São Paulo fair ramps up sales

But most of the work on show and the deals made remain local

SÃO PAULO. The seventh edition of SP-Arte, Brazil’s largest art fair held from 12 to 15 May in São Paulo’s biennial pavilion, closed its doors this Sunday with record numbers of public and exhibitors—89 galleries, including over 70 local and 14 from abroad, and more than 18,000 visitors. It also occupied twice as much space as it did in previous editions, with an entire floor dedicated to big installation pieces.

In a year marked by record breaking values for Brazilian art at auctions, such as Adriana Varejão’s $1.7m Parede com Incisões a la Fontana II (Wall with Incisions a la Fontana II) sold in February at Christie’s London, sales were on the up. Dealers told The Art Newspaper they sold up to 35% more this year and many galleries, such as Fortes Vilaça and Vermelho, sold their entire stands on opening night.

While the fair brought in $18m in revenue last year, this year’s projected amount could hit $24m considering dealers’ predictions, though figures were still unofficial by the time this report was filed. Despite the financial success, however, the fair has yet to become more international, as deals were struck mostly between local galleries and collectors with only a few foreign buyers attendning and more timid sales at booths from abroad.

“Local galleries here sold everything on opening night, it’s something I haven’t seen happen anywhere before”, said Mexican dealer Enrique Guerrero, adding “It is difficult to sell in such a local market.” Claudia Paetzold, a Parisian art adviser who attended the fair, lamented that the offerings were still quite local and most collectors were from São Paulo.

“Penetration in this market for foreign galleries is still difficult”, said SP Arte director Fernanda Feitosa, also citing the heavy taxes on imported works of art in the country, which can reach up to 45% of their value. “São Paulo is also a very expensive city, things here do not cost any less than in London.”

Prices were also on the up. Amongst the highlights, a Bicho by Lygia Clark and a painting by the same artist shown at the fifth edition of the Bienal de São Paulo in 1959 were going for $2.8m each, the most expensive pieces at the fair, which did not sell. A $2.5m Beatriz Milhazes painting also ended the fair without a buyer, the same fate as a $2.1m piece by Adriana Varejão.

More modest works by a younger generation of Brazilian artists, however, were sold within the first hours of the fair. Jonathas de Andrade and Cinthia Marcelle, breakout stars of the last Bienal de São Paulo, had pieces under $10,000 acquired by the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, one of Brazil’s main public museums.

Marcelo Cidade, Marcelo Moscheta and André Komatsu, of the same emerging generation, also fared well in sales. Cidade’s large-scale installation was also sold to a private collection, showing buyers did not shy away from the bigger works offered.

“There’s a nice balance of big blue chip works and pieces by younger artists recently being discovered”, said Darren Leak, specialist head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, while browsing the fair. “We have a lot of clients asking about Brazilian art and collectors from Brazil buying heavily at auctions.”

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23 May 11
15:3 CET


I've been at the fair, and believe it was obvious for anyone there how hard it was for foreign art galleries to penetrate the brazilian market. Even though stands from foreign galleries had many interesting pieces of art on show - such as Enrique Guerrero himself, and colombian El Museo - well-known local galleries such as Vermelho were always bubbling with people.

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