ARCO Madrid
General view, ARCOmadrid. Photo: Disclosure

By Victor Valery*

"Thegoal accomplished”. This is the title of the article published in website of the contemporary art fair ARCOmadrid on the closing day of its 40th edition. The goal? Reactivate the market, promote the sale of art and enable the reunion between professionals in the field and great collectors around the world. But how to ensure the quality of content and the international presence of galleries and collectors as we face one of the biggest pandemics in history? To try to answer this question, I was present in the last two editions, before and during the pandemic.

Last year's edition of the fair ARCO Madrid took place between February 26 and March 1, 2020, ending a week before Europe closed completely due to Covid-19. The 2021 edition, the year of its 40th anniversary, would also take place in February, but it was rescheduled to take place between the 7th and 11th of July at IFEMA (Institution of Fairs in Madrid).

Just as fashion weeks govern trends in the sector, the art market is no different: the calendar of art fairs around the world highlights rising artists, consolidates new galleries and reaffirms the presence of the great players of the circuit. Fairs such as Art Basel (Switzerland), Art Basel Miami Beach (USA), FIAC (France), SP-Arte and ArtRio (Brazil) and the fairs in New York (USA) spent the year 2020 assembling puzzles and oscillating between face-to-face and virtual formats so that they could take place safely.

ARCO Madrid
General view, ARCOmadrid. Photo: Disclosure

With the advance of vaccination in Europe, a rapid recovery of the market was expected, which suffered its biggest crisis in recent times, culminating in the closure of numerous galleries. Therefore, ARCOmadrid gave the kick-off in an attempt to reactivate this meeting place for galleries, collectors and art professionals from five continents. In this edition, the number of daily visitors was limited, in addition to the first three days being exclusive access to collectors and art professionals, releasing to the general public only on the last two days.

Interestingly, both in 2020 and in 2021 the number of galleries at the fair was the same: in the former, 209 galleries from 30 countries (36 of them Latin American); and this year 209 galleries (15 in Latin America) from 30 countries. This is due to a possible reduction in requirements to enter the fair due to the pandemic. Another curiosity was the size of the fair, as the stands were larger to avoid agglomerations, making the spaces wider and the distances covered longer.

The only representative at the fair with a branch in Brazil was Baró Galeria, who brought works by the Brazilian Sidival Fila. The gallery owner and founder Maria Baró, in addition to having branches in Lisbon, Madrid and São Paulo, opens her new headquarters in Palma de Mallorca (Spain) this week and comments on the artist’s work: “Fila has a very interesting life story, because he has lived in Rome for 35 years and at the age of 28 he became a Franciscan friar, putting aside art to study theology, but returning to artistic practices 15 years ago with incredible strength. I can't wait to present it in Brazil for the first time next year”.

The gallery owner also sold, for the first time on ARCOmadrid, a work in NFT (non-fungible token). The work tree hash (2021) by artist Solimán López, who has been working on the NFT concept since 2013, consists of a 3D photograph of a bonsai tree in a biodegradable plastic structure; the original 3D file is stored in blockchain and the collector receives a certificate with the actual geographic location (latitude and longitude) that the tree is planted.

Talking to the artist, he says he is satisfied with the sale of the work, which was acquired by the El Secreto de la Filantropía foundation, but states that “there is still a certain fear on the part of collectors and gallery owners to assimilate the NFT as art, and not just speculation”. Soliman concludes by saying that “every market is speculation, including art”, and believes that art, biology and technology still have a long way to go.

Another Brazilian presence at the fair was in the Remitente (sender, in Spanish) section, a project by curator Mariano Mayer to bridge the gap between the fair and Latin American art. It is an exhibition with works by 19 Latin American artists represented by 15 galleries in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru; his works shared the same exhibition space. Among the works, the sculpture Circular Square Puppy (2020), by Lyz Parayzo (Casa Triângulo), and with the videos Field (1977), by Regina Silveira, and photokinetic (2020), by Hector Zamora, both brought by Luciana Brito Galeria.

ARCOmadrid brought quality to the works exhibited, but low sales compared to previous editions. Even promoting solutions such as the commercialization of NFT, the market still reaffirms the traditional model of presenting already consolidated artists: in general men, whites, over 50 years old or already deceased, ignoring that young artists could be the key in combating the crisis of market we live in today. If not collectors, institutions or large galleries, who is responsible for bridging the gap and bridging the gap between young artists and the market?

Upcoming ARCO events:

A ARCOlisbon, the Lusitanian arm of the Madrid fair, will take place between the 16th and 19th of September this year. There will be 71 galleries from 17 countries bringing more than 470 artists to Doca de Pedrouços. A ARCO Madrid 2022 will celebrate its 41st edition from the 23rd to the 27th of February in pavilions 7 and 9 of IFEMA MADRID.

* Victor Valeryttraining in Cultural Production and works in the art market, curatorship and representation of artists. In 2019, he opened an apartment-gallery in São Paulo, which functions, among others, as a conservation space for the collection of VANDL ART, a label that promotes its artists in partnerships in art, music, fashion and technology (@victorvalery).



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