In the midst of an uncertain scenario, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Casa da Escada Colorida invited Roberta Ristow, content creator, consultant and collaborative journalist at Vogue, to talk about innovative initiatives and the adaptation of the art market to new Times. Casa da Escada’s managing team: Bruno Girardi, Rachel Balassiano and Camila Pinho, as well as the residents: Gabriela Noujaim, Raphael Couto, Clara Machado, Pedro Carneiro, Cibele Nogueira, Inês Nin, participated in the remote conversation.
Casa da Escada: –Roberta, thank you for accepting our invitation. Could you tell us about your transition from being an executive in the field of publishing to art?
–Roberta Ristow: Thank you for the invitation, it is a pleasure to talk to you. Art has been part of my life for a long time, my first college was fashion design, where I had the opportunity to start having contact with art. During the years that I worked at Editora Globo in São Paulo (Globo publishing arm), where I headed the Branded Content department for nine years, I started to study contemporary art and to attend exhibitions and fairs. My relationship with art became stronger and stronger. When I left Globo, at the end of 2016, I decided that I would do a specialisation in Art Management at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, where I moved in 2017 and lived for two years. During this time, I started writing for Vogue Brasil about art and worked on several initiatives related to the London market. Since October 2019 I live in Lisbon, where I develop projects related to art, culture and lifestyle.
–I remember when you visited Casa da Escada in 2017 – at the time the first occupation was still a distant dream and the house was in ruins. We wanted to bring you to the project but you were moving to London. Interestingly, the pandemic brought us digitally together. We would like to know your vision about innovation initiatives in the art world in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
–I believe that the pandemic has accelerated a series of changes in all sectors. Art is being impacted, of course, but there is no single path. I see many innovative initiatives being tried out by different niches and, in my opinion, now is the time to test. Changing in the art sector is delicate and the strategy must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Everything depends on the profile, the investment capacity and the needs of each one.
–Why do you think that in the art sector these changes have been slower?
–As I mentioned earlier, the art market is very private. There is no ready-made formula and information in general is not transparent. It is a traditionally closed sector, which obeys a series of invisible rules that are known only to those who are part of it. Will this change? Will there be greater transparency in the market after everything is over? I believe so. Initiatives such as the Artsy platform (https://www.artsy.net/) tend to grow and become increasingly important. If before galleries could afford to not have a relevant digital presence, today it is no longer so, but I need to act according to the profile of your business and understand how digital can bring relevance and generate results.
–Could you highlight any pre-pandemic digital initiative that has worked?
–David Zwirner invests substantially in the digital world and the results have been very encouraging. Last year, the gallery launched its viewing room during Art Basel, which took place in June 2019, with a parallel presentation, where 20 works were only available online and several works were made especially for the digital environment. In the first two days, which coincided with the opening of the fair, the gallery had US $ 3.3 million on sale. Since 2017, David Zwirner has been doing consistent work in digital. In 2018, there was a 200% increase in online sales, with 10 of the most expensive works sold to cities where the gallery has no physical space and 52% of contacts were made by new customers. These data speak volumes about the still untapped potential that digital represents for the art market. For 2020, before the covid-19 appeared, they had already planned to do 30 virtual exhibitions.
–Any initiative to bring galleries and cultural spaces closer together, artist and public, in an alternative format that you would like to highlight?
–There are many interesting initiatives going on today, mainly because of the pandemic. I would like to highlight a project that I consider extremely relevant at the moment: Quarantine. I use the words of the creators to explain: it is a kind of cooperative of artists from Brazil, in which all works have the same price and what is sold has its value shared between the participants. The works created by Quarantine – which includes artists such as Marilá Dardot, Marcelo Cidade and Dora Longo Bahia, among many others – were made on supports designed to be sent digitally and executed by buyers in quarantine conditions. For me, a project like this, which still creates an extra quota to support trans people affected by Covid-19 (see more information on their website) is what art should be, especially now. It speaks of community, collaboration, creation, innovation – art in its essence – which is so often overlooked.
–And in relation to the change in habits of the artists, does anythingchange?
–The trend is that social isolation and new habits lead us to rethink a lot, with artists, it is no different. The way we communicate is being profoundly changed with the pandemic. Whoever does not use digital media to communicate, needs to review the concepts and adapt to the new reality. I'm not saying that artists have to force themselves to act in a way that they don't agree with or that goes against what they think is right, neither artists nor anyone, of course. But it is necessary to learn to see the opportunities of the moment and create a position according to the profile of each one. To do nothing is to risk disappearing. It is a complex moment for everyone, we have never been so isolated and connected at the same time. It is necessary to remember that nowadays, everyone is within reach (relatively clear, but not impossible) of DM through Instagram or a message via email. Who is not the time to approach that incredible curator that the artist always wanted to exchange an idea?