Mallorca is richly blessed with art galleries – Palma alone has more than any other Spanish city – but CCA Andratx is unlike any other gallery I’ve seen. Dedicated to the creation and exhibition of contemporary art, it was opened in 2001 by the charming French-born Patricia Asbaek, and her Danish husband Jacob.
Patricia greets me warmly in the Centre’s café – a light airy space (also a WiFi zone), with a terrace facing the dramatic pine-clad mountains behind. The café alone is good enough reason to visit, but factor in the art, extensive grounds to explore, and enthusiasm of Patricia and her expert team, and you have something extraordinary.
The place stands on land bought by the couple almost 20 years ago. The original finca, pool and tennis court were sold (the land and mountain retained) to raise half the money for this “place for art”; some Danish art collectors funded the rest. (These partners “lost their spirit” a few years ago and a Danish bank now owns 50 per cent of the shares.)
“There are lots of people in the world interested in sport,” Patricia explains. “Art should be the same, but we are very few in number compared to sports fanatics. The intention here was to assemble people who are interested in art – who have the passion for it – in a place for its creation.”
Obtaining permission took some time: “We also had to pay compensation, which provided water and pavements for Sa Coma. The first word I knew in Spanish was compensación,” she laughs. The 4,000m2 stone building, with a beautiful courtyard at its heart, was designed by Jacob – although an architect from Palma handled the project’s practical aspects. Only local workers were used in its construction. But it’s far more than just a particularly spacious gallery with an appealing café/restaurant: there’s a gift shop selling art books and design items; a crèche; a library of books on every aspect of art, and the Kunsthalle.
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Patricia describes the latter as “a kind of laboratory of upcoming art, showing some of the best artists of the last century.” Themed exhibitions feature innovative artists who’ve been shown in some of the world’s best galleries. In spite of her experience, she always invites curators to do these shows with her – many of them renowned. “What’s so beautiful is that they have really done it with a lot of passion and for not a lot of money,” she says. “They’ve done it out of friendship, and been absolute darlings, all of them.”
As Patricia talks animatedly about artists, galleries and curators – in her delightfully-accented English – her prodigious knowledge of art is evident: “I lost my mother when I was very young and my father married again – a French lady who was a huge collector of pre-1914 art,” she explains. “I’ve been looking at art since I was seven, and from the age of 13 until I was 18, went weekly to the Louvre to learn about the great works – art became my passion. You need ‘an ear’ for music; you need ‘an eye’ for art – I’m always improving my ‘eye’.” When she was 19, Patricia moved to Denmark.
She and her husband have owned a gallery in Copenhagen for 35 years (their middle son Martin also has a successful gallery). She also runs Asbaek Art Consulting, using her knowledge about art to find good pieces for people: “Often they are investments, involving lots of money.” In the past she’s bought pieces at €10,000 and sold them 4/5 years later for €100,000. “Good art is always an investment.” Patricia’s forthright views on how the artistic process can be corrupted by the prospect of quick sales for big money, and the importance of being able to recognise a “fake” – a contemporary artist who has copied someone else’s style, rather than creating something new and moving art forward – would spark great dinner party conversation.
The actual creation of art at CCA Andratx is largely unseen by the visiting public: artists can rent one of four self-contained studios for a four-week period, to work towards a show (here or for another gallery) or a particular commission. For 8-10 months of the year the studios are full. “Our world is small. If you have a good gallery in Copenhagen you’ll know a lot of people from other countries: we meet at fairs, we know what we’re working with – we’re like a family.” On the upper floor of the building there are “collector’s studios” – accommodation rented out to visiting artists, art collectors, writers or composers.
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CCA Andratx receives no subsidies and times haven’t always been easy; occasionally Patricia has had to sell pieces from the couple’s personal art collection: “If you’d talked to me a year ago, I was crying that we would never survive, but now we feel we’re going up when everything else is going down.”
Improved marketing has helped, as has the recent decision to offer their premises as a venue for functions. “It was like a church before,” Patricia says. “Now, we’re doing what many museums have to do, open up space for events, marriages, symposiums. We’ll take any kind of function but I’m the only one who decides on the art to be shown here!”
This summer the Centre is offering Saturday evening patio concerts, yoga classes, and dinner on Thursday evenings (they have their own vegetable garden). In the grounds, a natural waterhole has been changed to a pool and kiddy pool, with sunbeds alongside. For 18 euros, you can explore the Centre then head outside to walk, swim, relax and enjoy a picnic lunch in glorious surroundings.
They’ve also launched the CCA Club: becoming a friend, sponsor or patron delivers some exciting benefits for art lovers. “Art is like music or books – it moves you, moves your spirit,” Patricia says. If you’re moved to discover this unique place, head for Andratx and follow the hot-pink signs . . .
Tuesdays to Fridays: 10.30am to 7pm; Saturdays and Sundays: 10.30am to 4pm
During the summer, closing time on Thursdays is 10pm (dinner is served in the Café).