Her unique contemporary approach to art tells us about the fragile artistic ecosystem.


In a world immersed in a deep crisis that effects all levels, from social, political to healthcare what happens to the art world? The artist Belén Mazuecos explained us, the art world today presents an unprecedented complexity due to the increase in the number of artists, the specialization and diversification of intermediaries and the impact of globalization and new information technologies, among other factors.  One of the biggest problems is the lack of transparency and information, which prevents artists from having clear strategies that they must develop to follow this profession. The extreme precariousness that the art world is experiencing, means that many artists must combine artistic creation with other types of paid work to continue investing in their productions and achieve a sustainable livelihood.

We had the opportunity to meet Belén Mazuecos by chance in Venice, during the Laguna Prize exhibition. Without yet knowing the winner, we had selected a special painting by the artist with the idea to display it in our stores. We later found out it was the very same painting that has been chosen at the contemporary art competition. What sets Belén apart from other artists is her contemporary approach to art, where, through her works, the artist deals with different themes that are happening within her world.

The artist art pieces intend to build a visual ethnography of the art world through self-referential drawings and paintings that record and question the polyhedral reality of the artistic field and its various problems. Her art addresses current cultural themes about the precariousness of the art world and the difficulty for the artist to access and consolidate in an extremely complex and competitive system and market. Her ongoing project Notes for an Ethnography of the Art World is a metaphor of what happens in the artistic industry, referring to the great difficulties in accessing an opaque system. For this reason, she uses the artistic practice as a platform for questioning, by investigating the dynamics of the world of contemporary art from the reflexivity and perspective of the artist.

Born and raised in Granada, Spain, Belén’s journey began at a really young age, exploring various forms of artistic expression through writing, drawing and painting in her youth. Despite her talent, she had never considered dedicating herself professionally to art. There was no artistic background in her family, and she observed too many prejudices surrounding the career of being an artist due the precariousness of the profession. However, Belén’s world changed at the age of 16 at school when she enrolled in an elective artistic drawing class. During this time, her teacher spotted her talent and skills and for the first time made her consider the possibility of studying and pursuing a career in Fine Arts.

From that point, she decided to follow her passion, leading her to actively start pursuing and producing art through her studies in Plastic Arts and Painting Restoration at the University of Granada, continuing at the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan. Belén’s first thoughts about the art ecosystem started after graduation. At the time, the profession of the artist felt really disconnected from her academic field and for this reason, she decided to pursue a doctorate in Fine Arts and study a degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at her alma mater, the University of Granada. Theories from the art historian Juan Antonio Ramírez about the artistic ecosystem inspired the artists’ doctoral thesis and her anthropological fieldwork and the ethnographic research method suggest her later to develop her current artistic project.

Besides being an artist, Belén also pursued the career of teaching, becoming later professor at the University of Granada. Despite the opportunity to continue expanding her training and obtaining more stability at a professional level, the artist said it took time away from her artistic creation. The main challenge was maintaining the energy and enthusiasm to combine the demand of the university with the artistic production itself.

There have been moments of crisis throughout this period, but nothing has ever made me throw in the towel. Art is a long-distance race that demands dedication and commitment, and that requires a great spirit of sacrifice

Her artworks have been exhibited in various galleries, including the esteemed Arsenale in Venice. In her projects she tries to find a vehicle that best suits her expressive purpose. The material she uses are charcoal on paper, and acrylic on paper or canvas; the use of black allows her to paint and draw with the immediacy and imprint of the writer. Satisfying her own hedonistic needs is her art aim and the manipulation of materials gives her joy. “When you work with the whole body to undertake large formats, you enter a kind of trance or state of catharsis that makes you feel very good.” Says Belén.

Art is a form of communication and with my pieces I intend to make the art world reflect and generate questions and answers in the viewer.

In Belén’s art work, we can see the preference to eliminate those superfluous elements in order to maintain the essential through the use of more rudimentary materials. Belén’s art declares that she is more interested in the iconography and the message rather than the aesthetic result itself, and she believes that the choice of materials is more effective in conveying her idea of her without distortions.

