Madrid, 27 February 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).
With over 120,000 visitors, ARCO (held from 14 to 17 February 2013) might well arouse jealousy, when one thinks of the figures claimed by the FIAC (70,600 visitors) and Art Basel (65,000) in 2012! As Spain is experiencing a terrible economic context, with a 26.6% unemployment rate and VAT passing from 8% to 21% last September (causing the dread of galleries as the fair opened), what is the secret of ARCO? It might well be its international activities, with 66% foreign galleries out of 201 altogether, but also the presence of figures from all over the world. “The main strength of the last edition lies in the coming of 200 international collectors as well as of directors from main institutions worldwide,” explains Philippe Charpentier, from Parisian gallery Mor Charpentier. The fair is therefore attended by heritage and exhibition curators. Important deals were made as early as 13 February, for the preview: the Marlborough Gallery, Madrid, ceded Noticias by Juan Genovés for €95,000 to a Spanish private collector ; and the Galerie Lelong sold a 2011 monumental head by Jaume Plensa, Awilda, for €240,000, also to a Spanish collector.
The most expensive work of the salon appeared to be Le peintre et son modèle by Picasso, a 1963 painting offered by New York-based gallery Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, for €4m! However, these record prices were exceptions and it was possible to find editions at €250, and drawings at €1,000. Many pieces were really affordable, because the fair is not that expensive for galleries; they can spend a mere €15,000 for a good stand. In these conditions, it is easier to make profits. As for Philippe Charpentier, he sold “exclusively to foreign collectors, even though Spanish collectors did show up. Nevertheless, I noticed collectors were looking for security and mostly purchased works by renowned or really emerging artists.”
The most hispanic European fair
Although some big names such as Robert Longo, Damien Hirst and Folkert de Jong were represented here as at the FIAC or Art Basel, the international circle there is more turned towards the hispanic side of the world, which creates a specific identity and singularity, with regard to other European contemporary art fairs – and it was even more striking this year with a special focus on Latin America, around 23 guest galleries, presenting one single artist. Gallery Dan from São Paulo offered a much appreciated proposal, with a magnificent section devoted to Soto, and also displaying majestic works by Carlos Cruz-Diez (who is a star in Latin America, the United States and China, but surprisingly unkown in France), as well as the Galerie Lelong, with master Antoni Tápies. In addition to these historical artists, the range of discoveries was broad: Pablo Armesto at the Marlborough Gallery, Teresa Margolles and Oscar Munoz at the Galerie Mor Charpentier, Nico Munera at the Galeria Rafael Ortiz from Seville, Yuri Firmeza at the Galeria Casa Triângulo from São Paulo, Rosana Ricalde at the Galeria 3+1 Arte Contemporânea from Lisbon…
Latin American artists are characterised by political commitment – as showed by the collective Democtatia, that diverts and puts in contemporary context slogans such as “Arbeit Macht Frei” at the ADN Galeria, Barcelona, as well as Turkish artists, represented by ten galleries, as Turkey was the guest of honour of the edition. Religion, women’s status, traditions and sex were the major themes of the selected artists, from women’s portraits by Nilbar Güres at Rampa to the photographs of Yusuf Sevinçli at the Elipsis Gallery, through the work of Canan Beykal and Halil Altindere.
Let us mention the favourites: a moving, striking video by Regina Galindo at Prometeogalleri di Ida Pisan, Milan; an evolutive sculpture covered with mildew by young Julian Charrière at the Dittrich & Schlechtriem Gallery from Berlin, and the aesthetic war photographs of Émeric Lhuisset at the Running Horse Gallery, Beirut, and an installation made of personal objects by Francis Bacon at Ivorypress Gallery, Madrid.
Philippe Charpentier concludes that “under the egida of Carlos Urroz, ARCO is definitely the rising fair in Europe.”