A slow sales pace, but more time and space with customers: the new normal for Arco | Culture


In the edition of Arco de la pandemia there are fewer people, fewer galleries, but with more space, and very wide corridors. The sales of the first three days of the fair, those dedicated exclusively to professionals, have been marked by the slow pace that is perceived at the fair, according to a dozen gallery owners consulted. They have not gone bad, they conclude. Or at least they have gone better than they expected for a very particular appointment, the first of the international contemporary art circuit that has been held after more than a year of cancellations. There are still no official data, only those of institutions such as the Community of Madrid, which has spent 130,000 euros; the Reina Sofía Museum, 300,000; and the Fine Arts of Bilbao which has acquired Guernica Agustín Ibarrola for another 300,000 euros.

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The feeling is spreading these days that this new normal should not disappear or, at least, not completely. Galleries like Minimum Space, from Madrid, and T20, from Murcia, appreciate the new format. “Collectors are less tired and have time to see more things,” say those responsible for this last space, who have sold work to the Fundació Sorigué de Lleida and to the collector Mariano Yera. In the Madrid gallery they celebrate having had more time and meters to deal with clients, many of whom, they admit, are new.

Mercedes Ros, Director of Marlborough Barcelona, also shows its satisfaction for having added new buyers to its list of clients, especially from Latin America. “It is a slightly different fair because the volume of visitors is lower, but in general we are happy because we have sold the most important pieces,” says the gallery owner, confident of the weekend sales (the two days in which the fair opens to the public) and the operations that are finished once the fair is over.

A man looks at some works inside the Elvira González display case.
A man looks at some works inside the Elvira González display case.Andrea Comas

On Wednesday, during the opening, the purchase intention was perceived, but the execution was lacking. As of this Thursday, sales were encouraged. 250 potential buyers have attended the 40th edition of Arco, a hundred less than usual. The profile, they have in the galleries, is similar to that of other years, with a special presence of Latin American and central European collectors. Germany is the country that is repeated the most when it is consulted by nationality.

“We knew we were not coming to do a super business, but we had to come, build a community,” they explain in the gallery Helga Alvear. “We believe that we are going to compensate the lower quantity of the sales with the higher quality. It is another rhythm, but we will be satisfied “, they complement in the gallery Fernandez-Braso, who are confident that sales will continue over the weekend.

The same optimism regarding the last two days of the fair shows Jacobo Fitz-James, from Valverde Space, in a break between inquiries from potential clients. “I have not stopped,” he says while teaching one of his larger-format works. He assures that he has “three or four” of similar size waiting to close the sale. The artist Juan Asensio, who exhibits in the gallery Elvira gonzalez, recognizes in front of one of his pieces that sales are going better than expected. “The profile of the collector has not changed so much,” he says, “many of those who have come knew my work, there have been no surprises.” This is confirmed by the person in charge of this space, who ditch in a concise way: “Good feelings.”

Visitors look at a work by Rebecca Ackroyd.
Visitors look at a work by Rebecca Ackroyd.Andrea Comas

Institutional sales

Upon entering Arco through pavilion 7 of Ifema, the large 10-panel mural of the Guernica de Ibarrola becomes a difficult magnet to avoid. Perhaps one of the great claims of this edition that the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum will exhibit in its rooms after acquiring it for 300,000 euros with the collaboration of three Basque institutions. “This is how one of the wishes of the Ibarrola family is fulfilled, that the piece that has been forgotten for 40 years be accessible to the general public,” says José de la Mano, the gallery owner who has recovered from lethargy the work with which the artist Basque paid tribute to Picasso’s painting. “We are aware that the painting is worth more, but where the negotiations have weighed a lot,” he assured Europa Press De la Mano in a statement. The painting was exhibited for the first time in 1977 in the Gray room of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, where it now returns.

Four of the woodcuts on the same theme that accompany the mural in the booth have been purchased by the Reina Sofía. The museum has acquired 300,000 euros worth of work by 14 artists (seven men and seven women) and the Ayllu group from Latin America. “We have tried to find a balance between historical elements and those of young creation. They contribute a lot to the discourse of the collection ”, assures director Manuel Borja-Villel. The Community of Madrid has bought pieces by the artists Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, Ana Buenaventura and Cristina Iglesias to increase the collection of the Dos de Mayo Art Center and provide support to the cultural sector in general, according to government sources.

Patrizia Sandretto, owner of an important collection of contemporary art, is one of the collectors who, despite the pandemic, has not stopped buying work and visiting artists’ workshops even though she had to do so via video call. Visiting Madrid these days, he has bought, among other pieces, the work of the Peruvian artist Daniela Ortiz at the Àngels Barcelona gallery. “The message that is sent is very important: we are back,” concludes Sandretto.


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