Meet the gallerist: an interview with Ismael Chappaz and Juanma Menero from Espai Tactel

In January, we visited an emerging contemporary art gallery Espai Tactel, in Valencia, Spain. It was established in 2011 and they exhibited in ARCO for the second time this year. We talked to their young founders, Ismael Chappaz and Juanma Menero about art fairs, collaborating with other galleries and the running of a contemporary art gallery.

When it all started…

“We’ve known each other since 2004. We are business and life partners, even studied art together. At first, we started as a music foundation, but then we moved on to establish a design studio called Tactel Graphics. In 2011, we converted a ground floor studio space into an art gallery. All our lives we‘ve been surrounded by art, and Ismael’s parents have been collectors too, so it seemed like the natural thing to do, despite the difficulty of the financial crisis which saw galleries close down and a lot of young people leave Valencia. On a visit to a Parisian contemporary gallery, we had to listen to derogatory remarks made of the Valencian art scene, so we decided that, when we got back, we’d make an extra effort to build a strong platform to support and promote local artists.”

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Source: Espai Tactel


Becoming a gallery…

“We went to our first art fair Art Santander in 2013 and met all the key players. Right then, we knew what we wanted to do: to become like them..! We learnt to negotiate and got up to scratch with all aspects of the business. We became part of a Valencian Gallery Association (LAVAC), for instance, who are a group of professionals assisting each other, sharing projects, ideas and tricks to do with the art market. Becoming an active member in forming part of this great initiative, and being part of their support network, definitely helped us grow day by day.”

How do you pick your artists?

“It’s very personal. We have a specific taste, you see. We believe running a gallery should be about personal projects. We select artists based on their focus on the “image”, how she/he constructs her/his internal and external universe of images and her/his ideas on the contemporary world. But, of course, a lot of other factors do come into play too, like the quality of her/his work, her/his CV, how she/he relates to different art institutions, and what deals she/he’s willing to secure with us. It’s very important to us that our objectives are aligned and we’re all willing to work hard to achieve them.”

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Source: Espai Tactel


How do you prepare for an art fair? How do you select which ones to attend, when and where?

“Well, we always like to visit the organizers in person. We check out their place and get to know our prospective clients. We also believe that it’s important to experience the fair from the point of view of a visitor, to be well appraised of their offerings. If it’s overseas, we like to get a feel for the country, the ambience and quality of the fair, the type of visitors and galleries represented, and how the fair aligns with our gallery’s profile. Prior to visits, we do our homework and try to find out as much as we can online. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to a gut feeling. Our last visit was to Miami. We were invited by the organizers who showed an interest in our gallery’s profile. We felt good about that, so we went.”

How do you keep in touch with your customers / collectors?

“We have all kinds of different clients. We choose our form of media according to the type of customer. For example, with clients who are practically our friends, we use an intimate approach, sometimes even through Whatsapp. But for others, whom we hardly know, we mostly stay in touch through email or social media. We generally use newsletters to contact all our clients. A two monthly newsletter goes out, informing them of upcoming exhibitions and news on our artists and art fairs. We’re always very careful not to annoy our clients with too much information. We try to be as natural as possible in all our communications, whether in person or online. Our newsletters, social media and the press altogether play an essential role in how we reach out to our clients.”

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to gallery management?

“The most difficult part, we think, is the process of getting and managing an established, coherent and impressive list of artists. Getting the right clients has its challenges. We truly believe our success is built on trust. Choosing actively involved artists, who are constantly evolving, keeps the interest high among our existing and future clients. We also think that making regular appearances at art fairs, where most of our potential buyers congregate, is crucial. Eventually, we’d like to create a brand everyone recognizes.”

How do you think technology will impact your art business in the next 5 years?

“In the years we’ve been in business as gallerists, we’ve come across all kinds of online gallery formations, but we don’t really see these initiatives working. Of course, there are some established sites that work perfectly fine, but we can’t really name a serious virtual gallery. The art market is very conservative and so the art scene guards its original forms. Some clients are still unused to the online world. We think that, in Spain, even social media appearances are treated cautiously by everyone. In our opinion, serious contemporary art is here to stay but will continue to be showcased mainly at art fairs and in the art gallery space.”

Author: Marta Balla

About Marta Balla
1980, lives and works in Budapest, Hungary
Marta Balla graduated from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Spain. She holds an MA specialized in painting and art theory. She has exhibited in solo and collective shows in Croatia, Hungary, Mexico, Spain and the US. She is also involved in curating and social art projects and has been invited to international conferences to talk about her art and process. She is currently enrolled in a postgraduate course in Art Therapy focusing on the use of fine arts, music and storytelling in the therapeutic process. Marta has been practicing aikido, a non-violent Japanese martial art for 13 years. She has been engaged in contact improvisation dance for 2 years which lead her to more exploration in performance art.