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Curatorial Practices
Interview with Andrea Giunta
by Analí­a Roffo

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"In art, the market is not always all-powerful"

Know how to negotiate. Museum curators, gallery owners and collectors have, with the passing centuries, replaced patrons of the arts in the relationship of power with the artists. To agree with them appears always to accept the asymmetry, although in this difficult game - according to the skill, the talent and the stubbornness of each artist - there are cracks through which a creator's freedom filters.

This is how Andrea Giunta, PhD specializing in the History of Art, thinks. Professor at the UBA (University of Buenos Aires) and a Conicet researcher, she has received Rockefeller, Getty and Guggenheim grants. She is currently writing a book on "Guernica" and heads the team which is organizing the archives of Jorge Romero Brest at the UBA.

Analí­a Roffo: In his now-classic History of Art, Ernst Gombrich tells how there are two St. Matthews by Caravaggio. Both date from 1602, but only the first corresponds to the artistic criteria of the painter. The second was readjusted to satisfy a different criteria imposed on him by his patron, who was a dignitary of the Church. Which are the filters which function today to determine what is a better, or a more "appropriate" art for this era?

Andrea Giunta: In the case you recall there is obviously a negotiation. In actual fact, there is always a negotiation between the artist and his context. During the XVI, XVII, XVIII and XIX centuries there are clear factors imposed by the Church, the State, and private patrons. By the XX century, with the appearance of vanguards and the construction of an independent artistic field, new elements appear with which it is essential to negotiate: the critics, the museums and the galleries, because they all act as regulating entities. The field of art is definitely far more independent than in the preceding centuries, but not to an absolute degree.

AR: There is a sense that there are many more entities, non with absolute power, to negotiate with.

AG: As always, some are more powerful than others, and this difference does not depend exclusively on economics. One can talk forever of the power of the market, but subtlety is important in this analysis. If we speak strictly of the market as regards to prices, this is a relatively simple field to gauge. If we study quotations, the selling prices at auctions, etc. then we are able to say "this artist has this price". But there is a market of symbolic assets, of symbolic values, which works in another way.

AR: How?

AG: It is difficult for a young artist to live from his artistic output. Even though there is an interesting trend today with respect to the collecting of contemporary art, a collector may buy one or two works by an artist, not more. No artist can live from this average. So, he lives from teaching, from grants, from subsidies and in order to obtain these, it is essential to assemble a complicated network resulting in recognition and legitimacy. In a globalized world, these networks for constructing legitimacy are increasingly complex. Nowadays, for example, studies at national schools are at a disadvantage with respect to the possible weight of participating in international workshops. That step opens an important door for young artists. When one sees, for example, which Latin Americans exhibit at the Documenta in Kassel, you realize that they have acquired a visibility by passing through those circuits of the international workshops. It is obvious that it is complicated for an Argentine to attend these.

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