The internationalization of ArteBA 2005, the 14th Buenos Aires Contemporary Art Fair – Interview with Mauro Herlitzka, president of arteBA2005

No. 124 – May 2005

The 14th edition of arteBA will take place between the 20th and 25th of May in La Rural. The selection committee was in charge of Mercedes Casanegra, Thomas Cohn, Horacio Dabbah, Gustavo Bruzzone, Marion Helft, Jorge Mara, Adriana Rosenberg and Gabriel Werthein. One of the highlights of this year’s program is the arteBA-Zurich Matching Funds, which aims to address the need that the National Museums have of incorporating missing artworks of their collections, in order to activate the cultural market. The following museums have been chosen: Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio A. Caraffa de Córdoba, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino de Rosario, Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA), and Malba Colección Costantini. In order to promote international art collecting, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art of the MFAH (The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) Mari Carmen Ramirez, will visit Buenos Aires together with a group of patrons in hopes of acquiring artworks for the Houston collection through funding from abroad. Also present will be Gabriel Perez-Barreiro, Curator of Latin American Art at the Jack Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas, and a group of collectors from Brazil. Another novelty is the presence in the Auditorium of international guests such as Mari Carmen Ramirez, Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Museo del Barrio in New York, Paulo Herkenhoff, director of the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro, Gabriel Peluffo of the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes, Uruguay, Gustavo Buntinx of the Centro Cultural de San Marcos, Peru, José Ignacio Roca, Director of the Plastic Arts Section of the Luis Ángel Arango Library, Colombia, Justo Pastor Mellado of the Escuela de Artes Visuales of the Universidad de Artes, Ciencias y Comunicación – Uniacc, Chile,  and art critic Ticio Escobar of the Museo del Barro, Paraguay. In addition to all this is the Alto Paraná Project, directed by Ana Martínez Quijano which aims to give visibility to the artists of Misiones, the Barrio Joven, with 14 stands of emerging art, the second edition of the Petrobrás Prize of Visual Arts and the fifth edition of the Chandon Prize. In regards to all this and more, Mauro Herlitzka spoke with Arte al Día. 

Arte al Día: What is the objective of your new administration?

Mauro Herlitzka: First to recognize the own culture of arteBA and continue building from there. I believe that institutions have a certain culture and trajectory, so it’s a matter of embracing it and continuing to develop it. On the other hand, there are various projects that will depend on what will be produced this year. One is to increase the economy of our culture. I think that in the Argentine art system, the economic aspect is one of the weakest points. If we don’t strengthen the economy of our culture and we can’t finance it, it’s going to be difficult for all the other cultural projects that involve us to be financed. If there is no trade, no flow of goods, no collectors and no art market, it is difficult for other cultural projects to grow afterwards. Because it’s about promoting the whole economy from what arteBA generates. ArteBA is also the key event of the cultural economic year. 

A.D: In what sense? 

M.H: Speaking in gallery terms, given the fact that arteBA starts in May, I think that if the Fair goes well, it will translate to an auspicious start of the year. As soon as a more intense and stronger market emerges, everything begins to work better in a given economy. 

A.D: Is this promotion of cultural economy linked to the visit of museum directors and international collectors?

M.H: Exactly. Also because the other aspect is the internationalization of arteBA. 

A.D: This is part of your administration?

M.H: Yes, but also of a concept of a board of directors, which is very participative and hard-working. Among the activities aimed at the internationalization of arteBA we have both the exhibition Entre el silencio en la violencia (Between the Silence in Violence), which was presented in New York and later in Buenos Aires, and the support for the presentation of Argentine galleries to ARCO. Now we are going to support, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Argentine presentation at the Venice Biennial. The good thing is to work in the network. 

A.D: How does arteBA participate in the Venice Biennale?

M.H: In the edition of the catalog. 

A.D: What is the profile of the Fair? 

M.H: We believe that arteBA has to have its own profile, that although it’s international, we can also work with a Latin American vision. Even though the Fair is the most important one in the region, we have to place a strong emphasis on Latin America, with long term projections. We have to think of Latin American art as a global phenomenon, not only for those of us who are involved with it, but also to think about how it operates in other places, for example at the Houston Museum, which has Chinese, European, and Latin American art as part of a global collection. 

A.D: How was the international aspect managed in this edition of the Fair? 

M.H: Through various measures. On the one hand, the visits that come from the auditorium, in which the topics of the Latin American circuit, the international circuit, interaction, roles and perspectives are going to be discussed. There will be curators and museum directors who are involved in the Latin American region. On the other hand, one of the most important actions that is being implemented is the Matching Funds program; there are four local institutions and one from abroad (The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) where arteBA raises funds from. In the case of the Argentine museums (Mamba, Malba, Caraffa and Castagnino) they will be provided with $5,000 United States Dollars (USD) from arteBA-Zurich. They are required to obtain an equal or higher amount to spend exclusively within the Fair. For the Houston Museum, we privately raised $10,000 USD and they also have to bring in another $10,000 USD or more to spend exclusively at the Fair. These are all coordinated actions. This is how it works in the other countries of the world. 

A.D: Is there a growing international interest in Argentine art?

M.H: Your question is related to comments I’ve heard, such as “they’re finally coming”. But it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning, because a lot of work has been done since the days of Ruth Benzacar, the articles you write for the international magazine Lápiz. That’s all one stage, and now another one is beginning which is being purposely provoked, because inviting all these people costs a lot of money. The important thing is not only that they come but that they also return. 

A.D: What is the purpose of an Art Fair?

M.H: The Fair has its binding purpose to summon the artistic community and also the public circuit that is not part of it. And a good Fair has to sell. All the actors are important, from the art collector to the amateur. 

A.D: For the last two years arteBA has been presented as a Contemporary Art Fair. How would you define contemporary? 

M.H: As proposals with a new, emerging and original creative capacity, everything that is characteristic of contemporaneity. 

A.D: Do you also relate it to the use of a certain medium or to the age of the artists?

M.H: Not at all, it doesn’t necessarily mean that.