June 24, 2021

Arco, an art supermarket for museums and curators | Culture


A corridor of the current edition of Arco, last Wednesday in Madrid. In video, the essentials of Arco 2020.



They are discrete visitors, but decisive in the economy of art. The directors and curators of Spanish and international museums also circulate these days through the corridors of Arco. They are interested in some works, ask prices at stands and write names on their books. From these lists arise the works that we will see, in the future, in the halls of the art centers. For example, the Reina Sofía Museum closed yesterday the purchase of 12 pieces by artists such as Cabello / Carceller, Sara Ramo, Victoria Gil, Daniela Ortiz or Ana Buenaventura, acquired at the fair for a total value of 206,000 euros.

Like the Madrid museum, other great art institutions have attended the fair. The MoMA in New York has sent its curator of Latin American art, Argentina Ines Katzenstein. “My visit has a double dimension: to participate in an intellectual discussion with other curators and to refresh my vision by discovering artists I didn’t know,” he says. In the case of the New York museum, purchases never occur immediately. “I write names on my list, but it’s a long and very consensual process. Our procurement committee only meets twice a year,” says Katzenstein.

After passing through the fair, the proposals of the commissioners pass the filter of these committees, which decide which works are essential to complete the gaps that exist in their collections. The president of Pompidou Center in Paris, Serge Lasvignes, is another regular at the fair. “In Arco we see works that do not abound in other places, especially with regard to the Latin American scene, which we do not always know as we should,” says Lasvignes, although on the first day of the fair his interest focused on Romanian artists. The deputy director of the Parisian museum, Catherine David, also attends the fair with the mission of weighing possible additions to her collection. “I do not come with the intention of buying at all costs, but to expand our knowledge and discover works that are not in the top 50. Arco has that dimension. It is a fair model different from that of Art Basel Y Frieze, which has contributed to the development of contemporary art in Spain. “

'Untitled' (1994), the work of CabelloCarceller bought yesterday by the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, a sculpture made with used jeans, socks and foam.


‘Untitled’ (1994), the work of Cabello / Carceller bought yesterday by the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, a sculpture made with used jeans, socks and foam.

For his part, Cuauhtémoc Medina, chief curator of the University Museum of Contemporary Art of Mexico, you will not buy anything in this edition, but you have done a survey of names for future exhibitions. “For example, it was at this fair where I discovered the work of Lara Almarcegui, whom I then invited to participate in the Liverpool Biennial,” he recalls. Medina also acquired different works at Arco when he was curator of Latin American art at Tate Modern. Fernando Bryce’s work in his collection, Archive Studies (2005), It was bought after being discovered at the Madrid fair.

For his part, the director of MacbaFerran Barenblit, has been attending this event since 1995. “We do not buy directly in Arco, but from Arco. For a museum, it is essential to go to the fairs to take the market temperature, although then we work with great serenity. We never make compulsory purchases, “he says. His predecessor in that position, Bartomeu Marí, who today directs the Lima Art Museum, states that the interval between the discovery of a work in a stand of its purchase “varies greatly, depending on how accessible or inaccessible it is.”

According to the gallery owners present at the fair, for large purchases, a minimum of one year must be counted, unless the acquisition has been handled before. “It is a slow process, because the purchasing committees meet in a spaced way. Institutional sales represent a smaller percentage than private collections, but they give us great visibility,” says Claudia Llanza, of the gallery Travesía Cuatro, which has processed the sale of Sara Ramo’s work to Reina Sofía. The gallery owner Elba Benítez, who talked at the fair about a work by Carlos Bunga with the director of Porto Serralves Museum, Philippe Vergne, believes that these types of visitors are key to building the career of their artists. “Sometimes, long-term rewards are more important, even if there are no immediate sales.” Bunga will exhibit this year in Toronto, Vienna and London. In all cases, the curators of these samples discovered their work at a fair.

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