February 27, 2011

Spain Report

(Pictured: appetizers mentioned in this blogpost.)

Compared to last year, ARCO Madrid had about a third less exhibitors than before. This is not to depreciate last year's fair, which showcased Los Angeles with special exhibitions. It was well received, admittedly a tad less spectacularly than its presentation, truth be told. This year's fair economized in many small budgetary means (communications, special events, etc.) and while the price for admittance for the booths was the same as before, there was never a sense of deprivation or lack. There was a sense of space, and this was to the benefit of the presentation of artwork. What resulted was an art fair that was muted in a good way, less frenetic, less razzamatazz, less desperate in that perhaps the galleries involved were seasoned and survivors in a brutal worldwide economy. While the art works on the walls and in the spaces were less over the top, they were at the same time (strangely) more accomplished overall in terms of transgressive tropes and operations of technique. This has been a trend that I've seen in the art fairs over the years. It's as if art schools worldwide are producing precociousness at a price: artists who know too well what transgression looks like, or what we all have come to expect what breaks the mold. Perhaps I am seeing what I am prone to see, given what I've written about before in this blog here and here, that revolution has become rote. I also saw more than a few examples of shameless imitation, I'm thinking here of an Italian gallery featuring eerie art work doppelg?ngers of Raymond Pettibone in charcoal complete with literary/'zine/punk textual fragments. Was this strategy? Is there a doppelg?nger movement? Has our age of branding given way to willfully self conscious counterfeiting?

With only five days in Madrid (and Barcelona/Tossa, by the way), I only had time to furtively visit the Prado, the Reina Sophia and the Bornemisza Thyssen Museum. The good news is that Madrid is designed in such a way that these three spectacular museums are located in a small urban triangle along the Paseo del Prado, a rarity among cities of this class. Combine this with a new and excellent metro transportation system, the relative remoteness of the site of ARCO near the airport at Campo de las Naciones is no problem at all. With the neighborhood of Chueca cheek by jowl to the northwest of the museum triangle, an endless variety of nightlife effortlessly fills in the blanks in your social calendar. So what was in the museums? The Prado has what you would expect, but the bonus is that every viewing of the expected is certain to bring the unexpected... just what defines great art such as Diego Vel?zquez, Francisco Goya or Hieronymus Bosch. The Bornemisza Thyssen Museum is said to fill in the gaps of the other two great museums, it's full of work of artists known to a yanqui like myself, but with pieces that surprise every time. The Reina Sophia only had one show that I had time to visit, blogged about here, Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968), an exhibition that made me urgently want to rent a studio nearby for six months or so.

Visiting ARCO gave me an opportunity to solidify plans for a show of paintings at Galerie Pelaires, in Palma de Mallorca, (thanks to Miguel Marcos, my gallery in Barcelona) at the end of this coming summer. September will be a full month in that it will be bookended with a show in Pelaires in the beginning and a show at Tomio Koyama's Kyoto space at the end. It'll be a whirlwind, this summer, a good one.

Posted by Dennis at February 27, 2011 2:14 PM

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