Fairs Spain

Arco dealers threaten boycott

Rows between fair organisers and selectors have been made public

MADRID. “Arco, reinvent or die” screamed an El País headline following a series of major disagreements between Arco’s selection committee and Ifema, the fair organisers. On 18 December the selection committee, supported by 70 Spanish galleries including major dealers Helga de Alvear, Soledad Lorenzo and Oliva Arauna, threatened a boycott, while London’s Anthony Reynolds has resigned from the committee, and will not be participating in the fair (17-21 February).

In correspondence later published, the committee accused Ifema president Luis Eduardo Cortés of “interference in their decisions by creating back-door access” after Ifema’s organising committee overrode their rejection of galleries including Man­uel Barbié, Manel Mayoral, Haunch of Venison and Galería Cayón (at the time of going to press, Haunch of Venison and Galería Cayón are listed on the website as exhibitors).

In a statement released to the press, Ifema said it had signed an agreement on 12 January stating that “the selection committee will be solely responsible for the selection of the participating galleries”. However, it appears to be an uneasy truce. “Ifema only accepted [our terms] because we are so close to the opening of the fair,” Angel Samblancat of Galería Polí­grafa, who is a member of the selection committee, told The Art Newspaper.

A weak Spanish economy has hit Arco hard. Spanish contemporary art collecting has been largely fuelled by institutional buying, which had fallen by 60% in 2008, according to Carlos Guerrero from art market website Arteinformado.

Emerging fairs are also posing a threat, including JUST Madrid, which will coincide with Arco, and the revamped Espacio Atlántico in Vigo, where local Galician institutions and foundations have committed to buy.

Some are sceptical about Arco’s future. “Director Lourdes Fernández lacks the dynamism and ideas to pull Arco through these difficult times,” art critic Carlos Jiménez from El País told The Art Newspaper. 

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