For this installment of BA Lives, John Rodiño of The Argentina Independent spoke with Linda Neilson, the Scottish owner of Galeria Mar Dulce – one of the newest art galleries in Palermo Soho.
Before coming to Buenos Aires, Linda received her Master’s degree in Cultural Policy at the University of Warwick in England. After working as a cultural development officer for the Scottish government, Linda moved to Valencia, Spain to try to establish herself as an art professional. In 2006, Linda and her husband, Ral Veroni – an Argentine artist – decided to move to Buenos Aires. She has been managing Galeria Mar Dulce since its opening in summer 2010.
How did you like living in Valencia?
It’s a beautiful city, but my husband and I find it very protectionist there. It was a really lovely place to go and to live, but for long term prospects… I was teaching English there, which is fine, but it’s not my profession. So we moved over here four years ago.
Do you like it?
Yeah, I love it here. I really love it.
How does the art scene in Buenos Aires compare to Scotland’s?
It’s very different. In Britain the arts receive a lot of help from the local authorities. I was a local authority arts officer in Glasgow for a number of years. Most of the art organizations receive 80 percent of the running costs from sponsorship from the local authorities and the arts councils. But it was very interesting: when I moved here I found out that the arts organizations get no funding from the state. It’s really just up to the art galleries. But still there really is a vibrant scene. There’s a lot going on and there’s a lot of energy.
I really enjoy the sense of community here. If you have an exhibition and you don’t have any money, perhaps someone will help you framing your work, someone will do your catalogue, someone will come and take photos of the exhibition for you. You manage everything among your friends and that’s how things happen. After opening up this gallery I’ve found that other galleries have been my supporters, although technically they’re my competition. They told me where to find the lighting, told me where to find the lettering for the windows.
What is the story behind the opening of your gallery, Galeria Mar Dulce?
I was working for a photography gallery, and that was a great experience. But the owner shut that down in December for personal reasons. And at the time I had a six-month-old baby, and I was thinking: “What are we going to do now?” It was just not the time you want to lose your job.
But our friends, Alfonso and Lilian – the owners of this place – came up with this ‘romantic idea’ of opening up a gallery. It coincided with the loss of my photography job. They invited my husband and me to open up a space here. It may not be the best time to start a new venture when you’ve got a six-month old baby, but it was one of those opportunities that was too good to say no to.
How did you come up with the name ‘Galeria Mar Dulce’?
On one of my trips to Colonia – I grew up in a small town so to go from a big city to wide open spaces like in Colonia is fantastic – a friend told me that Rio La Plata used to be called Mar Dulce – ‘sweet sea’. And that sort of stuck with me and gave me this idea of working with artists on both sides of the river and displaying their art here.
I read on your website that you studied art. Do you still draw now?
I tried to draw when I was pregnant, but I hadn’t drawn in so long that the drawings were really awful. And I sort of gave up. For some reason, this urge to draw and create left me. To be an artist you have to have the urge. I get a lot more satisfaction from organizing exhibitions. That shift really took place when I went from art school to working on my masters in cultural policy, where I learned I really loved the organizational aspect of art.
You have a family now. Could you tell us more about them?
My husband works as a full-time artist. Well, and father. We look after our daughter between the two of us. So when she’s not with me, she’s with him.
How old is she?
She’s 14 months old.
Has she taken to drawing yet?
Not yet, but she likes to draw all over the walls from time to time. My husband and I like to think that she’ll become something completely different from us, like an accountant or something. But, no, we can already tell that won’t be the case.
Galeria Mar Dulce is located at Uriarte 1490 in Palermo Soho and is open Mondays to Fridays from 3pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 11am to 2pm and 3pm to 8pm.
Photo of Linda Neilson by Jessie Akin