the Counter-Reformation is. 

A.D: But there is Caravaggio.

J.C: Of course, because there are still artists, and there are still searches. The most subversive are the ones who respect every rule strictly, and no one can harm them, but there they are, in the center, and no one noticed. This is exciting. Today there is an art directed all over the world by the conversion of culture into entertainment. Also as a speculation. 

The advice from people who are in the market is to buy emerging artists who are going to raise the price tomorrow. If I were given this advice to buy shares, maybe it would be reasonable. But for a collector who is expressing himself through artwork, this advice is a desert. If I found my house full of those emerging works because I assume they will be worth it tomorrow, I would accumulate them somewhere. No one has their stock shares hanging in the house. 

A.D: What do you think of arteBA?

J.C: You can really see the direction there. It was a very free fair and then it became a contemporary art fair, an equivalent and synonym of conceptual art. It became sectarian. It’s not hidden from me that it’s a commercial fair and so it follows the guidelines of the trend legitimized by power. 

A.D: What do you think of the shipment to the Venice Biennale?

J.C: I don’t feel any connection with this, nor admiration, but rather criticism. I think it is a directed choice.