Lady Foster opens gallery and bookshop in Madrid

A former garage becomes an art space, as the Ivory Press publisher inaugurates building designed by her husband



From the run-down remains of a former 1,000 sq. m Madrid garage, Elena Ochoa Foster, the driving force behind the artists’ book publisher Ivory Press and the wife of the architect Norman Foster, launched a major new interdisciplinary art space last month. Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Lady Foster, who is Spanish and who lived for many years in Madrid, described her ambition for the space as being “to create a reference point and a meeting place for initiatives and joint ventures within...the international art world”.

Ivory Press was founded in 1996 to produce limited edition works by leading contemporary artists. The new space, Ivory Press Art + Books, incorporates gallery space and a large shop stocking limited editions, out-of-print catalogues and books on photography, art, architecture and design. The space has been designed by Lord Foster in conjunction with his architectural practice Foster + Partners.

The new venture has been “completely financed personally, as is the Ivory Press”, Lady Foster told The Art Newspaper, adding, “this project is a natural evolution of the Ivory Press. It is not a foundation nor a museum nor an art gallery. I see it more as the public face of my work; as publisher of artists’ books for 13 years, as an art consultant for collectors and for private institutions (including New York University, Phillips de Pury and the Hearst Cor­poration in New York) and as a result of my collaboration with museums, artists’ estates (such as Francis Bacon’s) and private art galleries worldwide (including PaceWildenstein).” She said that she will use these connections to create a joint programme of activities.

The heart of the new centre is a large, adaptable gallery space with adjacent small rooms which Lady Foster has used to display a permanent exhibition of artists’ books published by Ivory Press. There are plans to produce three large exhibitions a year in the main gallery, in February, May and October, with an emphasis on artists and publishers from Asia, building on Ivory Press’s long-standing relationship with China.

Lady Foster said: “We have already secured agreements with the Ai Weiwei studio and PaceWildenstein gallery to present works by Michel Rovner and Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen. I want to focus my shows on work previously unseen in Spain.”

James Lindon, director of PaceWildenstein, said the gallery was thrilled to be able to collaborate with Ivory Press Art + Books: “We feel [this is] something new…in Madrid and Lady Foster…[is] making unexpected things happen.”

The opening show is by the 82-year-old Czech photographer Miroslav Tichý, who has spent much of his career in relative obscurity until a retrospective at Paris’s Pompidou Centre in 2008. Lady Foster says she chose his work “mainly because there is a parallel between Tichý and Ivory Press. He does not merely take photographs, but creates poetry.” The show includes the works displayed at the Pompidou plus “a number of works never shown before, which his foundation has allowed us to have. So it will be the most comprehensive exhibition of Tichý ever,” according to Lady Foster.

She added that she considered opening an art space in London, New York or Zurich, but finally settled on Madrid, where she opened a branch of Ivory Press two years ago. “I decided Madrid was the perfect spot for this public face of Ivory Press,” she explained. “It is a city full of energy, both a cosmopolitan, generous, welcoming place and at the same time, parochial. Madrid is funny and chaotic, a 24-hour city full of cultural activities.”