My wife Kat and I were walking along the street in central Madrid when she completely fell in love some hand-crafted jewelry in a joyeria in the Chueca district. If any of you know Kat, you know that she cannot resist anything shiny, so a jewelry store is a dangerous place for me to get sucked into. But, of course we ended up inside. While she oohhed and ahhed over the finery, I made small-talk (in broken Spanish) with the owners, whom I would find out later were named Nacho and his partner Jose. Nestled behind their desk was a cherry red sculpture of Giambologna’s (1529-1608) Greek God Hermes (A.K.A. The Roman God Mercury). You know, the one that doctor’s use on their offices to denote that they are flying to the rescue? His left hand holding the caduceus (herald’s Staff) and his right holding a cherry red heart. Yes… a heart. Around his tip-toed and wing-laden left foot was the zephyr, whose winds blow Hermes to the heavens. The zephyr was also surrounded by a circle of the same cherry red hearts. The sculpture was a stark contrast to the chalk white walls and modern furnishings in Nacho and Jose’s store, so the effect was to be drawn into the sculpture from the get-go. Such a juxtaposition between the classical vision of Hermes and the modern nature of the coloration reminded me of the great Yves Klein (1928-1962), who borrowed works from classical antiquity and updated them in his trademark blue. It was both poignant and sweet and made me smile.
Transfixed on the Mercury as much as Kat was transfixed on the jewelry, I asked about the artist who reinterpreted this work in such a grand fashion. “Su nombre es dEmo” (his name is dEmo), Nacho replied.
“Demo?” I asked incredulously.
“Si, dEmo. Es mi amigo y un artista muy popular en Madrid.” (Yes, dEmo. He is my friend and a very popular artist in Madrid).
“¿Tiene una tarjeta para él? (Do you have a card for him?)
After a few moment rustling in a drawer behind his desk, Nacho produced a business card that showed dEmo’s name and phone number. “Si”, he replied after handing it to me.
After thanking Nacho profusely we left the joyeria and could not stop talking about the treasures we had just discovered. (Which reminds me… I need to check my statement to see if Kat enjoyed the jewels as much as I enjoyed the art!) Of course, I called dEmo straight away and set up a meeting. He suggested that we all meet at a restaurant in Chueca a few nights from then.
On that evening, Kat and I showed up about our customary half-hour early (Although we are from Miami, we are preposterously punctual) so we saddled up and ordered a vino tinto (red wine). dEmo waltzed in at precisely our scheduled time and proceeded to give Kat and I huge hugs. (One thing about Kat and I: we are tall. I mean really tall. So when we get hugs from short people, they really have to work for it) He speaks in a raspy madrileño accent acquired from too many cigarettes and too many hours in the studio working on his sculptures. He smiles freely and genuinely from ear to ear. His wife was splendid and was accompanied by Nacho and Jose. The evening was lovely and after dinner we all retired to a dance club which was resplendent with dEmo’s works. A huge cherry red “Toro”, graced the dining area to the left of the entrance. At well over a meter tall, this massive taxidermilogical wonder created a fantastic and dominating aura in the small room. Made of hard fiberglass coated with layer upon layer of thick resin, they have an unusually smooth sheen. They glisten. Light plays off surfaces and they take a banal space and make it alive. With proper lighting and extra high placement, it singlehandedly made a small, impersonal space, and turned it into a grandiose presentation in which crowds always wanted to congregate. It, in other words, created an atmosphere.
We discovered other treasures from dEmo in the bar including several of his Perros (Dogs), Gallos (Rooster), Corazones (Hearts), Rhinos, Rubber Duckies, his famous Osos and Gominolas (Bears and Gummi Bears) and his newest masterpiece “La Lola” (below), a retelling of the classical Aphrodite story with the traditional Spanish mantilla in her hair. Of course, leave it to dEmo to add his own quintessentially Spanish spin to everything.
As we chatted throughout the night, dEmo’s characteristic generosity came out. Among other things, I heard from friends he donated a sculpture for many worthy causes. He also created awards for various benefits throughout Europe and provided his name and image for use in a fashion catalogue benefiting charities. People came up to him throughout the night to shake his hand and take pictures with him. He was a rock star. People told me stories of how dEmo’s energy and aura permeate the art scene in Spain and what an effect his works are starting to have throughout the rest of Europe, as we evidenced ourselves a few nights later at a party the French Ambassador to Spain, Monsieur Bruno Delaye, had for Bastille Day. dEmo invited Kat and I and we stood amongst the 4000 guests and gawked at his incredible (and oversized- 200cm) Gallo (Rooster) painted in a custom French Red/White/Blue signifying the French flag. Crowds gathered for photos at the foot of the pedestal and it was the visual centerpiece of the incredible and massive event.
Over time, dEmo and I spoke about his reluctance to work with outside agents and/or galleries. They never work as hard as he does and tend to disappoint or become risky with consignments. He noted that my energy was infectious and he felt that we were kindred spirits in the arts, him in making it and me in the marketing of it. A deal was struck in which he personally asked me to represent his work on www.robinrile.com. As he knows my client base extends not only in Europe, but also throughout the United States, central and South America and Asia, he felt this was a meeting of minds.
Of course, I immediately accepted…. A few days afterward… One of my clients in Mexico City purchased one of dEmo’s large “Toros”.
I guess he was right.
Kat and I have now had several more months to commune with dEmo, his family and his friends. He has become part of our lives and, for our part, we have become part of his. The fantastic imagination and creative energy dEmo takes into everything he does in life is infectious. He moves quickly. He speaks fast. He flips through his IPhone photos with the dexterity of an Olympic Champion. In summation, he is a creative force. His pop sensibilities and bold, primary coloration bring a fun, energy to our lives as well as those of our clients. Is our Miami-based business, with clients spanning Romero Britto to Andy Warhol, ready for a Spaniard with an eye for detail and a blazing fast iPhone? We will soon find out. What we do know is this… We certainly were ready for the energy he brought into our lives and the art he has brought into our home…. Now, the big question is… Are you?
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