ARCO Madrid, Spain’s Biggest Art Fair, Saw Steady Sales Thanks to Lower Prices and an Influx of Latin American Collectors

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ARCO Madrid, the leading fair in the Spanish-speaking art world, opened on Wednesday for its 42nd edition with pre-pandemic levels of collector attendance and exhibitor numbers. Groups of curious prospective art buyers, primarily from Europe and Latin America, bustled among the aisles of the IFEMA conference center. The overall vibe was energetic and positive, and collectors and art lovers were seen engaging in deep conversations with gallerists at booths.

While some galleries—particularly the Spanish ones—had a successful opening in terms of sales, the high level of enthusiasm did not all translate into strong sales for every gallery right out of the gate, especially those presenting works that were made by unfamiliar artists and were more conceptual.

Although some gallerists jokingly agreed that “we need to sell more,” others did not seem to be too bothered by the slow moving sales. ARCO Madrid typically has a different pace to other fairs like Art Basel or Frieze, they said, adding that it was not uncommon to sell out the booth as much as two weeks after the fair had closed. Hence, they treated this fair as a meeting place and a platform for collectors and industry professionals such as curators and museum directors to discover new names and ideas.

Such was particularly true for Italian mega-collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, who has been a regular at ARCO Madrid for more than three decades, and has established a strong bond with the Spainish capital. She set up the Fundación Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (FSRR Madrid) in 2017, and earlier in the week received an honor from Queen Sofia of Spain at the Ibero-American Patronage Awards.

“It’s always a big fair. It always features interesting artists from Spain and Latin American countries,” said the president and founder of Turin’s Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. “It’s a good balance between the established galleries and some younger ones, as well as galleries from Latin American countries which you don’t see so many at other fairs in Europe.”

This year’s ARCO Madrid presents 211 galleries from 36 countries, where 71—or 34 percent of them—were Spanish galleries. Latin American galleries particularly from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru accounted for 21 percent of the international participation.

While the fair’s scale has returned to its pre-pandemic level as Covid restrictions have eased in Spain, the number of collectors attending via the fair’s long-running international buyers and special guests program was also the largest to date, noted fair director Maribel López.

“Madrid is in a very good moment right now. It has good energy. Many Latin American collectors have moved to Madrid in recent years. It’s still rather inexpensive compared to other places in Europe,” López told Artnet News, adding that the fair has managed to maintain its reputation as a platform for discovery thanks to its relatively low fees compared to other top fairs in the region, allowing galleries to be more ambitious with their presentations and showcase more experimental works.

Courtesy Arco Madrid.

Courtesy Arco Madrid.

The politically-charged video installation by Jonas Englert at Galerie Anita Beckers from Frankfurt (which shared the booth with Galerie Kornfeld from Berlin), for example, was one that attracted a lot of interest. The complex work reflecting on how political events were staged with references to found images and footage sold one edition for €25,000 ($26,373). London-based gallery Hollybush Gardens presented a series of ceramics sculptures by the Palestinian-born, Berlin-based Jumana Manna in the curated “The Mediterranean: A Round Sea” section. Among the works on show priced between £5,000 ($5,970) and £30,000 ($35,818), at least three were sold to institutions in Spain, Italy, and Germany.

Other galleries that reported sales included Perrotin, which sold three paintings by Spanish artist Cristina BanBan, each for $90,000, and the work by Elmgreen & Dragset in the range of $90,000 to $100,000. David Zwirner, which made its debut at the fair this year, sold the late Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz’s (1999) to an institution in Spain, and multiple works by Marcel Dzama, Oscar Murillo, and rising market star, Brazilian painter Lucas Arruda. Arruda is also having his solo show presented by the Fundación Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Madrid and curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Ateneo de Madrid. The gallery did not reveal the price but Arruda’s current auction record stands at $487,660, achieved in 2020 at a Phillips Hong Kong sale in association with Poly Auction.

First-time exhibitor Karen Huber from Mexico featured in the “Never the Same. Latin American Art” section, nearly sold out their solo booth of Mexican painter Ana Segovia, whose works were priced between €5,000 ($5,276) to €50,000 ($52,760).

Spanish gallery Carolina Alarcon also reported success, selling works priced between €30,000 ($31,660) to €40,000 ($42,213) by each of the 15 artists the gallery has brought to the fair, including works by the Jerez-born artist Cristina Mejías, who was awarded the XVI illy Sustain Art Award. The artist is also represented by Rodríguez Gallery from Poland.

“The feeling is great this year after the pandemic. People can travel now and they are happy and optimistic. The collectors this year are incredible,” Alarcon told Artnet News.

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