Ombretta Agro: Art and the enviroment
Ombretta Agro is an Italian born, Miami based freelance curator, climate activist and co-founder of ARTSail. For her curation with SHOWFIELDS, she selected Miami-based artists whose practice explores environmental and ecological topics, spanning from the plight of corals and coral reefs die-offs, to how man-made pollution is impacting the waterways surrounding Miami, and the climate crisis in general
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice:
I have built most of my curatorial career on an independent practice that has allowed me to travel and work extensively at an international level, collaborating with artists, galleries and institutions virtually the world over. As challenging as some of these projects have been, they all became incredibly rich learning experiences that helped foster my ability to adapt to diverse working environments and collaborate with a variety of partners.
Over the years my interest and research have developed around two main areas: the intersection between art and science and how they have informed each other since the beginning of time and the how artists and cultural producers respond to today’s environmental challenges.
Since ARTSail launched, my curatorial approach shifted towards a more activist stance, addressing the threat of the climate crisis not only through my curatorial practice, but also by organizing workshops, panel discussions and a variety of outreach programs to connect with audiences within and outside the walls of traditional art institutions.
What are your parameters for artist selection?
I have always been an ‘eclectic’ curator, often engaging with artists exploring a wide variety of subject matters and media. Most of my exhibitions involve rigorous research, that may lead to projects that take years in the making. I am constantly looking for artists whose work moves me, where the conceptual meaning and aesthetic qualities are carefully calibrated.
However, a few years back, I lost interest in the ‘one-off’ curatorial endeavors: the need for a more meaningful and long-term engagement with issues close to my heart took over my ‘eclectic’ nature and lead to the creation of ARTSail. Now I am particularly interested in artists addressing the urgency of the climate crisis: policymakers and environmental organizations recognize and leverage the power of artists to communicate and ARTSail is committed to facilitate this collaboration.
What kind of artwork is relevant to our generation and the times we are living?
Different artworks are relevant to different people: one thing I learned after 20+ years of experience in the field is that ‘one size fits all’ approach does not apply to anything or anyone in the art world.
Tell us about this curation for SHOWFIELDS: conceptually, aesthetically, etc.?
I selected Miami-based artists whose practice explores environmental and ecological topics, spanning from the plight of corals and coral reefs die offs, to how man-made pollution is impacting the waterways surrounding Miami, and the climate crisis in general.
While the issues addressed in their work are utterly tragic, somber and dark in nature, these artists are able to create visually engaging and aesthetically captivating works that do not push the public away, on the contrary, can be used as entry points to better understand the complexity of the issues addressed.
What is your advice for art lovers and appreciators looking to start their own art collections?
Looking at, learning, purchasing, and, most of all, living with art should be a joyful and fulfilling experience. I always encourage my clients (when I wear my art consultant hat) to allow themselves to a visceral response to any artwork. Let the art speak to you, move you, understand what kind of emotion it stirs inside yourself. After this first encounter do your homework, never be afraid to ask questions, spend time looking at art, understand more about the artists that trigger your interest, research their track record, their exhibition history, write-ups and where and by whom they are being collected…but always start with your ‘gut’. And if you don’t trust your gut, hire a consultant to guide you through the process until you feel comfortable to continue on your own…but be careful, once the ‘collector bug’ has taken over, it will be impossible to stop yourself