Soledad Lorenzo – An Interview
I entered the Paper Pavilion to meet Soledad Lorenzo, one of the most influential women in the history of the Spanish art scene. Lorenzo has come to IE Business School for a conversation about art and her life with art (this is also the name of her famous book “Una Vida con el Arte”).
Lorenzo (born 1937) is a beautiful and impressive woman full of chic and style. Till 2012 she had her own art gallery that represented famous artists, both national and international, such as Jose Maria Sicilia, Miquel Barcelo, Louise Bourgeois, Julian Schnabel, Paul McCarthy, and many more. Recently she contributed a major part of her collection on a long-term loan to Museo Reina Sofia.
While preparing for this interview I read and watched interviews and articles with Lorenzo. I knew that I was going to meet an inspiring woman who loves art but words can’t describe the feeling when looking into her face while she talks about art: so much passion, love, and commitment.
Soledad let me start and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. As you know we established a community for young professionals in order to engage them with art. I always try to emphasize the contribution of art to one’s life and I want to ask you, Soledad, in your opinion, why is art important?
Soledad: Art works with all your senses. Sight is splendid because you can see for yourself – you don’t need to translate what you see into words. I learned about how art is intelligent from spending my time and being in contact with artists: the way they see things are so different from our way of seeing things. So you learn as well to look at things in a different way – you won’t have the artist’s eye but you learn to understand the intelligence of the art and the artist.
Once I read in an interview that you divided the people into people that go to Prado (Museo Del Prado, one of the most famous museums in the world in Madrid) to see art, and people that are just interested in art. What do you mean by that?
It’s because it happens naturally. Some see art and some are interested in art. I mean we are thought by words [to use words for everything] and words are great –they’re fantastic for communication but not for emotions and people are emotional. When we are terrified – that’s emotion; when we are sad – that’s emotion; when we are happy – that’s emotion. So when we look at things – that’s emotion as well. So perhaps, explaining emotions is difficult but through sights, you can. For example when someone says “go to see that show – you will see how splendid it is” – assuming you know how to look at art you easily can reply, “Thank you for the recommendation. It was splendid” – because you both see it in the same way. But if we are ignorant about the theme we can’t understand [the artwork]. People understand the old artworks because they got used to seeing them. But do they understand [the ideas behind], for example, Goya? Or Velasquez, who is one of the most unique and difficult artists to understand? Velasquez is difficult to understand but he is very famous so people go to see his works and are astonished – but do they understand him?
They are not able to understand why he is so important. They look at the images and think that this is what’s good – but the images are nothing compared to the ideas.
I’m interested to know where did you get your passion and love for art.
My father was a collector and together with my brothers they were talking, all the time, about art, poets – on culture. At that time my brother wanted to become an architect and he was preparing to start his career as such. So all our family’s lunches and dinners times were devoted to talking about culture – we were speaking about it at home all the time. Art and culture were spoken at home, so I was accustomed to listening to these conversations. But I didn’t participate in these conversations – I was listening. My brothers had such knowledge and I had nothing and I thought to myself how intelligent are my brothers and as for myself, I didn’t understand why they loved art, but I have always had great respect for culture.
So how did you start professionally in the art world?
At a certain point in time a friend of mine, together with another friend who was a gallerist, was opening a gallery. They suggested to me to work with them. I felt I was ignorant about art and I knew nothing about it. They thought that I was sensitive enough to be in this business. The gallerist told me, “It’s even better that you don’t know – it’s better than those who believe they know art but know nothing; Soledad, the important thing is that you have respect for art and that’s it. You will start and you will learn.” And he was right – soon after I started, I learned to love art. That was the beginning.
Why did you start your own gallery?
This gallery was fantastic but focused on classical and modern art (Picasso etc.) and that was very important [for the learning process] because you start to love and understand art from the big masters – it is much easier. I felt happy that I started to understand art. I still didn’t compare myself to my parents or brothers, but I was happy that I progressed in understanding art.
I was interested to know living artists. I preferred to speak with an artist than to see only their works because their mindset was interesting to me. I decided I want to work with a gallery that works with living artists. So I moved, and after 8 years I felt that I needed more. I felt I wanted to have a leading role because there is this moment that you know more, you are more confident about your knowledge, ability, and sensibility. In the beginning, you think you have less sensibility – and it’s only knowledge but the more you know art the more you like it.
Leonardo de Vinci said, “The more you know, the more you see,” and I like to add to this, “The more you see, the more you know.”
And the more you like. You understand better. I mean, you look and say, “Wow…” And you know you are right. Once you have the knowledge and the understanding of art and you share it with the surroundings – with people that like you are devoted to art – you all can have different loves for different artists but the taste is equivalent because good things are good things. Good art is good art.
Quality is absolute.
Exactly! I say, “What did you like? Which artist did you like?” There are all these artists who I have loved their art. I don’t have a specific one. Everyone has given me certain different feelings.
Soledad, you talk with so much passion and love for the art. I see it in your eyes. How come?
It’s because art is emotional. It’s so natural. Then, when you are selling, you speak about that. People used to tell me that I’m a fantastic seller – that is because I love art!
I believe in it. I believe in it so I sell something I believe in absolutely. And that’s changed my mind and my life. I love art in all the senses not only what the eye can see – not because you can say it’s fantastic. It is because you are, your mind is becoming more intelligent; because you start to understand that intelligence is not only in words, [but also in] emotions. When you try to speak about emotions, to describe it [the emotions] – in the end, you never get to describe your correct emotional situation.
The artist was always the greatest surprise of my work; it’s because their mind surprised you always. I remember how one time one of my artists described me and I said ‘” oh goodness, it’s so fantastic” and it was because of his artist intelligence – I mean the way he saw me. Of course, words are the way to communicate, no? But the ideas [artists have] are the surprise, the way [they implement these ideas] they work, they are all very different from the intelligence of a writer or other artists [in the different] branches of culture. It’s only in Art, working with art, with artists.
What else is unique about art?
In the common education art, poetry, even literature – almost do not exist unless these belong to your career path – where the words are important. Normally nobody speaks about art, music, or even about feelings – touching each other. The art world does – because matter is important. It is important because matter is important for feeling. For example, when you see a sculpture you can touch it. The matter the artist has chosen is important. It is not by chance he used this specific matter to do this sculpture of the painting.
It is all about the combination between the matter and the essence of the emotion.