The magic of the Collection of Jean-Conrad and Isabelle Lemaître at LABoral

Some comments on the exhibition with Alfredo Aracil, assistant of BenjaminWeil, curator of the show

Published: May 19, 2014
The magic of the Collection of Jean-Conrad and Isabelle Lemaître at LABoral

Still from 'Cinelândia', by LouidgiBeltrame

By José Luis CalderónNicola Mariani Arte y Sociedad


As Naiara Valdano, collaborator of this same blog, reminded us one week ago, LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial hosts until next July 6 the exhibition The magic of images, which will certainly be one of the best video art exhibitions this year and which is part of the programme Universo Video, which opened three years ago at LABoral and that gives us some insight in video art from different perspectives. A very enriching debate on the current market of video art with the participation of very relevant personalities of this field aslo took place as part of this programme.

During the last three years, there is remarkable increase of institutional exhibitions coming from private collections, it has become a trend, partly motivated by the economic situation in the museums industry. Some examples among exhibitions that have taken place in Madrid, the show by Patricia Phelps de Cisneros at the MNCARS last year; The exhibition of the heritage of the  Casa de Alba; and the collection Masaveu at Centro Centro; and obviously the several exhibitions organised at the Museo Lázaro Galdiano during these last two years: The collection of Leandro Navarro; collection Alicia Aza; Taxonomía del Caos (from the collection Rafael Doctor); or the on-going exhibition of Collection Jozami, among others.

On this occasion, the Centro de Arte LABoral hosts the exhibition The magic of images featuring a selection of twelve works by twelve emblematic artists of video art at international level, coming from the collection Jean-Conrad and IsabelleLemaître, considered one of the best in this field in the world.

Still from Readslikethepaper, Group I, by Patricia Esquivias

What is interesting about these video art exhibitions coming from private collections is that they show different perspectives of this genre and language. In fact, even if it is already 50 years old, the nature of video art is still a debate topic in several fora. Especially because, as Jean-ConradLemaître says in an interview with LABoral, video art is a frontier genre. In other words, it has frontiers with other artistic disciplines; In particular with performance art and photography, in addition to other appealing frontiers with other audiovisual media and especially with video. Hence the controversial frontier with short films.


Video art is not only a support but also a different language that triggers very diverse feelings and reactions in the viewer. For this reason I think that any approach to this medium and this language from different perspectives is always very gratifying, as in art after postmodernity it is, sometimes, essential to bear in mind the relationships and frontiers between disciplines and ways of artistic expression. The reflection upon the genre of video art is precisely one of the main points addressed by this exhibition. We start with this question our interview with Alfredo Aracil, assistant to the curator of the show, BenjaminWeil.

J. L. Calderón: The thesis of the exhibition indicates that the works have in common that they focus on the magic or suggestive power and, in particular, their reflection upon the technological medium itself. Would you point out any other relationship among them?

A. Aracil: I would say that all these works are completely contemporary. In addition they all deal with the double articulation of images, of signs. There is an imaginary (the magic) and a reality. Rather than common aspects, the exhibition features a collective image and concept. On the other hand, there are individualities that work well and contribute to show how video has developed into different paths and movements; different ways to perceive reality. The concept of “perception” is also important in this exhibition.

J. L. Calderón: Tell us about the genesis of this exhibition.

A. Aracil: This is the first time that I work as assistant to the curator of a show. Jean-Conrad and IsabelleLemaître together with BenjaminWeil selected the pieces, after viewing the works together. They also chose the theme of the exhibition, as well as the idea of understanding the exhibition as a whole.

J. L. Calderón: This selection includes only twelve pieces, however, based on your deeper knowledge of the collection of Jean-Conrad e Isabelle Lemaître, what other type of works or themes would you point out of their collection?

A. Aracil: Their collection is a luxury, honestly. They started to purchase art in the 1970s. You probably know that they started to collect painting and engravings, but then they started with video art and this evolution is very interesting. Their collection includes all the celebrities of video art. I would point out not only the volume of their collection, but rather the quality of the artists and works. They also have Latin American video art, which is well-known now, but not in the past. They have always anticipated a lot. They have a good eye. Now, they even collect very young artists. Their taste is very interesting.


J. L. Calderón: Why this exhibition at LABoral? And, what is the contribution of LABoral to this exhibition and vice versa?

A. Aracil: Firstly, there is a context. LABoral had been working in video art with its programme Universo vídeo, which opened some time ago. There had been some moves such as Asian video, historic video and video documentary in several series. The specific theme of this exhibition illustrates how images can represent the world and the world can represent the images. This exhibition is a great occasion for LABoral as this collection is a luxury. It has been very interesting for me to have the opportunity to work in this exhibition because it is a great private collection which includes both established artists and young talents.

J. L. Calderón: What would you point out of the curating and coordinating process with Benjamin and the Lemaîtres?

A. Aracil: Mainly what I have said before: Working with them has been a luxury. Not only because this exhibition deals with the history of video art. Benjamin is a very important curator and he has worked with themes related with narratives and processes. This is my third year at LABoral, but this task has been different. Actually I started working at Mediateca_Archivo and I currently work also at the department of Extension or external relationships, that is related with the relationship of LABoral with projects which are neither exhibitional nor educational. This is a way of interacting with firms, institutions, etc.

J. L. Calderón: As an expert in documentation and curatorship of new media. What would you point out for society to justly appreciate both video art and everything included in new media?

A. Aracil: Video is not just a support. It is another language. I hope that people stop thinking of video as something different…If we talk about the support, we should talk about “screens” that, in fact, is something we are familiar with. Much nonsense has been talked about this matter. I think this will be assimilated.

J. L.Calderón: Anything else you want to point out about this project?

A. Aracil: Something that I think is very interesting is the limited capability of institutions to work with collectors or patrons of art. The term “private”, “private collection”…was somehow forgotten and removed from institutions and now is coming back.

The exhibition The magic of images can be visited until July 6 at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial de Gijón.

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