The Prado. The Reina Sofía. The Thyssen. From Guernica to Goya, the Spanish capital possesses unimaginable artistic treasures. Add to that the leisurely tapas bars and all-night parties, Madrid’s the perfect spot to indulge in cultural and sensory overload. For one week in February, the crowds of international dealers, collectors, and art-lovers arrive in Madrid to do just that. Oh, and also to buy and sell some art.
ARCO Madrid is a massive affair: over 200 galleries from nearly thirty countries showing works by thousands of artists in two enormous pavilions at the Feria de Madrid. On the other side of the city, there’s also Art Madrid, a more intimate affair, showing primarily Spanish galleries, and in the multi-hued Hotel Silken Puerta de América there’s JustMadrid fair, the freshest and newest fair on the Madrid circuit (this is also THE spot to stay in Madrid, with special themed hotel rooms designed by the likes of Ron Arad and Zaha Hadid). You could knock yourself out with just the fairs’ offerings, not to mention Madrid’s world-class museums, galleries, café-galerias, and all the art found even on the streets here—so our advice is go with the flow, see what you see, and make sure to indulge in food and drinks at every opportunity.
Perhaps in an effort to reduce cases of serious art-fair-induced overwhelm caused by seeing too many artworks in close quarters at one time, ARCO Madrid this year is putting emphasis on the solo: solo projects and solo shows presented by galleries, as well as the “solo objects” program, where large-scale artworks dynamically frame the spaces of the open plazas in the pavilions. You can’t miss Tomás Saraceno’s floating Iridescent Planet, Jean-Luc Moulène’s modified and metamorphosized Renaults, or Alicia Framis’ enormous stainless steel sphere, Letters to the Sky, which she frames as a “postal service to the afterlife.”
(Lia Chaia, Chorão, 2009-2010, photography, 50cm x 75cm each [dyptich]. Courtesy of Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo.)
For more solamente solo, grab a coffee and seek out the Solo Projects area, a curated group of galleries presenting solo shows by Latin American artists. This is sure to be the best (maybe only?) spot in the fair to examine the oeuvres of the artists in a more curated, considered context, as well as an excellent opportunity to scope out galleries from all over South America, Europe and the US. Make sure to stop by São Paulo-based Galeria Vermelho’s booth, showing photographs and assemblages by Lia Chaia, Lisbon’s Galeria Filomena Soares showing video installations and photographs of favelas and mirrors by Dias & Riedweg, and Bogotá-based gallery Nueveochenta showing Jaime Tarazona’s meditations on the possibilities of the uninhabitable and unbuildable and the artist as architect.
(Jaime Tarazona, Untitled, From the series "Oficina de diseño de arquitectura moderna", 2011, 100 x 70 cms, courtesy of Nueveochenta, Bogotá.)
Stop for a snack of sushi and a beer before tacking the rest of the fair. This year’s “guest country” at ARCO is the Netherlands, so a special focus is on the Dutch scene, with special programming, readings, presentations and screenings. Check out Galerie Diana Stigter, Motive Gallery, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, and absolutely do not miss Gabriel Lester’s incredible shadow installation presented by Galerie Fons Welters. While you wander, be sure to also stop by and say hello to Berlin galleries Klemm’s and Peres Projects, and Los Angeles's Cherry and Martin.
(Gabriel Lester, The Past Catching up with the Present, 2009, Mixed material, Collection Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Courtesy Galerie Fons Welters, Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.)
After meandering through the pavilions you’re definitely ready to take a load off your feet, polish off a few cocktails and snag a bite to eat, so hop on the metro or grab a cab back into town. This doesn’t, however, mean that your enjoyment of art has to stop. After ARCO and after dark the art spreads from the fair into the city’s plazas and nightclubs. Each night of the fair at Plaza Callao you can catch screenings of works by Dutch artists, and in Plaza Cibeles, artist Nico Munuera will project a light show on the façade of the stately spires of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid.
(DIAS & RIEDWEG, O Espelho e a Tarde 1, 2011, Ink jet print on Canson Rag Photographic paper, 100 x 150 cm, ed.2/5 + 1 AP. Courtesy of Galeria Filomena Soares.)
And after you’ve relaxed with some food and drink, it’s time to movida like only madrileños can do it. ARCO presents two nights of live music and DJs on Friday and Saturday at Joy Eslava, just a short walk from Cibeles, in the very heart of the city. Friday see Amsterdam-based guitar and drum duo Knalpot, Galician indie band Triángulo de Amor Bizarro, Juha DJ and Planetas DJ, while on Saturday you can catch Argentinean sonic surrealists Cápsula, Madrid’s own krautrockers Lüger (whose music videos are contemporary artworks in their own right), and get spaced out with DJ sets from Machinefabriek and Tomás Fernando Flores. It’s sure to get spicy!
See you in Madrid!
(image top right: Tomás Saraceno, Iridescent Planet, 2012, acrylic, LED light, iridescent foil, diameter 115 cm, courtesy of the artist and Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen DK.)