Sales were slow but steady at the 39th edition of this refreshing fair focusing on Spain and Latin America.
In the bright sunshine, ARCO braved the coronavirus, which everybody was talking about, in late February. It would have taken more than that to curb the enthusiasm of the 93,000 people who, according to the organisers, visited the 209 stands of this 39th edition (74,580 at the FIAC in 2019). The event was marked by the arrival at its head of the energetic Maribel Lopez, Carlos Urroz's assistant and successor, himself one of the few exceptions in the history of a fair that has always been headed by women. ARCO wants to offer a modern image in a still-traditional monarchy. For example, the exhibition-sale "It's just a Matter of Time", organised by artist Alejandro Cesarco and curator Mason Leaver-Yap, showcased 16 creators more or less reflecting the world of the minimalist conceptual Cuban artist Félix González-Torres. It included an astonishing video installation by Maria Eichhorn presented by Barbara Weiss. Upon request, a young projectionist would show the film of your choice on a wall from a list of very suggestive names. Those worried about moral order can rest assured: the films we saw were artistically erotic and projected behind a partition wall. The whole thing costs €140,000, including the projector.
A window on Latin America
Make no mistake: ARCO, the showcase of Spanish galleries, is also a wonderful window on Latin America, whence many exhibitors, artists and visitors come. "It's a refreshing fair,” says Patricia Marshall, a consultant who works for a major Mexican collector. “There aren't the usual suspects. The content focuses on Spain and South America and prices aren’t excessive. You can discover little-known Spanish artists from the Tàpies movement." This year ARCO offered a palette ranging from modern art, with a beautiful 1903 drawing of a shepherd by Picasso from Barcelona’s Domenech Gallery (€250,000), to recent work (2020) for the fair by Enrique Ramirez, nominated for the next Marcel Duchamp Prize, at Michel Rein's. The same Paris gallery owner presented a complex installation by Dora García shown in 2007 at the Skulptur Projekte Münster, Germany. Thaddaeus Ropac exhibited a very important piece, a folded metal wall sculpture by Rauschenberg, at $1.2M... "The galleries are making a big effort to hang," says Ms Marshall. "The public is receptive. I met some people from Mexico who are opening a foundation an hour outside of Mexico City. The fair, which focuses on Latin America, attracts groups of patrons. It's also very smart to award prizes to collectors who aren't the ones you know by heart."
What about sales?
The Fundación Helga de Alvear has fallen for works by Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Bell, Albrecht Schnider, Ania Soliman, Miguel Ángel Campano, Maria Droc, Vera Chaves Barcellos, David Claerbout, Tobias Rehberger and Etel Adnan. Sales were steady but, some noted, somewhat slow. Lelong & Co, a pillar of the fair, sold works by Chillida, Miró and a new tapestry by Plensa, while a major collector with a museum in Miami ogled the Kiki Smith solo show at the same stand.