THE ARGENTINE PHOTOGRAPHY STAGNATED BETWEEN THE WALLS OF THE LEGISLATIVE POWER

On the eve of BAphoto - the Argentine photography fair that will take place on September 6, 7, 8 and 9 at La Rural space- the Argentinean art scene, specially photography scene, is tied by hands: according to the International Works of Art Circulation Law (Nº 24633) photography is not considered as such. What does this imply? The medium, unlike other artistic expressions such as painting, sculpture, or installations, among others –all of them benefited by the Need and Urgency Decree (DNU) established in January- has the obligation to hire an expensive customs broker to send a work abroad (without mentioning the annoying and bureaucratic process that artists, collectors and gallerists must go through). Otherwise, they should translate the work outside the country informally.

By Matías Helbig
Ph: Rolf Art Galería.

In the framework of all this, Florencia Giordana Braun, Rolf Art Gallery founder and director and one of the pioneers in relation to the Argentine and Latin American photography market explains: "What happens today is the following. A gallerist, collector or whatever, can enter and leave the country with photographs as if there were nothing because there is no legal definition to say that what he carries is an artwork. Thus, there is no export route record of the artwork, a sine qua non condition to make a sale to any international institution that needs to document the entry of the work/s into its collection". This legal obstacle, precisely, faced La Siesta Argentina (The Argentine Nap) series, by Facundo de Zuviría, which MoMA recently bought to Rolf Art; and it is the path that all artistic photography acquired by any museum or institution outside of Argentina must pass through.

Another case: after Rolf Art participation at ARCO Madrid 2017 –one of the most important art fairs in Europe- the Reina Sofía Museum bought a photograph series of Liliana Maresca. Again, the gallery went back Argentina whit the series so to send them back to Madrid through customs brokers and expensive transport companies.

All because of a legal whim.

The first article of the export and import of artworks law begins as follows: "The provisions of this law shall apply to the import and / or export of the following works of art by Argentine or foreign artists, hand made with or without the aid of instruments of realization or application, including airbrushes ", and immediately a list of paintings, collage, assemblage, sculpture, engraving, prints, lithography, ceramics and textiles, all with their infinite variations completes the statement. Neither photography nor any of its variants are ever mentioned.

But this isn’t the only problem. Some should think that every gallery considerate this issue as an urgency which requires an immediate solution. Such as for artists and for the national art market mostly. Unfortunately, the galleries committed to the project are a minority -Rolf Art, Vasari and Jorge Mara-La Ruche. Perhaps, the clearest representation of the lack of support is seen at Meridiano galleries director Orli Benzacar to La Nación newspaper when she explained that the modification of the law is not a priority for the organism. Of which Rolf Art is part.

Between Marcos López, Santiago Porter, Adriana Lestido and Marcelo Brodsky works, in the gallery’s back room located in 1353 Esmeralda street,  and with a baby on her lap, Florencia admits her disappointment by Meridiano's address. "When other gallerists and I, affected by the DNU indifference declared in January, requested photography to be contemplated within the law, Meridiano was one of the main places where I went to seek help," she warns in disgust and adds: "We are a minority, and apparently the directors board of the chamber attends to another majority needs".

Inside this context, the questions to be asked are how far a gallery or an artist have to go through to address this need. Isn’t enough for three of the most important museums on the international scene -MoMA, Metropolitan and Reina Sofía - purchase of works in an Argentine gallery?, How many other photography fairs should arise so to awaken a government to modify an extemporaneous law article? Florencia Giordana Braun has been asking herself these things for years: "Photography is a very solid artistic expression. It is, in fact, the only one with international fairs for its own medium. There is no painting or sculpture fair".

As a result of these events, the Argentine gallerist assumes an strategic position to speak out to the legislature, the Ministry of Culture, the Meridiano Chamber and the artistic institutions of her country that something must be done soon. There is no doubt that she manifests it through his actions. In the midst of Cristina Piffer's exhibition assembly that inaugurated at the gallery last week, Florencia, always available to talk about the diffuse situation suffered by one of the most valuable forms of expression of contemporary art in her country, rightly claims that "As everyone fought for their interests before ArteBA; less than a month of BAphoto, where people from all over come to buy photography, we need the same thing to happen".