Palermo’s Favorite Art Gallery: Linda Neilson’s Mar Dulce
It all started when Linda Neilson tried to buy prints for her baby’s nursery here in Buenos Aires. To her dismay, the high-end galleries were not only expensive but also limited, and the low-end shops tended to have nothing more than cheap Disney reproductions. She couldn’t find anything in between. She wanted something both reasonably priced and high quality, and it was the discovery of this niche that gave her the first idea for Galeria Mar Dulce – an intimate gallery with well-made, affordable art.
As luck would have it, family friends of her husband were looking for the very same thing, though for a different reason. They had recently converted a piece of property into three apartments they’d been renting to tourists, but they needed something in the front room to add value to the rest of the space. When they approached Linda and her husband about opening a small gallery there in 2010, they gladly accepted. The only catch was, they’d need to have it all up and running in two months.
Somehow, they did. What was once a living room was transformed, almost overnight, into the bright, inviting space now called Galeria Mar Dulce. Though small, the large windows and white walls lend it a feeling of openness, and the refurbished shelving and working fireplace make it easily the most welcoming gallery I’ve ever seen.
It now houses two collections – the main exhibition, which is currently an intricate set of paper cut outs in various shades of white and black called Sombras alrededor by Johanna Wilhelm, and the “plus collect,” which is a series of smaller rotating pieces by various classic and contemporary artists, all of whom are Argentine or Uruguayan. “Because the space is small,” Linda says, “it’s important that all of the pieces work together in form and color.”
The pieces also need to be small-format to avoid overwhelming the space. This works well, though, as the art is more affordable this way. Plus, it’s appealing to tourists because it’s more manageable for traveling. Linda has also found that well- known artists will seek out Galeria Mar Dulce precisely to show their small-format pieces, great works of art that would otherwise be pushed aside by bigger galleries.
Though Galeria Mar Dulce was conceived in a very short amount of time, the responsibility of owning a gallery is not too much for Linda, who has always had a strong interest in art. While in her native Scotland, she studied sculpture and spent time working in a photography gallery. She found she enjoyed the administrative side of the art world better – like meeting with art councils and applying for grants – so she set aside her personal work to study for a Masters in Cultural Policy. At the time, she told herself the break was only “temporary,” but she has yet to pick it up again. This is fine, though, she says, because she married an Argentine printmaker and, according to her, “one artist in the family is more than enough.”
When she first moved to Buenos Aires with her husband in 2006, Linda says she decided to avoid expat circles for a while so she wouldn’t rely too heavily on them. “You’re always going to be a foreigner unless you make a conscious effort to immerse yourself,” she says. Today, she feels at home here and finds people only recognize her as an expat when she forgets her sunglasses. “It’s my pale eyes.”
Now, five years since its opening, Galeria Mar Dulce has six big shows a year, featuring artists as wide-ranging as Decur, whose fantastical paintings currently hang on the walls, and Juan Carlos Romero, who relates Spanish Civil War photographs to great works by Goya.
Linda together with artist Johanna Wilhelm
Linda loves it all, of course, and says she sometimes feels attached to certain pieces, promising herself to buy them at the end of the show but hating to see them go when, invariably, someone else falls in love. A few special others, she admits, she has taken home. But no matter whether you’re interested in buying or just seeing what’s available, “anyone is welcome to come in a take a look.” Galeria Mar Dulce’s doors are wide open.
Want a behind-the-scenes look of Galeria Mar Dulce? Join us at the Palermo Gallery Walk and see 7 different galleries including Mar Dulce and talk one on one with curators, gallery owners and artists.