The global art fair calendar is looking very full. Just after the Californian version of Frieze, which took place in Los Angeles in Santa Monica’s former airport, and just before Art Dubai (from 1 to 5 March 2023), the Arco fair is being held in Madrid, bringing together 211 participants. “This is a fair that we want to be human and welcoming,” explains its director Maribel Lopez, who is optimistic despite a difficult global climate.
“With the public health crisis of Covid, people have realized the importance of art in their lives. And also at Arco the financial challenges are mitigated: the average transaction doesn’t amount to tens of millions of euros. It is, let’s say, around 30,000 euros and starts at around 5000 euros. This is still an event where art is financially accessible.” These days, for a show like this to have an international impact it must also be accompanied by artistic events around the city. This is the case in Madrid, which has rarely been so active in this respect, occasionally in very unexpected places.
Among the highly anticipated exhibitions in Madrid there is, along with the very conceptual Brazilian collection of the couple Susana and Ricardo Steinbruch showed at Reina Sofia Museum, the exhibition of the young Brasilian Maxwell Alexandre at La Casa Encendida (see here an interview of Maxwell Alexandre) the excellent retrospective on surrealist painter Leonora Carrington at the Mapfre foundation or at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum a Lucian Freud show and the impressive aquatic large video which alternates between being contemplative and menacing, by the American artist Wu Tsang, presented by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza’s TBA 21 foundation.
The famous Turin collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is presenting an exhibition in a 19th-century library, the Ateneo, of the work of Brazilian painter Lucas Arruda (born in 1983) curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist. He makes paintings in a small format depicting imaginary “exotic” forests, with a particularly delicate craftsmanship. Some of these landscapes, an antidote to contemporary digital production, can be also found at the booth of the multinational Zwirner gallery at Arco. They are refusing to reveal the prices, but the works are most likely on sale for around 180,000 euros. Lucas Arruda is currently the subject of international attention: he also features in the “Avant l’orage” exhibition at the Pinault Collection in Paris until 11 September, after having been displayed last summer at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel.
Oscar Murillo in a church
One of the other young stars at the Zwirner gallery is the Anglo-Colombian painter Oscar Murillo (born in 1986). At auction, his abstract paintings sold for up to 400,000 dollars in 2013 when he was the subject of intense speculation. Today his career is more institutional. He will be the subject of an exhibition at the Serralves Museum in Porto in November 2023.
Against the spirit of the art market, he has worked in collaboration with Madrid’s Elba Benitez gallery on an intervention in a church in the city centre, San Anton. The place is offering food 24 hours a day to whoever wants it. “All churches should be doing the same thing,” advises Murillo, who wanted to engage with it by painting the white tablecloths for the meals.
In the 19th century in Madrid the Fernando de Castro Foundation aimed to educate women about art. The Madrid gallery Travesia Cuatro asked the curator Cristiano Raimondi to organize an exhibition in this place, which has remained unchanged, of works by the German-Brazilian painter Eleonore Koch (1902-1975). Her paintings, very stripped-back still lifes and meditative landscapes, appear extremely rarely on the market, and are above all sought after by Brazilian collectors. Some are on sale for around 250,000 dollars.
The most beautiful contemporary art exhibition on view right now in Madrid is dedicated to the genius of Spanish sculpture, Juan Munoz (1951-2001) at Sala Alcala 31 until 11 June curated by Manuel Segade. The artist who died before his time, developed a visual vocabulary with unusual figures who express a state of solitude, a feeling of isolation, bearing witness to a sense of malaise in contemporary society. We find the works of Juan Munoz at Arco at the booth of Spanish gallery Elvira Gonzalez, among others, with three seated figures, in grey resin, who seem to be making fun of passers-by, dated from 2000 (on sale for 1.2 million euros). He is one of a small number of contemporary Spanish artists fuelling very international demand. The record price for Munoz at auction was obtained in London for a series of four bronzes sold for 3.8 million euros in 2011.
The Franco-Spanish gallery Albarran-Bourdais is presenting a work at Arco by the French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (born in 1965) which echoes her exhibition staged at the Madrid space. Here she is displaying part of the show staged until 4 September 2022 at the Serpentine Gallery in London. On view there is, among other things, an extraordinary installation in which a luminous, evolving form floats in a darkened space with an electronic musical score (on sale: 250,000 euros). Holorama 5 is a hologram issued in two copies, paying tribute to the early 20th-century dancer Loie Fuller, who created dreamlike choreography using large swathes of fabric and electric lighting effects. “I like to produce a feeling of wonder,” explains Dominique Gonzalez Foerster with regards to her holographic installation.
Ana Eva Bergman
In 2021, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid presented a retrospective of the French-Norwegian artist Ana-Eva Bergman (1907-1997). At Arco, at the booth of Parisian Jérôme Poggi, two of her paintings are on display. For a long time she was unjustly known primarily for being the wife of abstract painter Hans Hartung, but she is now making a dazzling comeback. Her work is characterized, among other things, but very pared back landscapes that flirt with abstraction.
They combine paintings with the application of sheets of metal. From 31 March 2023 the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris will be dedicating a large-scale monographic exhibition to her. In the meantime the prices of her works on the market are shooting up. The gallery is presenting paintings between 150,000 and 1 million euros for the larger formats. According to Jérôme Poggi, since the Bergman exhibition at the Perrotin gallery in New York in 2022, her prices have doubled.
The Parisian gallerist Suzanne Tarasiève passed away on 27 December 2022. And yet the brand is still present for the 2023 edition of Arco. This is because she generously left the future of the space that bears her name in the hands of her four collaborators. This unconventional woman, who was wholly dedicated to her artists, was among other things the person who crafted the recognition of the Ukranian photographer who she discovered in 2000, Boris Mikhailov (born in 1938). Until 15 January 2022 he was the subject of an exhibition at the Maison Européenne de la photographie in Paris. He is the author of multiple types of images, from the photomontage to reportage shots with a raw realism which focus on the marginalized and poorest in society in his country.
In another genre entirely the gallery is exhibiting at Arco, a series of five very large photographic works in black and white, remarkably beautiful, which seem to be inspired by the aesthetic of renaissance paintings. The polyptych dating from 1996-1997 depicts five sequences of a nude woman – his wife – leaning over water, out in nature (on sale for a little over 200,000 euros). A beautiful homage to the keen eye of Suzanne Tarasiève.
Until 26 February. www.ifema.es/arco/madrid
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