What do Turin, a small island in Venice between Murano and Burano, and the popular Madrid neighborhood of Tetouan have in common? Actually, and apparently, very little. Not surprisingly, the first two, in the same country, are separated from the third by a good handful of kilometers. However, Patrizia Sandretto, the collector responsible for one of the most interesting artistic ensembles in Europe and president of the Foundation that bears her surname, from which she works as a patron and promoter of the most emerging art, has set her sights on these destinations.

In Turin, his hometown, he opened in 2002 the Centro per l’Arte, the foundation’s main headquarters since its opening in 2002, in a building that was designed by Claudio Silvestrin. There are exhibitions and events throughout the year.

Nevertheless, is not the only one. In fact, there was a previous one, the Palazzo Re Rebaudengo, in Guarene, which is actually its historic square, an 18th century building opened in 1997 and, therefore, with more than 25 years of experience.

Patrizia Sandretto had her eye on our city for some time, aware of how Madrid had become the gateway for Latin collectors in Europe and a suggestive capital for certain types of fortunes around art. She then began her desire to establish a Spanish headquarters for her foundation, which has also been her via crucis of encounters and disagreements with consistories of different political persuasions that have not yet found a destination for her collection in the capital. . In fact, in her attempt, her acquisition has been crossed by her part of a small island in Venice for what will be the third residence of her firm.

«Soon, next week, a double exhibition will be presented with part of the collection in Seville (CAAC) and in Valladolid (Patio Herreriano Museum) that I do not want it to be understood as that I am looking for other destinations for my project in Spain, but which precisely draws attention to the fact that I am still here and that I want to stay in Madrid”, explains the collector, while showing us the photos of that old gunpowder factory in Venice that in a couple of years will be ready to be transformed into an art center.

Since February 2000, Patrizia’s first meeting with Madrid, her artistic ensembles have been stopping off in different spaces until the birth of her desire to have something stable in the capital. She arrived first, coinciding with the ARCO fair, the show ‘Future Identities’, on Canal de Isabel II. Later, in 2011 (and after her visit to Valencia’s IVAM in 2003), the Banco de Santander Foundation hosted up to 113 unique works from her collection in the ‘Spirit and Space’ exhibition. Barcelona (Fundación Godia) and Málaga (CACMálaga), both in 2014, tried to seduce her, but it is in 2020 when the famous patron considers that ‘Emissaries’, with Ian Cheng, is the first exhibition of her ‘itinerant headquarters’ in Madrid (this exhibition was held at the Fernando Castro Foundation) after Matadero was discarded as its base of operations in our country.

Since then, the activity in Spain of the Fundación Sandretto Re Rebaudengo has focused above all on the launch of an ambitious program for young foreign curators who are invited to meet our creators by traveling throughout our geography to later compose a exhibition with the results. «I am not in a hurry to have something stable in Spain –comments the collector– In fact, until it opened its headquarters in Guarene, the foundation was also nomadic in Italy. The important thing is to make interesting projects that have visibility». In its first two editions, the results of this already clearly ‘Spanish’ program came to CentroCentro (2020) and Círculo de Bellas Artes (2021). This year, a change of direction is given by introducing the exhibition ‘Si las Palabras Hablaran’ (that is its title) not only in a space far from the traditional artistic centers in Madrid, the Tetuán neighborhood, but also in an unfamiliar venue with the plastic creation: an old haberdashery.

On its façade, on Calle Montoya, 8, this more than well-known establishment in the neighborhood still maintains the sign that recalls its past: ‘Mercería López Droguería’. “We have approached the neighborhood and the place with respect,” explains Ana Ara, the Spanish curator who ultimately liaised between the Foundation and the other three international curators selected by the program (the Italian Ludovica Bulciolu; the American Emily Market and Dominican Laura Castro). “There was a first desire to get out of the centers and, later, a second to land in Carabanchel – although they confess that Usera was also tried – because that is where everything is cooked in Madrid now. However, when we got here we knew this was the place. We loved it”.

The exhibition, which brings together the work of up to 13 national or resident artists, whose thesis deals with different forms of communication (also non-verbal) and the exchange of knowledge, dialogues with their spaces and engages with them. Thus, for example, in what used to be his shop window, Adrian Schindler’s posters in Arabic and Spanish are now displayed precisely about Tetouan (the neighborhood and the country), whom the curators met during his residency in Matadero and who was the one who He spoke of the possibilities of the neighborhood of La Ventilla in which they now settle.

