BUENOS AIRES—The ArteBA art fair notched record figures for display space, attendance and sales in its 16th edition that ran from May 18-22.
The 193,700-square-foot space occupied by the fair at the La Rural exhibition center, Buenos Aires, hosted 76 galleries from 11 countries and counted more than 110,000 visitors, up from about 100,000 last year. Organizers do not have an official tally of overall sales. They point out, however, that the event got off to a very strong start and, according to reported estimates, more than $3 million worth of artworks found buyers the first day—with approximately 500 works changing hands overall.
Natalio Povarché, director of the local gallery Rubbers Internacional, called this the fair’s best year. “Everyone sold this year,” he told ARTnewsletter. Rubbers alone did more than $350,000 in business, selling two watercolors by Argentinian artist Alejandro Xul Solar, eight paintings by Antonio Seguí and two by Luís Felipe Noé.
In contrast with previous years, contemporary pieces took precedence over historical works, with much interest centered on the “Barrio Joven”—16 stands chosen for their originality, risk and experimentation—where top prices were limited to $1,300.
Norma Quarrato, director of Palatina, told ARTnewsletter the gallery’s top sale was a sculpture by Mariano Cornejo, which went for around $13,000. It was sold, along with two collages by Cornejo, on the first day of the fair. Other sales included two pieces each by Gian Paolo Minelli and Leandro Comba. The gallery also sold several works on paper by José Gurvich, the highest of which was priced at $5,000.
Notes Dearth of ‘Big U.S. Buyers’
Still, several big-ticket pieces by major artists went unsold, says Quarrato. Palatina failed to find buyers either for a work by famous Argentinian artist Antonio Berni that was listed at $70,000, or for a work by Alicia Penalba, estimated to bring $100,000. “There were not many big sales,” Quarrato told ARTnewsletter. “The big U.S. buyers were missing.”
Yet Kichi Van Riel, one of the third-generation directors of the family-run Galeria Van Riel, describes this year’s fair as “wonderful. It has never been as good as this year. Every one of our artists has sold.”
Van Riel reports that the gallery sold approximately 20 works, including three pieces by Eduardo Stupia to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, for a total of $6,000. (A curator for MoMA said the museum could not confirm the acquisitions.)
The front-runner among the gallery’s sales was a 1960s painting, by local artist Kenneth Kemble, which went for $25,000, while a work by Sarah Grilo fetched $15,000.
Another feature of the fair was its strong international flavor, although the foreigners were mainly from elsewhere in Latin America. Lucia de la Puente, director of the eponymous Peruvian gallery, participating for the first time, said that “we didn’t sell as much as we expected.”
In general “the public was more focused on Argentinian art,” and foreign galleries that had included works by Argentinian artists did better, the gallerist reports.
The numerous acquisitions by international museums were strong points of the fair and especially for the Ruth Benzacar gallery, which sold its most important piece, Todo vale-colores primarios y secundarios llevados a blanco, by Alejandro Puente, with a list price of $120,000, to MoMA.
Solana Molina, codirector of the gallery, estimates that 80 percent of works at its stand found buyers—around 10 or 11 pieces, including two video installations by Liliana Porter, each with a list price of $20,000.
These fell to New York’s El Museo del Barrio and the Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA), the latter under the matching funds program of the Zurich Financial Services Group, which donated as much as $5,000 to each of five Argentinian museums to fund half the price of acquisitions.