Spain’s contemporary art fair, ARCO, ended last month with around 160,000 visitors in five days, compared with 142,000 last year. Young people came to spend the day at the huge fair hangars outside Madrid, picnicking in the aisles, thronging the large bookshop area, popping into the temporary out stations mounted by Spain’s public and foundation galleries, and listening to the excellent lecture series on the German contemporary art scene.
A huge throng does not guarantee sales, however, and for the last two years ARCO has suffered badly from the recession. This time a majority of dealers interviewed by The Art Newspaper on the third day of the fair had made sales and there was a general mood of optimism. Many of the purchases were by institutions, however, and a few dealers complained that the market was inward-looking. Rosina Gomez Baez, the fair’s organiser for the last ten years and a highly professional marketing expert, says: “The greatest difficulty is to get collecting going in Spain... at Basel they do not have to worry about this; in central Europe collecting is well developed”.
What the dealers said
Pierre Levai, Marlborough Galleries “We have done good business; we have sold to a Spaniard, an Italian and a Portuguese.”
Katherine Thieck, Galerie de France, Paris “The artist love showing in Madrid because they know it’s a great public. We have already covered our costs.”
Douglas Baxter, PaceWildenstein, New York “This is our third year and the fair is a bit more international again, as it was in the late Eighties. Spaniards definitely respond to paint. We have sold a few small things to Spaniards and Latin Americans so far.”
Monika Sprüth and Philomena Magers Kunsthandel, Philomena Magers, Cologne “We would not have come here if we had not been invited, but we will be coming back. We have just sold a Gerhard Merz and a Rosemarie Trockel in the DM60,000-100,000 price range.”
Ulrich Gebauer, Gebauer Gallery, Berlin “The public is the best thing. Lots of curators from Spain, France and Portugal have come round, and a DM7,000 by Michel François piece has been bought by the ARCO Foundation for the museum in Santiago
Tom Lighton, Waddington, London “This is our sixth year and we have had the best sales for two or three years...one of the reasons we come here is for the connections with the Latin American market.”
Soledad Lorenzo, Soledad Lorenzo Gallery, Madrid “It would be better if less people came, but ARCO has a national cultural role that other fairs do not have.”
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'More than a hint of optimism at ARCO'