political prisoners_santiago sierra
Piece by Santiago Sierra depicts 24 people who were arrested for political reasons in Spain. (photo: Playback/Facebook)

The International Contemporary Art Fair ARCO, held in Madrid, was opened to the press this Wednesday (21) and has already generated a great deal of controversy. THE Madrid Fair Institution (Ifema), an organization that organizes fairs (including ARCO) in the Spanish capital, asked the responsible gallery that the work Political Prisoners, by Madrid-based artist Santiago Sierra, was removed from its stand, alleging that it could be a source of controversy.

Political Prisoners is a work that brings together 24 photographs of people who were arrested for political reasons. The faces are pixelated and there is no identification of the people portrayed. Despite this, at the bottom of the images, the causes for which each one was incarcerated are written.

In this way, it is possible to recognize figures who recently heated up the uprising for Catalonia's independence, such as Oriol Junqueras, president of the Republican Left of Catalonia, and the leaders of the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez. In addition to the removal of the work, the fair suspended a conversation with the artist, which would take place on Saturday (24), about political prisoners in contemporary Spain. Santiago Sierra is represented by the Helga de Alvear gallery, based in Madrid itself and one of the most important in Europe. The art dealer, the gallery's namesake, is even one of the creators of ARCO.

After learning that the work would have been vetoed, the artist spoke on his Facebook profile, pointing out the institution's lack of respect for the gallery owner Helga de Alvear. Sierra also wrote that Ifema's attitude damages the image of ARCO and also of the Spanish State. “We believe that actions of this type give meaning and reason to a piece like this, which precisely denounced the climate of persecution that we, cultural workers, are suffering in recent times”, he concluded.

Despite having a committee that curates the galleries and works that will be presented, ARCO allowed the work to be assembled by the gallery and, a few hours after the opening, demanded that it be collected, on the grounds that, according to a note from Ifema , the debates that the exhibition of the work was causing in the press would be harming the image of the fair, in which fifteen Brazilian galleries participate. What is said among the press and the public, however, is that it would have been a political decision, with pressure from the Spanish government, which has influence over Ifema. To the press, gallery owner Helga de Alvear declared that “nobody must be trying to get in trouble with Cataluña” (“Supongo que alguien no quiere tener jaleo con Cataluña”).

With all the scandal surrounding the episode, Sierra's work, considered an “artist difficult to sell”, had a wide distribution and ended up being bought by a Spanish collector, through a Catalan gallery.

The final price of the transaction was 96.000 euros, approximately 385.300 reais.

Brazil at ARCO

Among the galleries selected to present works at the fair in Madrid, there are fourteen Brazilian galleries, divided between Programa Geral, Opening and dialogues.

Supported by the Latitude project, they are: The Gentle Carioca (with the collective of artists OPAVIVARÁ!), Anita Schwartz (with Daniella Antonelli, Bruno Vilela and Rodrigo Braga), Athena (with Débora Bolsoni, Laura Belém, Rodrigo Bivar and Vanderlei Lopes), baron (with Maria Lynch, Felipe Ehrenberg, Mônica Nador, Rasheed Arlen, David Medalla, Pablo Reinoso, Iván Navarro, Paulo Nenflídio, Túlio Pinto and Lourival Cuquinha), Triangle House (with Albano Afonso, Alex Cerveny, Ascânio MMM, takes on vivid astro focus, Eduardo Berliner, Guillermo Mora, Ivan Grilo, Joana Vasconcelos, Lucas Simões, Marcia Xavier, Mariana Palma, Max Gómez Canle, Nino Cais, Sandra Cinto and Vânia Mignone) , Fortes, D'Aloia & Gabriel (with Armando Andrade Tudela and Tamar Guimarães & Kasper Akhoej), Jaqueline Martins Gallery (with André Parente and Diango Hernández), Marilia Razuk Gallery (with Alexandre Canonico, Johana Calle, Marlon de Azambuja and Vanderlei Lopes), Galeria Nara Roesler (with Eduardo Navarro), Raquel Arnaud Gallery (with Carla Chaim, Célia Euvaldo, Frida Baranek, Sérgio Camargo and Waltercio Caldas), Luciana Brito Gallery (with Pablo Lobato, Liliana Porter and Héctor Zamora), Red (with Ivan Argote and Dora Longo Bahia), Luisa Strina Gallery (with Juan Araújo and Carlos Garaicoa) and Horse Gallery (with Marina Weffort and Pablo Pijnappel).

Fortes, D'Aloia & Gabriel also has the artists Rivane Neuenschwander, Jac Leirner and Ernesto Neto in a collective entitled Visions of the Earth / The Planned World, in the Santander Art Room.

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