ARCO wants to recover the party air

The Greek work of Antoni Tàpies in one of the rooms belonging to the International Contemporary Art Festival, ARCO, on July 6, 2021, in Madrid, (Spain) / EP

The gallery owners who attend the 40th edition of the fair move between the fear of emptiness and the illusion of a quick comeback in the market

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A cap of twisted wires, the kind that wrap around the cork of champagne bottles, is lying on the floor. This piece, the work of the Turkish artist duo mentalKLINIK, is a metaphor for the end of the feast of savage capitalism and is on display at ARCO, the contemporary art fair that opens tomorrow. Pedro Gorke, from the Sabrina Amrani gallery, explains that the sculpture illustrates the “end of excess and abundance” of the society of opulence. This denunciation of hyper-consumerism is the specter that precisely wants to scare away the art market. Any gallery owner who attends confesses that their expectations move between fear and the promise of a speedy recovery. The unfortunate year of the coronavirus remains ingrained in the unconscious.

Maribel López, director of ARCO, is convinced that a new edition begins today that will mark a before and after. “It will be the first major contemporary art fair in Spain in coexistence with the pandemic”, López sentence. In a disastrous year like 2020, the sector wants to send the message that normality is near.

One of the representations that has aroused the most curiosity is Agustín de Ibarrola’s ‘Guernica’, a work that has not been known for decades and that lands in ARCO with all the blessings of the organization. José de la Mano, owner of the gallery of the same name, moved Rome with Santiago until he found the work. After reviewing an old catalog, he knew that the Basque artist had worked with geometry in black and white in the 1970s. He was right: the artist was inspired by the ‘Guernica’ to sign ten panels that appeared in his studio.

“We called the family and at first they told us that Ibarrola had no work of this type. Two weeks later they told us that they did, they told us that when the arrival of ‘Guernica’ to Spain was negotiated, in the Basque Country there was a whole movement in favor of the mythical painting remaining in the Basque Country. When in 1981 the work was installed in the Casón del Buen Retiro in Madrid, with the Civil Guard escorting the assembly, Agustín closed the fight and kept the mural, ”says De la Mano. Public institutions and private collectors have been interested in the work, the price of which the gallery owner does not release a pledge. “If a public entity acquires it, it will end up being known by the transparency law, but in the meantime individuals do not want it that way.”

Time transience

The Marlborough gallery attends the Madrid appointment with pieces by Luis Gordillo, Juan Genovés, Alfonso Albacete, Juan Navarro and Abraham Lacalle, among others. «New this year is a piece by an American artist named Tony Matelli. She is the goddess Hera and it is a work that works with the passage of time “, argues Claudia Manzano. Watermelon slices rest on the sculpture, with classical workmanship, expressing the perishable condition of things. «We have high expectations in this edition. The idea is to take the pulse of the art market. There are signs of life. The price of the works exhibited in Marlborough ranges between 5,000 and 175,000 euros, the price of a Genovés.

Juana de Aizpuru is an institution of the fair. He conceived the creation of ARCO, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary, although Ifema has postponed the celebration for better times. Apart from celebrities such as García Rodero or Markus Oehlen whose work is listed through the roof, this year the gallery has opened a store of affordable pieces, from old catalogs at five euros to graphic works at 100.

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