It’s late February which means we are off to Madrid, already we have spent all month practicing Spanish. The world’s most heavily attended art fair is ARCOmadrid, with more than 90,000 visitors compared for instance to Art Basel with “only” 70,000. It remains a critical bridge between two continents: Europe and the America’s.
What is great about going to Madrid is being able to see artists who are underrepresented in Western Europe and the US (because they are often overlooked in the international scene). In 2017, as some of the heat of the contemporary art market seems to cool down, it is time to start paying attention to the artists who deserve greater recognition, including those of Latin America. It is also a moment to revisit the 80’s generation and expand our idea of what curator/writer/theorist Douglas Crimp coined “The Pictures Generation” in his landmark 1977 exhibition “Pictures” at Artist Space. Crimp and Lynne Cooke recently co-curated the exhibition “Mixed Use Manhattan” at Reina Sofia in Madrid, bringing these New York artists to a Spanish audience. Now it is time to flip the table and bring the 80’s Spanish artists to a global audience. You can see many at ARCO such as Marisa Gonzalez, Antoni Miraldi, Paloma Navares, Alberto Porta, and others.
This is the 36th edition of ARCOmadrid making it one of the world’s oldest fairs. Currently, there is a wave in the art world to focus on Ibero-America. ARCO is fueling that wave by hosting Argentina this year. It is not only Argentine galleries but also Argentine artists that will be in the spotlight. Longtime stalwart powerhouse gallery, Esther Schipper, is presenting Tomás Saraceno who is among the biggest names from there. Others like Hauser & Wirth show Guillermo Kuitca. While Julio Le Parc (who just had an amazing retrospective at PAMM Miami) is presented by both Leon Tovar Gallery and Galeria Nara Roesler. These are the booths that are sure to be knockouts.
Some of the more interesting booths at ARCO will also present some of the finalists of the illy sustainArt Prize including our friend the brilliant Mexican-born Berlin-based artist/thinker/theorist/writer Julieta Aranda at mor charpentier, William Cardova at 80m2 Livia Benavides, and Mexican-born Mariana Castillo Deball presented by Barbara Wien.
Also visit our friends at Collectors Agenda (booth R13 in the publications section) where you can pick up their special ARCO edition of The Collectors Chronicle, which contains an interview with Carlos Urroz, the director of ARCOmadrid as well as one with rising-star artist Anna-Sophie Berger. By the way, you’ll find their Picks for Madrid in our app.
Simultaneous to the fair, three Latin American art collections will be exhibited throughout the city: the Isabel and Agustin Coppel Collection at the Fundación Banco Santander, the Hochschild Collection at Sala Alcalá 31 and the Constantini Collection at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. It is worth seeing all three, but we suggest, see the Coppel Collection first.
Often our first stop is the Reina Sofia, which is one of the finest contemporary art museums in the world. It is hosting the exhibition of Bruce Conner, “It’s All True,” which is needed now more than ever in this post-truth moment of very fake news. Conner’s epic video of the atomic bomb test at the Bikini-Atoll remains arresting, incredibly poignant and haunting. We never miss a chance to see the Prado and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, two museums that remind us that Velasquez, Goya, and Picasso were all Spanish (arguably the greatest painters of all time).
The Madrid gallery scene was built up by four founding Grande Dames: Helga de Alvear, Juana de Aizpuru, Moisés Pérez de Albéniz and Elvira González. All of who, year after year have the front entrance and largest booths at ARCO, and mount incredible exhibitions at their spaces in the city during the fair.
Helga de Alvear presents Julian Rosefeldt an artist based in our very own home-town Berlin. The exhibition “Deep Gold” is a play on the term “golden age” and revisits a 2014 work by Rosefeldt that itself is part of a larger project where six artists reimagined scenes from the iconic Spanish-Mexican filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s 1930 film, L’age d'Or. If you have not seen the Buñuel film, stop everything and immediately watch it.
This year Moisés Pérez de Albéniz goes big by mounting a new exhibition of Antoni Muntadas, who is a giant among artists born in Spain and has lived in the US since 1971. He is overlooked outside of the Spanish-speaking dialog, as an example, he has only appeared six times in Artforum and is rarely featured in US exhibitions. His last major show was five years ago at the Bronx museum; he is much in need of fresh new attention.
Juana de Aizpuru is exhibiting Madrid-based Cristina Lucas, who is from a much younger generation and although like her older compatriots (Muntadas and Fragateiro) has mostly been exhibited in the Spanish-speaking world with a few exceptions.
Heinrich Erhardt is known for bringing German post-war art to Madrid and will show Herbert Brandl. Brandl rose to prominence in the mid 80’s and has managed to reinvent his practice over the past 30 years. We look forward to his show.
Maisterravalbuena is among the hottest young contemporary galleries in the city and follows the trend among new art dealers by bringing forward older generation artists. They are showing Néstor Sanmiguel Diest who was born in 1949. This is a power move of a young gallery and leaves it up to the viewer to understand how the work relates to the rest of the gallery’s program.
Parra & Romero is very much the gallery of note in the contemporary art dialog in Spain. Besides their Madrid venue, they established a space in Ibiza to bring some of the hottest contemporary artists to the White Island. Their upcoming show of Philippe Decrauzat is sure to garner a lot of critical attention.
Lastly, we want to mention Travesia Cuatro who brings the current It Girl of the contemporary art world, Donna Huanca, to Spain. We take a lot of joy in this because we have been following Huanca’s work since she was included in a wonderful small summer group show called “Paging Yolanda” at Johannes Vogt Gallery New York in which seven young artists all chose each other. It is amazing to realize how often artists make the best curators (even if they choose their friends) as all seven artists have gone to tremendous success. Huanca has recently skyrocketed, she had a knock out show at Peres Projects in Berlin, was the first performance-based work at the Zabludowicz Collection in London and can currently be seen at the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin.
Madrid is also the city that seduced Francis Bacon (he loved Velasquez more than any artist) it is where he spent the last years of his life and died in relative solitude. The great Prado was one of his two last loves. His other last lover, José Capelo Blanco was a young Spaniard whose fresh passion for art inspired Bacon to paint the diptych J. C. B. in 1991. The portrait was in a private collection in Madrid but stolen in a high profile art crime, along with other Bacon paintings, which are still missing.
Although it is not possible to see the Bacon paintings, Bacon’s favorite Madrid haunts are still very much a part of the art scene. At least one ARCO after-party will be held at Bar Cock where Bacon would order one Dry Martini after another and top it all off with a bottle or two of Champagne. To those uninitiated, the Madrid “after-party” does not start till after midnight since dinner start way after 9 pm (so don’t come too early).
You can catch us at La Trainera; it is a gem of the city, one of the finest seafood restaurants we have been to and of course a favorite of the proper dandy, Francis Bacon.
– Justin Polera