Another, like Marco Godoy, dyes the entire back room, the warehouse, yellow, with the specific piece for this environment (on whose walls the original wallpaper is still preserved), as a sun that nourishes the rest of the works, among those of creators such as Josu Bilbao, Andrea Canepa or Teresa Solar, whose sculptures marry well in a rockery and in the Arsenale of the Venice Biennale, where he now also represents us.

This place, due to an inheritance, was divided over time into two (its current owner wants to reunite them), so that the second ended up being converted into a garage, on whose walls some graffiti recall its past. There, part of the public program that the curators have prepared for the exhibition will take place and where the latest works will be brought together. Also a collection of musical instruments from different parts of Africa that the musician Baron Ya Búk-lu treasures and some square tambourines donated by shepherds from towns in the Sierra of Madrid.

“We understand that it is difficult to get the ordinary citizen to enter a space like this, in a context in which there is no artistic fabric,” says Laura Castro. But we have also realized since we arrived the curiosity of the locals to know what is happening in “their” haberdashery, to know what happens in here. We just have to leave the door open.” Two of the curators will remain on the premises these days (they open in the afternoon) to mediate between the works and the public. “You will not find yourself alone and we will gladly explain the contents to you.”

For those who are not accustomed to contemporary art, an exhibition taking place in a peripheral neighborhood and, moreover, in what was once a haberdashery, may seem strange. However, nothing further. There are already antecedents, like when Pepe Cobo opened his Oil Change, a gallery in an old mechanical workshop. or The Ryder, which in 2019 transformed some old stables near Tabacalera, in Embajadores (C/ Miguel Servet, 13) into a space for the sale of art. The already mentioned district of Carabanchel became a ‘refuge’ for many artists, especially after the 2008 crisis, when they looked for studios in Madrid in which to work at a reasonable price and were able to take advantage of all the empty premises left by in this neighborhood, above all, old graphic industries that went bankrupt due to the economic situation.

Today, around avenues such as Pedro Díez and Nicolás Morales, the workshops of artists and groups that have given this neighborhood a second life are concentrated. Also a new nature. This is the case of Nave Oporto (FOD, Sonia Navarro, Miki Leal, Irma Álvarez-Laviada…) or Mala Fama (Carlos Aires, Rafael Díaz, Nicolás Combarro…), the priests who attracted many others, from El Grifo (Julio Falagán) to Nave 6, Estudio 4.7, Caudales (Carmen González Castro, Jose Antonio Reyes…), or the independent spaces of artists such as Eduardo Barco, Maria Acuyo or Marina Vargas. Delirio is home to the work of Avelino Sala, Julio Galeote and Elena Lavellés. Carabanchería, by the photographers Ángel Marcos, Alberto Ros and Jesús Limárquez… They generate so much effervescence that they even developed an art festival, ArtBanchel, and organize initiatives such as Open Studios or, coinciding with ARCO, the Carajillo Visit, which attracts hundreds of curious to their spaces. Without going any further, this same Saturday 4, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., the artists of Usera hold an open day for their workshops. They already have a weekend plan.

It was to be expected that, in line with so much creativity and revitalization of the area (one cannot speak of gentrification, since the artists are not speculating with the land), art galleries have begun to emerge in this destination, something unthinkable years ago , since it separates them from the traditional circuits to which posh collectors go. The first to arrive were the guys from Corner Studio, who are actually a group of artists (Carlos Cartaxo, Sandra Val, Óscar Seco…) who set up part of their workshop to hold exhibitions exclusively with neighborhood artists. Later, La Gran, out of necessity, was a Castilian-Leonese gallery that needed a space in Madrid. Today it is the hallmark and identity of the district.

The landing of other firms such as Sabrina Amrani and VETA, the space of Fer Francés, confirms how leading gallery owners are also interested in the periphery. In fact, the industrial warehouse of the first in Salaberry, 52 (which ruled out Lisbon and Dubai before opening a second headquarters), six times its premises on Madera Street. The second, with its 1,200 square meters in an old printing press, uses as an advertising claim that its is the largest gallery in Madrid, and this is not precisely in Chueca, nor in Doctor Fourquet, nor in the Barrio de Salamanca. It is well known that other firms (Lucía Mendoza has tried) track the area. Perhaps they will have it easier in Tetouan. Patrizia Sandretto, albeit temporarily, has been clear about it.