MADRID—This year’s edition of ARCO (Feb. 15–19), Spain’s annual international contemporary art fair, was once again a solid, well-organized event, featuring top-flight galleries. ARCO is, by far, the art fair with the highest number of visitors, with organizers reporting attendance of over 150,000 for the 31st edition this year, roughly even with the number reported at last year’s fair.
Exhibitors were obviously content, and sales figures were indeed higher than in 2011, according to the fair organizers, Institución Ferial de Madrid (IFEMA). Institutions traditionally buy at ARCO, however, this year—with the Spanish economy being so weak—there were less of these sales as compared with other years. Nevertheless, the overall mood was upbeat.
Düsseldorf gallerist Hans Mayer said: “Everything is fine, which includes a very professional organization. A good public from all over Europe comes to ARCO, and they also buy. We reached break-even point on day two.”
Among the notable works featured on Mayer’s stand was a small but intriguing Tony Oursler: an irregular biotic form placed in front of a beamer unit that projected ten different videos onto it, creating a kind of new visual multiverse (reserved at $90,000).
At Madrid gallery Helga de Alvear’s stand, dioramic boxes by Marcel Dzama stood out. Inside, on several puppet-home floors, were white, dancing human figures clad in gray, black and brown. One box sold for $60,000. Dzama was one of five artists to win an award at the fair.
The Country of Honor for 2012 was the Netherlands. Asian art was less prominent, with the exception of a stand or two, including that of Michael Schultz (Berlin, Beijing and Seoul), which featured multi-layered light boxes with monochrome woodland scenes by Korean artist Bong Chae Son. Two were sold for €25,000 ($33,000). He also sold works by SEO, which were priced at €46,000 ($60,000), and Cornelia Schleime, priced at €33,000 ($44,560). The gallery also sold a small Andy Warhol Dollar Sign on canvas for €650,000 ($858,000) to a private collector in Northern Germany. Said Schultz: “The spacious layout of the fair is great. Makes the visitors feel good. And they do buy, too.”
After Spain, which is by far the most prominent country represented at the fair, came Germany, with around 30 galleries exhibiting. The fair counted a total of 220 galleries from 30 countries.
Fair managers also aim to incorporate a number of young up and coming galleries with intriguing programs, such as the Post Box Gallery from London and Alfredo Viñas from Málaga. The latter offered small works—such as a broadly smiling gray potato by Javier Calleja—at prices ranging from $800/1,500, and about a dozen were sold.
Top galleries from Austria were in attendance, including Galerie Nächst St. Stephan/Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Ernst Hilger, Georg Kargl and Krinzinger. Schwarzwälder was pleased with the fair, saying, “we have sales every single day.” Hilger sold three works by Nives Widauer at €3,000 ($3,900) each, and a mock-military rucksack by Iranian-born artist Sara Rahbar, for €18,000 ($23,760). Georg Kargl said he sold several works by Muntean & Rosenblum for €25,000 ($33,000) each.
There were a number of Russian galleries in attendance, including Anna Nova from St. Petersburg, who featured destroyed tiled walls from house-demolition sites by Alexander Dashevsky.