ARCO Madrid Highlights

Art fairs are demanding and fatiguing parallel worlds. I remember the first time I visited an “encyclopedic” museum, it was the Met and I was old enough to bare with the queuing, the noise and the commotion of bodies. After 4 hours of seeing and absorbing the most I could, I descended to the cafeteria to eat a banana and get some strength to continue my pilgrimage. At the end of the day I was so exhausted that I instantly fell asleep. Something similar happens every time I visit an art fair, there’s so much to see and so many people there, that exhaustion is inevitable. But the good thing is that you see miscellaneous art cohabiting in the same space.


Arco Madrid in it’s 10th edition proves that art fairs can mutate and reinvigorate themselves despite old “faux pas”, here are some highlights from my visit.


  • Jenny Holzer at the Hauser and Wirth

An anticipation for the artist’s retrospective at the Guggenheim Bilbao, Hauser and Wirth booth focuses on Jenny Holzer’s work. From a LED dangling from the ceiling, white benches with inscriptions, to new drawings “utilizing declassified government documents”, the gallery shows a diverse body of work standing as a foretaste of what ensues for the exhibition. The space is huge and every piece is in its right place, as we navigate through the booth our attention can be directed towards a specific artwork, meditation is key to grasp the whole

But by far the most intriguing artwork is hidden from the spectator’s gaze, in a small space in between booths. The inscription reads:  “When you’ve been someplace for awhile you acquire the ability to be practically invisible. This lets you operate with a minimum interference”… to be interpreted by the reader.


Jenny Holzer, When You’ve Been Someplace, 1981


  • Jorge Piqueras at Henrique Faría Fine Art

Jorge Piqueras work embodies Latin American art during the 50’s, his compositions echoes the decade’s interest in abstraction, colour and geometry. Painters and architects from the region were deeply influenced by French artists like Férnand Léger or Matisse and even African art. Piqueras is not an exception to the rule nonetheless in his own way he deepens the quest adding more brightly coloured, similar to the ones we find in colonial buildings. Although born in Perú, his career blossomed in Europe and developed mostly in the old continent.

It’s interesting to note that in moments of political turmoil or uncertaintinty, abstraction surges as a reaction to worrisome situations. As tension rises in this arena, collectors and spectators seek to ease their eyes and mind through the lines of abstraction. But the booth also displayed politically charged work by the Argentinian artist Marcelo Brodsky. Two worlds met and collided at Henrique Faria Fine Art booth showcasing an interesting overview of Latin American art during the second half of the 20th century.


Jorge Piqueras, Sin Título, 1950


  • Jacques Lizène, Emilio López Menchero and Michael Dans at the Galerie Nadja Vilenne

Dangling plants with images or drawings was the presentation card at the Nadja Vilenne booth. The floor occupied by a row of ceramic vases laid in a diagonal, forced its visitors to stain the white carpet and to be cautious not to step into the fragile artworks. The layout obliged the body and by extension the eye to look at the objects inside the white cube.

On the one hand, Michael Dans with its photographs and ceramics evoked nature’s artificiality as well as questioned gender binary definitions. On the other, Emilio López Menchero canvases depicted “cabezudos” – costumed figures featuring oversized heads. Hiding beneath them frightened people looked straight to the spectator representing an irrational fear permeating the booth. Jacques Lizène’s hybrid plants showed man’s impact and the extent of science in our time. Absurdity connected the seemingly different artists, and references to Belgian « maîtres » –  such as Magritte or Broodthaers abounded – although not explicitly. Notwithstanding  the booth’s colorful and riveting nature, it foretells an enduring future governed by ignorance as strength. 


Emilio López Menchero, Cabezudo Le Bavarois, 2015


  • Teresa Burga at the Barbara Thumm Booth

Discovered until recently – 2006 – by two young curators, Teresa Burga’s work is a founding stone in conceptual Latin American art, we can’t help to ask ourselves how come she remained into oblivion for so long. Ahead of her time, her body of work delves into structures of power and biopolitics; codification and the systematization of knowledge has always been part of her centers of interest, a subject analogous to our time.

The work showed at Barbara Thumm booth’s reinterpreted a poem by the Argentinian writer poet Jorge Luis Borges and transformed it into what looks like a system. By fragmenting the poem, Burga reduces the latter into intricate data and loses its lyrical dimension. The piece stood as a logic choice for an art fair highlighting Peruvian art.


Teresa Burga, Borges, 1974/2017

  • Ana Teresa Barboza at the Wu Galería

Probably one of the most compelling artworks in the whole art fair, the creations made by Ana Teresa Barboza combined together different mediums and techniques like photography, weaving and embroidery. Is it a photography or a tapestry? Wu’s work escapes every definition revealing itself rather as a crafted patchwork representing a subjective landscape where the frontier between reality and fiction blurs. Wu’s work relates to magical realism by intertwining different regimes of truth, and through this simple gesture Wu challenges Western monofocal perception.

The square is not a favoured shape in her work for she challenges the form by extending and stretching it. Landscape unravels in colour threads, the artwork emerges as a study made by a woman whose work revisits traditional crafts and enriches it by mixing it with other mediums.


Ana Teresa Barboza


  • Bianca Bondi and Marco Montiel-Soto at the José de la Fuente Gallery

The name of the booth was Time Consuming, a collaboration between Bianca Bondi and Marco Montiel-Soto stressing out the consequences of climate change and political instability. Bondi’s vitrines combines inanimate objects as well as organic ones, she creates a microcosms in them and bounds them together by adding to the whole corrosive substances. A metaphor of the alarming state of our planet or an investigation about the circle of life and our imminent decay, it’s up to the spectator to decide. Despite the work’s sombre nature it gives to the viewers a condensed and practical idea of life’s circles.

Marco Montiel Soto wall made with “bolívares” – Venezuela’s currency – shows the level of absurdity attained in the country after the outbreak of the economical crisis. Postcards and old photographs compose part of the installation bearing witness to Soto’s nostalgia, in them landscapes are not hostile, rather the opposite.

Time is a shifting and reckless force, deployed in the political arena or nature, it unfolds irrevocably as tragical and inevitable.


Marco Montiel Soto, Maracaibo Monumentale, 2019


An art fair is a barometer to measure and understand in what direction art is moving. By what I saw during the fair, here some observations:

Politics are increasingly incorporated by artists showing a synchrony between  between social struggles and artists, Teresa Burga and Jenny Holzer are perfect examples of this. Furthermore, artists are mingling and playing with different mediums like Sidival Fila whom likes to create sculptural canvases or Ana Teresa Barboza working with photography and crafts. Women’s are also more present in the landscape in an effort to cope with the rekindling of feminism.









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