ARCOmadrid 2020

Life is Art

02/25/2020 · By Rosa Alvares
arcomadrid openning
Last year, ARCOmadrid was visited by over 100,000 people. © ARCOmadrid

In its 38 years of life, the International Contemporary Art Fair ARCOmadrid has become a must-visit event for collectors and art lovers from around the world. Its secret? An impeccable selection of art galleries and an inspiring program curated to bring the most transformative art closer to all audiences. 

Apparently, baron Alain de Rothchild once bought a watercolour by Picasso as a gift for some friends. When the gallery owner wrapped the piece and offered him to walk him to his car, the millionaire said it would not be necessary because he intended to get the underground back home. Could anyone imagine that ordinary-looking man, travelling like the rest of mortals in public transport, carrying such a valuable object under his arm? In the world of art, it is necessary to shed many clichés and overcome shyness when it comes to entering an art gallery to enjoy the art on display and, if desired, with no pressure, buy some. Because, as one of Dora García’s most famous pieces claims: “art is for everyone, but only an elite is aware of it.”

Throughout its history, one of the accomplishments of the International Contemporary Art Fair ARCOmadrid, which this year is being held from 26 February to 1 March at IFEMA (Madrid), has been showing collectors and art lovers in general that art is not alien to our lives — on the contrary, it is, or should be, present in our everyday experience. If having a small library at home is common, why shouldn’t hanging original artwork on our walls be the same? Is, by any chance, spending the afternoon in an art gallery odder than buying tickets to go to the cinema or to the theatre? “One of the missions of an art fair is precisely to serve as a connection point between art and citizens who sometimes feel disconnected from contemporary art,” says ARCOmadrid’s director Maribel López. “I think we fulfil a social function consisting in bringing art closer to whoever wants to discover it, even if they’re not experts,” she continues. Since there is nothing better than leading by example, for the first time in its history the fair will offer guided tours for 20 euros to help visitors overcome that feeling of strangeness before less conventional art. 

“One of the missions of an art fair is precisely to serve as a connection point between art and citizens who sometimes feel disconnected from contemporary art”

Art for Everyone

ARCOmadrid hasn’t become one of the most relevant contemporary art events in the world by chance. Throughout its 38 years of history, it has been adept at combining the presence of the best national and international galleries in the general program with the participation of highly interesting artists in the curated sections. “Part of the success comes from the fact that we are present in all layers, from emergent spaces to the most established and renowned ones. Art galleries get involved with ARCO when it comes to presenting their spaces and making the fair something unique, so that travelling to Madrid to see each other becomes something unlike travelling to any other fair around the world,” says López. 

The high expectations will again be met in this edition. Some of the most prestigious Spanish art galleries will be showing their proposals, including Helga de Alvear, Marlborough, La Caja Negra, Guillermo de Osma, Sabrina Amrani, and Juana de Aizpuru. On the other hand, the Dialogues section, curated by Agustín Pérez Rubio and Lucía Sanromán, will analyse contemporary art in a meeting with two artists, paying special attention to art practices in Latin America, and bringing together the work of artists of different generations. Opening, curated by Tiago de Abreu Pinto y Övül Ö. Durmusoglu, will again this year become a space for discovering new art from international young galleries. A special section in this edition is It’s Just a Matter of Time, which centres on Félix González-Torres, a Cuban artist who died of AIDS in the nineties and who lent his work an open meaning for the spectator. 

Encouraging Art Buying

But not everything is about culture and emotions: business also occupies an outstanding place, since ARCOmadrid accounts for a fair share of the annual sales of contemporary art in Spain. “It can’t be overlooked that a fair is a marketplace. If we didn’t sell, we wouldn’t exist,” López acknowledges. “Very prestigious galleries take part in the fair to sell the work of their artists, and museums and high-profile public and private institutions come because they have an interest in them. Our collector’s program is very strong because it is something necessary. In fact, we’re working on how to encourage people to buy art.” To that end, three years ago the project #MECOMPROUNAOBRA (I’m buying a work of art) was created to allow people to purchase pieces for less than 2,020 euros. In that sense, ARCO offers a very high standard of quality, selling pieces from artists already present in important collections, but also more affordable art gems. Moreover, this year it is possible to buy art online and pick it up at the fair. “It’s a way to overcome that shyness of entering a gallery and buy art,” López points out.

Indeed, there’s no need to be baron Alain de Rothschild to have a go at collecting art. “Having a large collection is one thing and enjoying a piece of art at home that you’ve connected with in an art gallery quite another. The truth is that not everyone has money to spend on art, but there are many ways to do it, like buying art from emerging artists, from people of the same generation that speak the same language… Being ARCO’s director, I wish I can express how valuable it is for art to become part of our lives and our futures,” López concludes.  

Proyectos Ultravioleta receives the 1st Iberia Dialogues Award

As part of the 39th edition of ARCOmadrid, the 1st Iberia Dialogues Award aims to recognize the best stands featured in the Dialogues program as proof of the airline's commitment to the dissemination of talent and culture.

After assessing the proposals of the ten galleries that entered the competition, the jury, formed by Ferrán Barenblit (director of MACBA, Barcelona) and Andrea Pacheco (A Chilean-Spanish independent curator), has given the award to Proyectos Ultravioleta gallery, run by Stefan Benchoam.

Originally from Guatemala, the gallery proposes a dialogue between the work of Guatemalan artists Hellen Ascoli and Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, in which a series of socio-cultural issues regarding the Central American country, such as civil war and indigenous peoples, are addressed through various artistic disciplines, including sculpture, performance, drawing, textile art, and sound art.

In addition to this award, this year Iberia presents Espacio Talento a Bordo, a 360 square-metre space located in the hallway connecting the fair’s Halls 7 and 9 for visitors to take a fully inspired break.

  • In its 39th edition, ARCOmadrid will host 209 galleries (six more than last year), 171 of which are included in the general program. 67 percent are international galleries.
  • 22 percent of the ARCO 2020 program is dedicated to Latin America. Brazil and Argentina are the countries with more galleries and artists.
  • Among the 70 Spanish galleries —33 percent of the total— are spaces from cities not as common as Madrid or Barcelona. Visitors will find Ángeles Baños, from Badajoz; ATM from Gijón; Art Nine from Murcia; and Nordés, from Santiago de Compostela. Next to them there will be other renowned galleries such as PM8 from Vigo and L21 from Palma de Mallorca.
  • 40 percent of gallery owners (about 100 spaces) will present one or two artists maximum, allowing visitors to examine their work more closely. Among the projects devoted to a single artist are Ai Weiwei, Alfredo Jaar, Kiki Smith, Aurelia Muñoz, Veluspa Jarpa, Sara Ramo, and Mario Merz.
  • Artists Forum, a space created in collaboration with the Reina Sofía Museum, will allow visitors to hear the opinions of leading creators such as Jaume Plensa, Eli Cortiñas, Ignasi Aballí, Anthony McCall, Mariela Scafatti, and Daniel Canogar.
  • In this edition, ARCOmadrid will increase the number of female artists, including a stand dedicated to Spanish artists whose work hasn’t been shown in previous editions.