Monika Bravo dreamed of becoming an astronaut. It wasn’t the beauty of the stars that captured her attention—it was seeing the television broadcast of the first moon landing. So perhaps it’s not surprising that decades later she’s still inspired by moving images. “It was magic for me to start working with images,” says Bravo, who has been a multidisciplinary artist for over 20 years. We spent the day with Bravo to see what the life of a contemporary artist is really like.
Bravo arrives at Christie’s to lead the installation of her work, which incorporates various patterns from Arhuaco bags, nearly ubiquitous accessories in her native Colombia. She discusses various technical aspects of the installation—projector alignment, aspect ratios and the color of the gallery’s walls—with Oscar Roldán-Alzate, Colombia Recounted’s Co-Curator, and Morgan Scott, Christie’s Private Sales Exhibition Manager. “The equipment and how it’s installed is one of the most difficult things, but also one of the most important things,” Bravo says.
3:14 pm on May 19
Bravo studied photography and fashion design before becoming a multidisciplinary artist. Her training is evident in everything she does, from the incorporation of textile designs in her work to her jewelry and clothing, much of which she makes herself. When asked about her ring she replies, “It’s great because if somebody’s really bugging you—pop!”
10:23 am on May 20
Bravo spent the last few weeks in Venice and while she was there, a new show featuring her work opened in New Jersey. She’s excited to finally see it in person. After asking directions, she boards a PATH train bound for Jersey City’s Mana Contemporary, a former tobacco warehouse that’s been converted into an art center featuring two million square feet of exhibition space.
10:35 am on May 20
Bravo often incorporates elements from the world around her into her work, so it’s not surprising that she seems to find inspiration everywhere she goes, including the Jersey City PATH station. “This is a very interesting building, almost Brutalist architecture. It reminds me of the old Whitney building.”
10:51 am on May 20
As she walks up the steps to Mana Contemporary’s main entrance, she discusses current projects with Barbara Abella, who helped manage press for Bravo’s projects in the Vatican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
11:31 am on May 20
Bravo’s work, which spans a whopping 36 feet, is a multimedia installation composed of glass, paint, graphite and a media player that repeats a geometrical animation on loop. Bravo was inspired to create the work while listening to one of her favorite composers, Arvo Pärt.
11:35 am on May 20
There are several similarities between her work at Mana and her installation at the Venice Biennale. She pulls up a few images from Venice on her iPhone as she recounts her trip. “I’m exhausted. I need a ten-day massage.”
12:40 pm on May 20
Social media has completely transformed Bravo’s work life—she sees it as a way to remain in constant contact with friends and fellow artists. Throughout the course of the day, she posts two videos and 19 photos to Instagram. And she elevates texting to an art form. Here she messages fellow artist Zoé Vizcaíno to get more information on one of Vizcaíno’s works seen earlier that day.
1:27 pm on May 20
After her stop at Mana Contemporary, she heads back to Manhattan to check in on one of her commissions near Madison Square Park. As she walks, Bravo talks about the process of creating the commission, a multi-screen video installation that required months of filming. Her goal was to capture the beauty of the park as one season transitioned to the next. Even while the landscape was in constant change, one thing remained the same—the presence of the park’s inquisitive squirrel population. “Some of them were very aggressive,” Bravo says with a smile.
1:51 pm on May 20
The first thing that Bravo sees when entering the building is that the central projection has been turned off. She inquiries at the security desk to see if there’s an issue with the work or if it’s simply a burnt-out bulb. She learns that the building has recently been sold and that the lobby will be completely renovated, likely resulting in the removal of her work. “I’m heartbroken,” she says.
2:36 pm on May 20
Back at Christie’s, she works with the exhibition team to put the final touches on the installation before the show opens to the public. Bravo’s work requires her to work seamlessly with curators and exhibition teams around the world. It’s a process she relishes, noting, “It’s not about the artist, it’s about the art. We’re all working in service of the art. We all need each other.”
Visit our private selling exhibition, Colombia Recounted: A Project of Contemporary Colombian Art at Christie’s West Galleries, now through June 30 to see the work of Monika Bravo and other leading Colombian contemporary artists.
Photo credit: © Juan Luque