Casa Antillón is a Spanish collective made up of 4 members: Emmanuel Álvarez, Ismael Santos, Marta Ochoa, Yosi Negrín. Founded in 2019, Casa Antillón’s projects span exhibitions, artworks, and architectural projects such as their recent design for MOOD Hair Salon, Madrid. space52 curator Ariana Kalliga met with them in their studio to explore how they produce art and architecture collectively – discussing future projects, challenges and more.
In conversation with Ariana Kalliga
How did the idea for Casa Antillón come about, and can you talk about some of the activities you do and who they address?
Casa Antillón was born at the start of 2019 when the four of us were finishing our studies in Architecture in Madrid. We have always had an interest in contemporary art practices, so we decided to create an exhibition space organised by the people around us who were also interested in similar artistic practices.
It was particularly helpful that one member of our group had done their graduating thesis on alternative art spaces. We began working from our flat in Puerta del Angel on 8 Antillon Street, hence the name!
Since then, we have discovered a fascinating world of cultural activities that evolve from art exhibitions. We call it the ‘performativity’ of the art space. Since we are not an ‘institution’, the atmosphere that we have created is more welcoming and free. Everyone involved is a friend of a friend, the neighborhood got involved as well, and we celebrated with afterparties in a nearby theatre. We like to think that our work can reach anybody who desires to be reached. Today we have settled in a location which consists of a workshop for artists, an architecture studio and art gallery, all housed in a traditional Spanish patio and we invite you all over!
How do you approach exhibiting and producing art & architecture collectively?
It is really easy to work with people you admire and in our case, this couldn’t be more true. Our approach is very traditional. We like to study every idea that pops in one of our heads and normally it develops very organically.
We are sometimes saturated with to-do’s and it is difficult to assign every task (this interview is a good example), but we try to focus on working as a group as well as as individuals as much as possible (particularly in a horizontal scheme).
How do you fit within the wider art ecosystem in Madrid?
As an alternative artist-run space, we barely receive any grants from the community. This makes us a small spot within a city that has a vibrant museum and art gallery scene. We like to think of this space as a place where we can develop an activity that keeps nurturing our understanding of contemporary art production — production which is, in fact, very precarious. This does not mean we have found our comfort zone in this space. We are always thinking of new projects and wider horizons. Isn’t it good to dream?
What do you think about the recent jump to art mediated online? Have you found online solutions this year to the challenges of exhibiting?
We find these new approaches very enriching to the art community in general but Casa Antillón has not created any online show or anything similar. However, we gave some masterclasses via Zoom as well as some interviews on Instagram stories. We think that the digital and the physical are not two separate ecosystems anymore but are interwoven in society, so it doesn’t matter if something is presented through a screen if the content is interesting, beautiful, or simply true.
What are the biggest challenges ahead and which have you already overcome at Casa Antillón ?
The financial aspect of our practice is what keeps us up all night. It is challenging to find the recipe for something that is at the same time interesting for us, for the people, and can be financially sustainable. Up to now we have been able to create some stable ground in this volatile context. For us, this means that we are one step closer to creating a space in which our exhibitions can become sustainable. However, the general situation right now is uncertain and we never know how it all will end up looking like in a few months.
Do you think more solidarity between spaces is needed and what could this look like? Could there be more solidarity between art and architecture spaces?
There are, in fact, quite a few initiatives that connect art and architecture spaces in Madrid. We have participated at the MMMAD, Madrid Urban Digital Arts Festival, where we exhibited the work of two young artists we admire, Irene Izard & Camille Soulat. Perhaps without the festival’s publicity we would not have had as much of a reception from the local public. More solidarity is always welcome and we think that this is even more necessary for spaces in different countries, so that artists can become more accessible to a wider public. That, in the end, means more possibilities for all.
Work currently on view: aavirtual.gr/project-galleries/space52
More info: @casantillon