Agony and Ecstasy

We spoke to Emma Salahi about her Ibiza based art gallery and the launch of the new Oriol Maspons superbook

Words by Mark Limb • May 5, 2024

Oriol Maspons ibiza

Oriol Maspons ibiza published by IDEA LTD

Hi Emma, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what led you to Ibiza?

I worked in London in the fashion industry for 10 years, most predominantly for a fashion mag called LOVE as their Producer and PA to the Editor.

It was very exciting and I had tons of amazing opportunities whilst I was there but the grind of London caught up with me and I just wanted a fresh start. Ibiza always seemed quite enchanting and fun to be able to say ‘I live in Ibiza’ - So I relocated.

Are you living there full time now?

Yes! This year will my fourth year and the time has slipped through my fingers. It’s definitely harder here than in London to make a career for yourself, that and the fact Ibiza only switches on 7 months of the year.

Emma Salahi

Emma and Grace at the Agony and Ecstasy gallery

Had you already been involved in the arts world prior to starting the gallery?

I studied photography at London College of Communication as a one year diploma. I wanted to drop out actually because the pressure of being creative stressed me out too much. It wasn’t until my teacher said to ‘Just enjoy the process’ that the pressure was lifted and I ended up with the highest mark and an award by the end of it.

My final exam was exposing photo liquid sensitive emulsion onto fabric, and glass even. It was a fun time. But with art, I only studied it at school and I also did really well there too.

When and how did the idea and concept for the gallery come about?

Concept wise, I felt there was a gap in the market when it came to art and Ibiza. The island was missing a really quirky gallery which offered pop art, typography, borderline controversial, colour and just humour and playful art.

The gallery is still forming and evolving, this year we will really see which direction it will go. At the moment the vintage photography from Oriol Maspons is definitely a strong moment for the gallery and the island, but I’m still very much a pop art curator, and it holds a lovely space in my heart. 

“The vision of the gallery is simple: to revolutionise, pioneer and champion modern art and photography in Ibiza.”

Where does the name come from?

When I was 18 I was really into drum and bass music, and High Contrast (one of the legends of that industry) created an album called The Agony and The Ecstasy.

The phrase is actually biblical if I’m not wrong, but the words really connected with me, I wanted it tattooed on me actually but managed to dodge that.

It’s sort of a bit personal because I’ve always felt my life has been either times of ‘Agony’ and times of ‘Ecstasy’ which I think a lot of people feel in these crazy times we live in. In the end I shortened it to just Agony and Ecstasy, otherwise people wouldn’t be able to remember the gallery.

Ibiza is well known for being somewhere that artists, poets and other bohemians escaped to in the 50’s and 60’s because of the tolerant and free atmosphere it provided.

Do you feel that there is still a strong creative community living on the island now that you can connect with?

It’s hard to say because my gallery is kind of breaking that already in place art culture.

I respect local artists but it’s not really my cup of tea. Paintings and canvas I haven’t managed to warm to, yet.

Grace Jones by Hanna Shillito

Grace Jones by Hanna Shillito

You showcase some incredible photography as well, most strikingly are some of the pictures of Ibiza, it’s people and the clubs during the 70's and 80's.

What do you think is behind the recent resurgence in popularity of images from this era?

People who live in Ibiza are very protective of the island and they adore the history of Ibiza, especially with clubs and music, it reminds them of the good times that were once the norm.

It’s kind of bitter sweet because the island is becoming very exploited and capitalist now, that I think the photos make people feel connected with the past before it was ‘discovered’.

We are still very much trying to hold on those memories.

Oriol Maspons Ibiza

Oriol Maspons ibiza published by IDEA LTD

You've recently published a book of Oriol Maspons incredible photography, again taken during this golden era in Ibiza.

How did the idea for the book come about and how did it come to fruition?

I met Alex Maspons (Oriol’s son) last year to discuss representation of his father’s better known photography, it wasn’t until I arrived at his estate office where he started pulling out all these fabulous negatives onto a Lightbox and it was like gold dust. I couldn’t keep the secret to myself, I know the modern market would go mental for these photographs.

I kind of flirted the idea of a book to Alex a couple of times, but wasn’t until I took the plunge and emailed David Owen (founder of IDEA) and asked him whether they would be interested in putting a book together. He replied 2 minutes later saying it was the best email he’d ever received (knowing Oriol’s work prior) the rest is history. 

Oriol Maspons Ibiza

Oriol Maspons Ibiza published by Idea

We caught up briefly at your launch party in London and it was great to see so many familiar faces from the scene turn up to support the book.

What has the reception been like more widely and especially back home in Ibiza?

I didn’t think the response would be so widespread, I knew we were making something really special here, but I didn’t expect it to explode like it has.

We actually just sold out the book yesterday (1 week after launch) it’s a huge moment for Alex and I, and the gallery. It sort of means we’re doing something right for the community. It feels very humbling.

Emma and David with the Ibiza book

Emma and David Owen from Idea LTD

How did the relationship with Idea come about?

I’ve known about IDEA for years having been in the fashion industry in London. They were a perfect match of this type of book, I didn’t think twice about approaching another publishers. 

Do you think you might publish any more books in the future?

Actually yes, IDEA are I are softly discussing another Ibiza book with a different photographer, watch this space.

As well as the photography, you also showcase a lot of contemporary artists at the gallery, can you tell us about them?

The gallery offers amazing artists, who are insanely well respected in their field.

We have Lauren Baker, Sara Pope, Heath Kane, Dave Buonaguidi, Wildcat Will Blanchard, Shuby, Chemical X, Hannah Shillito.

Their work is all very fresh for the island, I’m excited to showcase it more this year.

High On Love - Double Vision

High On Love - Double Vision by Lauren Baker


Stillness Is A Portal To The Devine by Chris Levine

I saw you talking about a Grace Jones piece which you’d recently brought over to the gallery. Do you have any other favourites?

Grace is fantastic, she’s a 6 ft wall sculpture dazzled in sequins, she’s a masterpiece and would be perfect for any villa.

The artists are Spanish, Mr and Mrs Garcia. She’s probably my favourite.

Am I right thinking the gallery sometimes does popups at Sluiz

Yes, we did a pop up with them last October, it was super fun and great to get my gallery out there.

At the To Molón Art Fair, Sluiz

Emma at the Agony and Ecstasy pop up at Sluiz ibiza

Outside of the book and gallery, how is life on the island right now?

It’s intense, I’ve taken on too many amazing projects this summer, it’ll be fantastic but also quite nerve racking. 

Is there anything exciting happening on the island this year or anywhere special that you can recommend that we should look out for next time we're over? 

If you’re here in July or August, Agony and Ecstasy will be doing a takeover with Atzaro for their 20th Anniversary. That’s going to be quite major this season. 

Emma, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Do you have any final words?

Just thanks for having me and being a fan 🙂

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