Condo 2018: sometimes collaboration is stronger than competition

Alessandra Marelli and Stefano Pirovano

In London 46 art galleries join forces to shape the future of contemporary art. Does Condo 2018 represent a step of evolution?

The third edition of Condo, Condo 2018, kick started last weekend in London. It’s now clear that regarding it as an alternative to the art fairs would be a mistake. And it would be also a mistake to consider it as a mere commercial platform. It’s something different, for some reasons terribly inspiring, particularly to those investigative collectors who prefer the cosiness of the art gallery to the impersonal gallery booth at the main fairs. As a matter of fact they have become quite a small minority, while the empire of the so called ‘representative’ – and most of the time unfortunately ignorant – collectors is rapidly growing (W. McIntosh – B Schmeichel, 2016). But this minority has educated eyes and ears, it has collecting know-how and, what counts more, it precisely represents the kind of supporters – calling them clients sounds diminishing – that emerging/young art dealers should be able to engage.

Condo 2018 presents 29 international art galleries, hosted by 17 London-based art galleries, all following the rule written on Condo’s bold web site: ‘host galleries share their spaces with visiting galleries – either by co-curating an exhibition together, or dividing their galleries and allocating spaces’. It so happens that a contemporary giant such as Sadie Coles is giving a room to Koppe Astner for pairing mysterious young talent Kris Lemsalu with Josh Faught, a wit ‘queer identity explorer’ who is expert in textiles and archival materials. And Sadie Coles is also giving its ‘shop’ outside the gallery to Galeria Madragoa, which is presenting a group show with Rodrigo Hernández, Renato Leotta, Gonçalo Preto, Buhlebezwe Siwani, and Belén Uriel. Meanwhile, in the London fashionable East End, a relatively small gallery like Union Pacific is sharing the space with Misako & Rosen (Tokyo), Chert Lüdde (Berlin) and Gregor Staiger (Zurich). Or, in Soho, Rodeo hosts Andrew Kreps, while The Sunday Painter and Arcadia Missa welcome in South Lambeth two galleries from Warsaw, David Radziszewski and Stereo.

‘It’s a great opportunity for my gallery’ says Matteo Consonni from Madragoa, who is taking part to Condo for the first time and is positive about it. He is going to take part also to the new session Condo will have later this year in Mexico City. ‘You get in touch with the hosting gallery’s public but you also bring your audience to them’. So it’s a win-win model, whose upside is definitely stronger than the downside: you open the door to your competitor, providing it with a full responsive environment. Moreover, the hosted galleries are not paying exhibition fees, so they are taking no risk. That’s help.

‘Condo is also giving the opportunity of promoting dialogues between artists from different galleries’ Consonni continues. He mentions Rodeo gallery and Andrew Kreps, who are presenting works by young British artist Ian Law (from Rodeo) alongside a selection of historical works by Robert Overby. Similarly, Maureen Paley is presenting a body of recent works by Cologne-based artist Michaela Eichwald (from Dépandance) and sets a surprisingly efficient dialogue between her and Eduardo Sarabia (from José Garcia), who’s work questions local folk history of northern Mexico. Here he exhibits two sculptures, two drawings, and four terrific paintings.

In 2018 this ‘collaborative exhibition’ – that is how Condo calls itself – is planning to have sessions also in Shanghai, Mexico City and, for the second time, in New York. That would prove the original idea to be a persistent one. Collaboration may be a force as stronger as competition, especially when dealing with contemporary art, particularly in our hyper-connected but highly divided society. We asserted that Condo can’t be a substitute to the traditional art fairs. Still, it has been shaping a supplementary, possibly innovative art environment. The evolution of contemporary art certainly depends on the ability of its players to create new positions, also in the realm of commercial galleries and exhibitions. Meaningfully, these are the same new positions that are making Paris Internationale a successful experimental art fair, apparently free from too big sharks and secret lords. These positions – namely gallerists, but also artists and art collectors – now represent the most promising future for contemporary art. Stay tuned.

January 24, 2018