INSIGHTS | Conversation with Matteo Consonni (Madragoa)

After the successful launch of INVITED last year, Art Brussels decided to again endorse galleries that are championing the evolving art market, as well as a younger generation of international galleries. As part of Art Brussels Insights, we spoke with Matteo Consonni, the owner of Madragoa, about opening up a gallery in Lisbon and about his upcoming presentation in INVITED at Art Brussels 2020.

Conversation with Matteo Consonni
by Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte

Can you introduce us to Madragoa?
Madragoa started in April 2016. Our programme is mainly focused on young artists, mostly born in the 1980s – not as a statement, but as a result of an organic relationship with our own generation. We do not want boundaries in terms of age, so there are exceptions, such as the exhibition by Enzo Cucchi that we hosted in January 2019, of which I was really proud. I love to think that we are growing together with the artists, and it is so special to see how we have been able to support the practices of such artists as Rodrigo Hernández, Joanna Piotrowska, Buhlebezwe Siwani, Renato Leotta and Luís Lázaro Matos, among others. The latest news regarding the programme is a young, promising artist from Brazil whose work I find has great potential: Yuli Yamagata.

What does ‘Madragoa’ mean?
It is the name of the little neighbourhood in the historical centre of Lisbon where the gallery is located, a mysterious name whose origin is uncertain.

What is your own background? Why did you choose Lisbon for Madragoa, and how is the art scene there?
Before opening my own gallery with my business partner Gonçalo Jesus, I worked for several galleries: the most important experience was as director of Galleria Franco Noero, from 2010 to 2016. I am from Italy, but while joking around about the idea with Gonçalo, I started to see how much potential Lisbon has as a base for our project. It has a less crowded scene in terms of galleries, institutions that are growing, good local artists, and it is a city that is attracting more and more people who are potential visitors to our project.

What kind of space did you choose for your gallery?
It is a very small shop in a tiny street of the historical centre, and after a few months we added a typical small apartment on top of the shop. Even with both spaces, we do not reach 35 square metres for the exhibitions. These small spaces proved extremely flexible and hosted very focused projects where the artists did not have the problem of just filling a volume with repeated ideas.

What’s your favourite aspect of running a gallery?
The luxury of being involved with the artists in a bigger picture: supporting the artists for the long term and being part of a great number of projects, productions, sales, etc. It’s a whole little history of which we can be a part.

What does being part of the INVITED section of Art Brussels 2020 mean for Madragoa?
It means having the opportunity to promote our programme to a tremendously informed audience, hoping to surprise them.

What will you be presenting at Art Brussels 2020?
We will be presenting a group show featuring works by Rodrigo Hernández, Luís Lázaro Matos, Joanna Piotrowska, Gonçalo Preto and Belén Uriel, which looks ironically at the idea of interiors (and their decoration), as well as succinctly introducing our short but intense history.

How do you view Brussels from Lisbon?
I had the good fortune of living in Brussels for few months when working at Jan Mot Gallery. I love the city and its scene. It is a vital example of how a city that is not New York or London can create a great system. I hope we can learn from it in Lisbon!

Are there favourite local places in Lisbon that you would recommend for art lovers?
Zé Dos Bois (a funny literal translation of ‘Joseph Beuys’ in Portuguese) has for years provided the most incredible cultural programme in town: visual arts, as well as great concerts. Plus, their location and building are incredible, and they also organize great events off-site. Fundação Gulbenkian is also a must-see for visitors: the collection, the building, and the gardens will not disappoint.

Do you have any advice for young, aspiring art collectors?
If building up your interests and passion for art becomes a non-stop, name-dropping discussion about who’s cool and who’s not, then you are with the wrong crowd.

1. Joanna Piotrowska, Frantic, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 29 September-5 November, 2016
2. Rodrigo Hernández, Plasma, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 17 May-19 August, 2017
3. Renato Leotta, Amicizia, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 14 September–4 November, 2017
4. Sara Chan Yan, Um plano tangível e infinito, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 24 March-5 May, 2019
5. Luís Lázaro Matos, Tomber Dans Le Lac, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 16 May- 21 July, 2018
6. Enzo Cucchi, Enzo Cucchi, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 26 January-9 March, 2019
7. Adrián Balseca, The Unbalanced Land, installation view at Madragoa, Lisbon, 14 May-21 September, 2019

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