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Aldo Castillo prepares to say goodbye
by Kristin Kowalski
2010-09-01

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After 17 years leading the Midwest in Latin American art, Aldo Castillo will be closing the award-winning gallery bearing his name on Aug. 28. He is moving to Miami to become the associate director of the Miami International Art Fair. Windy City Times talked with Castillo about his big move to a warmer climate and his decision to close the Aldo Castillo Gallery.

Windy City Times: Why did you decide to move to Miami?

Aldo Castillo: I realized that the job I was offered is the same job I have, except it is on a global scale. Chicago was an amazing place that allowed me to connect with people from all over the world. I was working with all of these connections, but just on behalf of Latin American art. This job in Miami allows me to [ do ] that and more on a global scale. Miami is becoming an establishment for collectors to go and buy.

WCT: The art fair you're becoming director of takes place in January?

Aldo Castillo: Yes, Jan. 14-17. That's the one I'm directing, but I'm helping, shaping the fair so it becomes competitive. Because the gallery behavior has totally changed—you don't see that many customers walking by into galleries anymore. We are facing new challenges and they have nothing to do with the economy, they have to do with technology. Galleries now depend on their websites for people to know where they are or what they do. Many people who like art like to go to art fairs because it's like a little museum coming to you for three days or four days. When it comes to the business of people looking at art, art fairs are the only people now doing the selling.

WCT: Why did you decide to keep your gallery here online?

Aldo Castillo: Because I am considered one of the main voices for Latin American art. I have studied the movements in Latin America, what sells, what doesn't sell, the prices, the authenticity of the work, so I am a key person that is knowledgeable about that. When I decided to close the gallery, all these people advised me not to do it—to keep the name alive. It's better to keep what I have done open.

WCT: What is it that you love about Latin American art?

Aldo Castillo: Actually, the truth is that I love art in general. Art is universal. It's just that in this country, they put you in a box. If I have black hair and I come from Latin America, I am Latino/Hispanic. It's just that I come from this, so I knew a lot about Latin American art because I've been studying it.

When I studied in Chicago, Latin American art, African-American art [ and ] Haitian art were considered [ one ] segment of the arts because, in people's minds here, Latin American art and European art were the top. I don't know why they got that idea, but art is global, it's universal.

WCT: So what's your favorite form of art?

Aldo Castillo: You know, it changes. I have become a fan of every different, new, cutting-edge, conceptual art. They say that the best art is the one who makes you think and art that is mysterious. Conceptual is very interesting—it makes you think and, also, ideas are explained to you. Deep inside there is a really valuable idea or reflection of something that we all need to know.

WCT: So when you leave, what are you going to miss most about Chicago?

Aldo Castillo: It's bittersweet. I think Chicagoans are very gentle, educated people. I had challenges along the way with some colleagues. I think there is a quality of life here, which is great, but it has a downside. I notice because there are so many resources, the people are less challenged than in other places of the world. The people, precisely because they think they have everything, they don't realize what they are missing. And I did bring something they were missing that they didn't know they were missing, which means that anybody from any place can come to Chicago.

WCT: What about Miami excites you the most?

Aldo Castillo: Well, the most exciting thing is that I can still be creative. Before I was in touch with the messages of social contribution, this one is about economy. And it's really great for me because being a dealer myself; I notice how all dealers and artists are affected by the economy. So going there and to think about how this connects— [ if ] it's an artist, [ if ] it's a gallery, how can they survive? How can I put them in touch with the right buyers?

WCT: So, you're not going to miss the Chicago winters?

Aldo Castillo: Actually, no. For one simple reason, all along for 25 years—if I was born in a place that was 70 degrees almost all year around, that is very quiet and there's no crime, why do I live here? I've forgotten that place that was paradise—it was too small. This is huge, so in order to develop my dreams, I pay with the winter. But, of course, I still have problems when I go back there—the heat bothers me. I'm still adjusting to it.

WCT: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Aldo Castillo: I think that my parents were wise to [ provide ] education to us, to all my brothers and sisters. They gave us that opportunity, telling us that we could do whatever we wanted as long as we were studying. And they didn't control us. They gave us the sense that we're not alone, that we can always contribute to the world. There is always room for some of us to understand how we can help, to prevent or to cope with the people who are affected. I think the thing that I'm proud of is that I have a conscience. I'm a conscious person of human issues that affect people, whether it's AIDS, whether it's poverty, whether it's floods, whether it's ignorance, lack of education—racist, homophobic, all of that.

WCT: Are you going to be doing something in the gallery before you close?

Aldo Castillo: Yes, there have been so many ideas. But the one that I'm set on is cleaning the gallery of everything that is there. Then, there is Scott Ashley, a very well-known artist. He's an amazing conceptual artist and I want the gallery to close with an artist from the United States.

The final show at the Aldo Castillo Gallery with work by Scott Ashley was Aug 28. The gallery is now an online showcase of contemporary and modern art at www.artaldo.com .


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