ARCOMadrid 2019

March 02, 2019
ARCO Madrid Contemporary Art Fair never disappoints. At its 38th edition and with 203 exhibitors from 31 countries, half of them from Spain and Latin America, ARCO 2019 shows a simplified format with some galleries presenting works by one or two artists only. There are great artworks and an apparent shift from photography to handicraft and sculpture, paintings being in short supply.

Guest country this year is Peru, who brings the works of 24 Peruvian artists selected by the curator of the Lima Art Museum and on show at galleries from different countries. The selection of artists, many of whom have developed a good part of their career in other countries, wants to draw attention to the importance of the artist above geographical limitations. The "Peru at ARCO" programme is supported by a major deployment of Peruvian culture throughout town that includes an exhibition on the pre-Columbian Nasca culture and contemporary Amazonian art.

Alicia Framis, Vestido para protegerse de lo absurdo (2017), Galería Juana de Aizpuru Madrid | Richard Deacon, Band (2009)Galerie Thomas Schulte Berlin

Two artists known for their work on gender activism stand out: Alicia Framis (Spanish living in Amsterdam) and Teresa Margollés (Mexican living between Mexico City, Madrid and Berlin). Framis' work at ARCO, a female manikin laying under a carpet of scouring pads (left picture above), draws attention to whatever isn't right with women's kitchen work and the invisibility of it. 

Margollés presents an impressive work (pictured below) resulting from a field study in Bolivia, a country with a high rate of hate crimes. The artist has recovered from a Bolivian morgue a sheet used to wrap the corpse of a woman victim of hate crime. The blood-stained sheet was then given to a local embroider to freely work on it. The embroidered artwork lays on a backlit table in a dark room where the visitor firstly acknowledges the beauty of the embroidery, and later, on a closer look, the blood stains. This is a work that successfully combines horror, beauty and hope; it draws attention to the violence on women while presenting the beauty of local craftsmanship.

Brian Rochefort, Various Works (2018-19)Van Doren Waxter NYC | Bianca Bondi, Boom Series, Galería José de la Fuente Santander

Teresa Margollés, Tela Bolivia (2016), Galerie Mor Charpentier Paris

Joana Vasconcelos, Galeria Casa Triangulo Sao Paulo

Some artworks at ARCO could easily be a wonderful contribution to urban design and planning. Argentinian artist Pablo Reinoso displays a beautiful one-person bench (pictured below) that brings a reflection on whether urban furniture is still designed to last century's behaviour when we used to interact with strangers on the public realm, something we hardly do today. Instead, his solo bench fits beautifully to the current use of public seating, which is a place to interact undisturbed with a phone.

More inspiration for urban planning with Pedro Barateiro's beautifully coloured topographic plans and Miler Lagos' relief (pictured below), which would make a wonderful site model.

Miler Lagos, Lago almuerzo entre la hierba (2018), Galería Max Estrella Madrid

Pablo Reinoso, Solo Banc (2017), Galeria Baró São Paulo
Pedro Barateiro, Compass(2019)Galeria Filomena Soares Lisbon | Joël Andrianomearisoa, Labyrinth of Passions (2016), Galería Sabrina Amrani Madrid

The Ponce & Robles gallery presents with Renfe - the national railway company - two very interesting projects on the different use of street art. One project is called The Most Expensive Artwork (#LaObraMasCara) and shows the destructing effects of unsolicited graffiti on the example of a train door fully covered by graffiti. The overpainted door carries the price tag of 15 million euros, which is Renfe's yearly expenditure on clearing graffiti off trains. The artwork also points at the safety hazard of spraying trains, since it is generally done while the train is running. 

The other project shows the positive effects of planned street art and is by Boa Mistura, a group of Madrid urban artists who uses art to improve communities. At ARCO, Boa Mistura has recreated a piece of a project in La Habana that shows a verse of a poem by Cuban Samuel Feijoo painted on a shack wall. The project takes all 25 verses of Feijoo's poem and paints them on the walls of different locations in the same neighbourhood. The verses cannot be understood separately but in a group and "serve to connect people with invisible links", says the artist.

Boa Mistura, My Root is (2015), Galería Ponce+Robles Madrid & Renfe

There were also examples of art meeting architecture:

Marlon de Azambuja, Brutalismo (2019), Galería Revolver Lima | Lucas Simões, White Lies #23 (2018), Galería Pelaires Palma
Lucio Muñoz, Tabla 23-94 (1994), Galería Marlborough Madrid

Augusto Ballardo, Rayo de luz en concreto, Escalones 1 (2018), Espacio Valverde Madrid | Eugenio Ampudia, Galería Max Estrella Madrid

A pile of books supporting a wall is Alicia Martín's proposal at El País booth that she shares with Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce. Martín has shared in an interview her intention not to provide a theoretical reflection but rather a visual impact that would then lead to a reflection.

Alicia Martín, Contrapposto (2019), El País

Pedro Cabrita Reis, Casa Queimada (2016), Galería Juana de Aizpuru Madrid | Marko Vuokola, RGB (1996-2011), Galerie Anhava Helsinki

Yago Hortal, SP 224 (2019)Galeria Senda Barcelona | Rafa Macarrón, Untitled (2019)Galeria Marta Cervera Madrid

Among the Peruvian contributions, the woven work of Ana Teresa Barboza and the paintings of Jorge Piqueras stand out. Prolific, energetic and in his 90s, Piqueras is one of Peru's greatest artists. I had the honor to work with him nearly three decades ago in Paris when he was designing a public artwork for an architectural project I was working on. His optimism and fun approach to the creative process did utterly impress me.

Ana Teresa Barboza, Wu Galería, Lima | Allora & Calzadilla, Contract (2014)Galerie Chantal Crousel Paris

Jorge Piqueras, Untitled (1956), Henrique Faria Fine Art NYC
Sven Johne, Heroes of Labor (2018), Galerie Klemm's Berlin
There was also room for activism. Interesting the way RedCSur, an Argentinian platform, has chosen to raise awareness about the privatisation of an artist's work: some 40 people in a line reading their complain in various locations of the fair.  
Controversy came around a giant sculpture of the king, a bonfire papier-mâché figure that is sold with the condition that it gets burned within a year.

Against the sale of artist Juan Carlos Romero's archive, RedCSur Action
TV crews at Santiago Sierra & Eugenio Merino, Ninot (2019), Prometeo Gallery Milan

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