Sol Calero
Casa de Cambio I Art Basel Statements
16 Jun 2016 – 19 Jun 2016
Hall 2, Booth N17

Laura Bartlett Gallery is delighted to present a major new installation titled Casa de Cambio by Sol Calero (b. 1982, Caracas, Venezuela), selected by Art Basel for the Statements section of the fair. This is the gallery’s sixth year participating at Art Basel: Statements.

Calero’s work draws on the complex political, urban and social histories behind the construction and appropriations of Latin identity. Through her artwork and installations Calero brings together ideas that work through process of cultural encoding. The domestic or social spaces envisioned in her works, such as a Latin themed hair salon, Sunday school or an internet café, allow the artist to address issues of place-making.

For Art Basel Sol Calero will present Casa de Cambio a new all immersive installation appropriating the interior guise of a Venezuelan currency exchange. Calero will bring together and design with her signature motif; wall coverings, a series of new paintings, specially upholstered furniture, alongside exotic travel themed posters, cabinets of jewellery and ceramics amongst a myriad of other objects to complete her conceit. Within the installation on a wall mounted monitor, will be screened a curated collection of commissioned video works by other Venezuelan and Latin American artists – Maria Bilbao Herrer, Ricardo Báez, Ana Alenso, Lucia Pizzani, Érika Ordos and Conglomerate.

Yet beneath the deceptive jubilance of Calero’s stylistic fruit filled tropicália and fiesta iconograpic tropes, belie the increasingly impoverished signs of international cultural policies and political discontent whose after effects remain. Policies such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘good neighbour’ directive, a legacy that endowed Latin America with a pan-continental self-image of exoticism and frivolity.

Calero’s use of a decorative language that borders on the hieroglyphic and ideogramic, employed throughout her work to question how Latin American culture has become defined by its visual propagation from other countries. Generally idealistic, dismissive and for other economic benefits, these motifs dissolve the boundary between high art and every day interiors, the serious and the frivolous. This spillage, from the confines of the designated art object onto the surfaces of everyday objects and materials, is creative of a space in which hierarchies – whether aesthetic or social – are themselves maligned in favour of a more egalitarian communion. The paintings and sculptures quite literally provide an outline of a culture that invites us to flesh out the void at their centre. The bountiful fruit paintings similarly extend this logic in a veiled opposition to inherited notions of exotica.

Curator Adam Carr speaks of Calero’s practice; The issue of identity is key to her work, and ideas of preconception and expectation are mined throughout. With this sharp observation of Latin American identity, Calero is also interested in how that culture has entered the art historical canon – specifically how it is somewhat under-represented. It is as if Calero is leading audiences to investigate further, shining light on a somewhat unknown history that saw both South American countries and their artists inspiring or being the leverage point for some of art’s most celebrated movements, including Post-Impressionism. 

Presented during Art Basel at a key moment when Venezuela’s social and political state is both highly volatile and on the brink of breakdown, and in which its current government has implemented a series of measure to maintain social order. In July 2015 the Venezuelan currency, the Bolívar, passed a melancholy milestone by reaching a hundredth of the value on the black market (over 600 per US Dollar) compared to the official exchange rate (6.35 per US Dollar). The government initiated a price barrier in order to control the price level which lead to a disastrous situation for both local producers and Venezuelans; factories were asked to operate at half capacity and Venezuelans have no other options than queuing for hours in front of the supermarket to purchase basic supplies.

Banks have stopped publishing data on their stock of hard currency. Due to this excessive growth of money supply, the currency is imminently, about to collapse. Economists speculate that the inflation rate is going to reach 300% by the end of 2016, therefore Venezuela faces a moment of hyperinflation. Venezuelans check current prices on Twitter accounts or website such as Moneygram that publish the black market exchange rate for dollars. The infamous black market dollar tweeter DolarToday sources information based on transactions in the Columbian border of Cucuta.

Casa de Cambio at Art Basel allows Calero to create a site of negotiation that attempts to highlight the fragility of currency circulation, the erratic situation Venezuela currently faces and the conflicts and contradictions of our own value systems set against a place of waiting, longing and nostalgia where the decorative, distracting and humorous become vital elements of day to day activities.

Calero places this vibrant, charged installation in the context of the most significant art fair in the diary, Art Basel contributing with a unique voice to the international art community.


Sol Calero (b. 1982, Caracas, Venezuela) lives and works in Berlin.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Desde el Jardín,  David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, (2016); La Escuela del Sur, Studio Voltaire, London, Sala Mendoza (2015), Caracas; SALTS, Birsfelden (2015); Bienvenidos A Nuevo Estilo, Laura Bartlett Gallery, London (2014). Recent group exhibitions include: KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2015); and Mostyn, Llandudno (2015).

Forthcoming solo exhibitions include Laura Bartlett Gallery, London (September 2016), Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (November 2016) and Folkestone Triennial (2017).

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