Monday, May 12, 2008

"Shopping market flogs off-the-shelf art at equitable prices"

(Published May 10, 2008 in The Guadalajara Reporter)

“If a market for art exists, why not a supermarket?” ask the organizers of the SupermercArte, a bazaar in Guadalajara that replaces groceries with economically priced, original artwork.

The SupermercArte opened May 7 and will run for one month out of a temporary cultural hub on the highest level of Plaza Galerias. Customers grab miniature grocery carts and browse hundreds of small works of art by 44 different local artists.

“It’s as if people were going to buy tomatoes and onions, but instead of the tomatoes there are works by artists,” explained Marcos Hernandez, one of the artists participating this year by invitation.

The innovative technique is borrowed from a sister concept in Barcelona, meant to bring art to people who don’t normally frequent galleries or collect pieces. On one hand, the economic gallery makes already acclaimed artists’ works accessible to the public: this year’s participants include Waldo Saaveda, Jose Fors, and Alejando Colunga, known for his fantastic bronze creature-seats in Plaza Tapatia.

Alternatively, the SupermercArte gives up-and-coming artists a platform to show their work. Hernandez, who was the best-selling artist at the 2005 market, has not otherwise received much exposure. He believes his style, self-described as “abstract figurative, with oils, collage and photographs that I take,” is a hard sell. For the SupermercArte three years ago, he strayed from his regular approach, painting little pictures of cats for a better commercial bet.

This year, SupermercArte solicited 20 works from Hernandez, requiring that each measure no more than 40 centimeters and cost between 200 and 2,000 pesos. Hernandez offers his pieces at 200 pesos each.

“It’s a mix between a commercial style and my personal work, which is more abstract,” Hernandez said of the collection of small paintings he will sell this year. One piece, for example, depicts whimsical, floral twirls painted in agreeable pastels over contrasting patterns. It's abstract and fascinating while still office-friendly.

Participating artists receive a 50 percent cut from sales, and are credited for whatever they don’t sell. How much the project ultimately earns is not expected to be much -- organizers hope for a change in the public’s view of art collection more than large proceeds. A work of art, explains SupermercArte’s website, is a “unique gift with a constantly increasing value.”

Project coordinators have worked closely with the Jalisco Secretariat of Culture to create the market, which includes selecting the artists who contribute each year. “We collaborated together to develop an artistic aesthetic,” said Jaime Mor, one of SupermercArte’s principal planners hailing from Barcelona.

Part of the aesthetic vision involves eliminating the general public’s fear of galleries. At SupermercArte, buyers are encouraged to move close to, pick up, and touch works of art, like one might scrutinize a melon before purchasing it. Plaza Galerias was selected as the market’s exposition space for exactly this reason: “Regular people shop at plazas, not at art galleries,” Hernandez said.

The SupermercArte might even change the way people view Plaza Galerias, which often hosts cultural events. “We want people to stop seeing the space as just a place to go shopping,” said Maga Hernandez, a coordinator for the Secretary of Culture.

The SupermercArte is open during Plaza Galerias’ business hours, and will close after June 7. Plaza Galerias is located at Av. Rafael Sanzio 150 (between Av. Vallarta and Sebastian Bach), in Colonia La Estancia, Zapopan.

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