In her series Notes for an Ethnography of the Art World, the characters appear in natural environments that produce the artistic ecosystem. Interior exhibition spaces such as museums or art galleries are usually inspired by real places the artist visited and photographed, in addition, Internet is a source where she collect inspiring images that she recombine with my own reality.

The artist’s first work inspired by the fragility of the art ecosystem were prepared in occasion of the artist participation in a collective exhibition at the Museo Provincial de Cádiz, Spain. The first piece was a 195 x 195cm painting, titled Fragile Artist: Handle with Care made in the summer of 2016 in acrylic on canvas. The art work features artistic intermediaries dressed as panda bears in the middle of nature, transporting an artist in a box for packing works of art. Just like the caretakers of the offspring of these endangered animals, they dress up to facilitate their reintegration into the wild.  Simultaneously, the artist also developed the piece Mark Wallinger in the white cube, in which the artist Mark Wallinger, appeared disguised as a brown bear on a camouflage fabric spread inside the aseptic space of the museum being photographed by another intermediary.

The career of the “Fragile Artist” is scrupulously managed by the intermediaries: curators, museum curators, gallery owners, who implement sophisticated marketing strategies, relegating the artist to the category of product-work of art, a true ready-made. The works are full of references and nods to fundamental works and artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, such as Duchamp, Beuys, Cattelan and Damien Hirst.

Hans Christian Andersen's fable, “The Emperor's New Clothes”, also inspires the series of works in which the crisis of art's legitimacy is raised. "On a visual level, it takes inspiration from a report I saw in a magazine about panda keepers in giant panda reserves in China, where I discovered the uniforms, these workers wore to camouflage themselves and return the animals to the wild in a less traumatic way,” she explained.

Observing art produced by her contemporaries is another great source of her inspiration in her art projects: “That is why I love to travel and visit contemporary art exhibitions, fairs and events such as the Venice Biennale. My students are also a source of inspiration because they infect me with their enthusiasm, as well as my parents, for their tenacity. They have instilled in me a sense of responsibility, perseverance and discipline.” Along her career, her biggest influences were Marlene Dumas, Tacita Dean and Santiago Ydáñez. “In them, I think that as in my work, painting and drawing acquire a haptic dimension and the creative process fulfils an almost cathartic function because the artists relate to the whole body to approach their large-scale pieces,” Belén said. Other influential artists in her life are Maurizio Cattelan and Damien Hirst.


Besides these well-known artists, another artist that represents a source of inspiration is her husband, Pedro Cuadra. A fellow painter, Belén and Pedro share their studio space together in Granada. 


I like to chat with Pedro and observe from above and in the distance the piece I am working on in my workshop. In my daily routine at the studio, I turn on the radio to cheer myself up, and start creating.

 Art has an interesting similarity with fashion, they both can find pieces that can complements us. Belén explained the artist must be honest with himself and try to generate a coherent personal artistic project with which he identifies with, but on the other hand, collectors or users of contemporary art in general, find affinities with certain artists who embody their own philosophy of life and with which they also manage to identify with, which provides them with great spiritual benefit.


 Her hopes are to see an immediate future without a pandemic in which we can reconnect and travel without worries, and, of course, her main wish now is a world in peace. She added, “I see some of my dreams come true, for example obtaining greater recognition in the art world and new exciting projects in the international arena, and this illusion has a lot to do with having crossed paths with Manuel Rivera and D!FFERENT along the way.” Says Belén. 


I identify a lot with the casual clothing style and with the philosophy of the brand. I believe the personalized and close treatment and the consideration they have of their clients as unique and singular personalities to whom they try to offer the style that best suits them, undoubtedly makes it a benchmark brand.

Everyone has now the opportunity to see the artist's art works by visiting the new D!FFERENT men store in Westerland on the island of Sylt.

As Belén said, the ideal lover for this collection is a person who loves art and cares about the sustainability of the art world and artists. It’s made for an audience that not only finds beauty in the iconography that she represents in her pieces but also empathizes with the message.