Each fair has its own speciality. Some, like Frieze in London, New York and Los Angeles, are oriented towards novelties that tend to be very on trend. Art Basel in Switzerland and now Miami primarily displays the “blockbusters” of contemporary art across all strata of the market.
Arco in Madrid is less easy to define because it encapsulates a hybrid proposition. The Spanish fair, which is also a major cultural event for the country, is running until 27 February and its offerings could be summed up as being regularly unexpected and presenting opportunities.
This year it assembles 185 galleries as opposed to 210 pre-Covid. “The art trade is resilient, but it brings with it high risks. We are aware of the difficulties of this period and have therefore offered a 15% reduction in participation fees for our exhibitors. In response, this year I’m noting the presence of strong and bold pieces. The galleries are starting to feel confident again,” explains Maribel Lopez, director of Arco (see here an other interview of Maribel Lopez)
Fortunes from Latin America
For some years now the site of Madrid has had a powerful draw due to the fact that – thanks to an entire arsenal of regulations – it has become a European hub for numerous fortunes from Latin America. This state of affairs is one of the justifications, for example, for the recent installation of Berlin’s Carlier-Gebauer gallery in the Spanish capital.
On its new premises but also at its booth at Arco they are exhibiting one of the superstars of global sculpture, Thomas Schutte (born in 1954). Moma plans to stage a retrospective of his work in 2024. The record price at auction for this artist who regularly works with depictions of figures that are often grotesque or even monstrous goes up to 4.7 million euros for a bronze.
Marie Blanche Carlier
At Carlier-Gebauer the terracotta sculptures are on sale from 250,000 euros. But above all, and very kindly, the German artist has maintained that the lithographs depicting heads with these characters’ expressions are presented for 3000 euros each (for editions of 35 copies). This is the kind of sum usually requested for works by an artist who is just starting out. They seem to be inspired by the contorted sculptures of Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) and according to the director of the gallery, Marie-Blanche Carlier, they refer to certain corrupt contemporary political staff.
The Albarran-Bourdais gallery set up premises in Spain four years ago. During the Arco week they opened one of the largest gallery spaces in Madrid: 680m2 in an old Loewe leather workshop.
At Arco they are presenting, among others, the work of the French artist who died on 14 July last year, Christian Boltanski (1944-2021), with a piece composed of photographs and lights (See here the homage to Christian Boltanski in Judith Benhamou Reports). It was also at the Albarran-Bourdais space on the island of Minorca that Boltanski staged his final exhibition in 2021. On 13 March the St Petersburg Manege will be staging the first posthumous exhibition on him: “Esprits”.
One of the leading exhibitions currently on display at Madrid’s galleries is the one dedicated to the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson (born in 1967) at Elvira Gonzalez (See here a report about Olafur Eliasson at Tate and here a report about Olafur Eliasson in Versailles).
The missing left brain
The pieces which play, as usual, with light and illusions are on sale for between 55,000 and 320,000 euros and feature, among other things, an extraordinary kaleidoscopic projection, “The Missing Left Brain”, from 2022 which uses lenses and other optical instruments to create colourful compositions. Elvira Gonzalez and the Berlin-based Neugerriemschneider gallery have collaborated to jointly showcase Eliasson at Arco.
Arco is able to bridge the large gap between the classics and the younger generation.
In the range of modern art references, the Lelong gallery is displaying a large surrealist canvas by Joan Miro, among others, which looks like a black and white drawing. He started it at the beginning of the Second World War and didn’t complete it until 1960. Its gossamer lines feature stars and other organic forms characteristic of Miro. “The Awakening of Madame Bou-Bou at Dawn”, another canvas which is as discreet as it is remarkable, is on sale for 2.6 million euros.
At the other end of the spectrum of creative chronology, Société gallery from Berlin is unveiling the new work from a young New York artist who has attracted attention, Trisha Baga (born in 1985). She has been the subject of exhibitions at the Whitney Museum in New York and the Hangar Bicocca in Turin. Her compositions are often inspired by films.
Inspired by a karaoke of George Michael’s song
She has made a deliberately kitsch painting based on a still from a karaoke video accompanying a song by George Michael. We see a sunset over a beach featuring the word: “please”. The painting had already sold for 28,000 euros when the fair opened. According to Julia Ballantyne-Way from Société, her prices have increased by 30% over the past three years or so. Despite the Covid crisis there is still a strong market for young visual artists with the greatest presence internationally.
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