A new mood of optimism is anticipating the fourteenth edition of ARCO, Madrid's annual contemporary art fair which was founded in 1982 and opens in the middle of this month (9-14 February, with the customary evening preview scheduled for 8 February). Now consolidated at the new Juan Carlos I exhibition park near the city's airport, where it took place in 1992 and 1994, the fair has survived as a leaner and tighter event, concentrating upon local artistic developments but still attracting an enthusiastic and international audience.
For the new edition, there are initiatives which have resulted in a satisfactory increase in the level of participation. There were 133 and 139 dealers attending ARCO in 1993 and 1994 respectively, but on this occasion 168 booths have been reserved, with the Spanish content holding steady and the increase being attributed to a stronger international section. It is boosted by the presence of twelve American galleries which have been invited to join a programme devised by Kevin Consey, director of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, and invented by ARCO's organisers as a vehicle for introducing a fresh international presence marked by quality and shared geographic interests. A similar programme will be conducted in 1996 and 1997 with German and Latin American art being the respective focus.
Mr Consey's selection includes leading Dallas dealer Laura Carpenter who will be showing works by Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Joan Mitchell; Pace (Robert Mangold and Joel Shapiro); Donald Young (Gary Hill); John Weber (Sol LeWitt and Alighero & Boetti); and Rhona Hoffman (Leon Golub, Annette Lemieux and Lorna Simpson). Several dealers in this list had participated in previous editions of ARCO, and the invitation rewards their loyalty or returns them to the fold. Crown Point Press, Galerie Lelong, Christopher Grimes, Laurence Miller, PPOW, Jack Shainman and Zolla Lieberman are the other American galleries involved in the programme.
As a supporting venture, Mr Consey is supervising a series of lectures and panel discussions with the aim of raising interest in collecting contemporary art among a Spanish audience. This conference is spread over 9 and 10 February and features the owners of seventeen private collections in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.
In addition to the American invitational section, international participation features three further American galleries, including Marlborough, which has a strong presence in Madrid through its local shop and its representation of several leading Spanish and South American artists; fifteen German dealers, including Konrad Fisher and Hans Mayer; four Italian dealers, including Christiane Stein; Thaddaeus Ropac of Salzburg; and galleries from Belgium, France, Denmark, Holland and Australia. There is a continuing complement of South American galleries, a particular feature of ARCO in recent years, with dealers from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The spine of the fair remains the powerful national involvement of Spanish and Portuguese galleries, including Juana de Aizpuru, Oliva Arauna, Gamarra y Garrigues (Madrid), Maeght and Joan Prats (Barcelona), and other dealers from Seville, Valencia, Zaragoza, the Balearic Islands and Lis-bon. Madrid's modern art specialist Guillermo de Osma is one of the exciting prospects in this list. Having taken part in the fair for the first time a year ago, he will be pressing his claim for a reassessment of the Spanish avant-garde 1910-40 and will be showing works by Picasso, Gris and the Surrealist generation of Oscar Dominguez, Benjamin Palencia, Esteban Frances and Joachim Torres-Garcia.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'A whiff of optimism for Madrid's ARCO'