For about two decades now the qualifications “young,” “emerging,” and “new” have functioned as the ultimate buzzwords, inspiring a Pavlovian rustle of checkbooks amongst collectors “buying with their ears.” No wonder art fairs have latched onto the phenomenon by creating special sections dedicated to gallery start-ups. At Frieze it’s called Frame; Art Brussels has Young; Art Rotterdam’s got a New Art Section. And there is, of course, LISTE, the fair designed from the start to showcase the latest trends from the hottest newcomers.
ARCOmadrid was relatively late jumping on the wagon, but since 2010 Opening has managed to establish itself as one of the most interesting sections of the fair. Since 2011, curator Manuel Segade has been responsible for the selection, and for the current edition he has teamed up with Luiza Teixeira de Freitas from Portugal. The recipe is simple: only galleries in operation for seven years or less can apply. Mediagenic experiments are applauded such as Can Altay’s Múltiplos bookshop-turned-sculpture in 2012 and the fictional gallery installed by Sander Breure and Witte van Hulzen last year. And over the years the focus has shifted from European to more global.
Quite remarkable this edition: there is not a single Spanish gallery among the twenty-nine participants in the Opening section. It’s unlikely that local candidates would prefer an alternative venue such as the concurrent JustMad5, a Madrid hotel fair. With attendance hovering around 150,000, ARCO has been filling the top spot on the list of most visited art fairs worldwide for years now. This is the ultimate platform, especially for locally operating galleries. Yet it seems the Opening curators prefer to rely on foreign forces to bring in the innovation.
Juliana Borinski, In the soul of film, 2010, series of 12 images, inkjet print, black and white on matte paper, 17.3 x 15.9 cm; Courtesy of Jérôme Poggi, Paris.
Still, their selection pretty much reflects the identity of the fair and the flavor of the Iberian art market. There are no participants from Denmark, the UK, Russia, the Netherlands, or Belgium, and galleries from these countries are scantily represented in the rest of the program as well. The inclusion of two Finnish galleries – Make Your Mark and Sic, both from Helsinki – is entirely due to the election of Finland as this year’s “Focus” country. There is a strong Southern-European presence, though: there are two galleries from Lisbon and no less than six from Italy.
The inclusion of P420 from Bologna puts the “new and emerging” nature of Opening into perspective. The youngest artist represented by this four-year-old gallery is past fifty. The gallery’s ARCO presentation consists of work by two veterans who made their mark in the sixties and even earlier. In Irma Blank’s Roland Barthes-inspired art, language is treated as image, detached from its meaning, resulting in visually poetic words like “spaghetti.” Blank’s work is combined with Paolo Icaro’s stern sculptures, which are deeply entrenched in Arte Povera.
Ever since the emergence of the Latin American art market, that region has been strongly represented at ARCOmadrid. The way Art Basel Miami Beach functions as a bridgehead for Brazilian, Argentinian and – increasingly – Colombian galleries testing the North-American waters, the Madrid fair is the place for them to hook up with those European collectors who haven’t as yet found their way to arteBA in Buenos Aires or Zona Maco in Mexico City. With five exhibitors hailing from South America the Opening section reflects the trend.
Felix Kiessling, Kugelteilung, video stills, 2013; Courtesy alexander levy, Berlin.
Lima’s Revolver Galeria specializes mainly in art with a lyrical twist, which has outgrown the label “magical realism.” The inclusion of Instituto de Visión is a nod to the rapidly growing art scene in Bogotá. Ignacio Liprandi from Buenos Aires and São Paulo-based Jaqueline Martins represent the more established art hubs in the region. But most surprising is the selection of NoMÍNIMO from Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. Its offerings range from Oswaldo Terreros’ politically inspired textiles to an installation of giant mushrooms made from traffic mirrors by Juanu Córdova.
The Latin American growth potential notwithstanding, the most fruitful breeding ground for new talent has for a long time been and still remains Berlin. And the Opening curators recognize this: their selection of six galleries from the German capital pumps up the overall quality of the section. Alexander Levy’s presentation of Felix Kiessling, a hotshot young sculptor with a fresh way of dealing with the age-old question of space and how to relate to it, is something to look forward to. Tanja Wagner consistently brings good shows to art fairs and at ARCO it’s Šejla Kamerić who deserves special attention for her films and photographs dealing with collective and personal identity in the post-war Balkans. On a more absurdist, but distinctly German note, Soy Capitán has chosen neo-expressionist paintings and ironic videos by Henning Strassburger.
Henning Strassburger, 1€ Oops, 2013, oil and lacquer on canvas, 180 x 150 cm; Courtesy Soy Capitán, Berlin.
Although Berlin will not surrender its status of experimental epicenter anytime soon, Paris is definitely on the rise. Of the five Parisian galleries in the Opening section Jérôme Poggi is no doubt the hardest working. In the first half of 2014 alone the five-year-old gallery from the bubbling Gare du Nord contemporary art district is participating in the India Art Fair in New Delhi, Art Rotterdam, Drawing Now Paris, and Art Brussels. For ARCO it has opted for a solo by Juliana Borinski, who works with still and moving images, manipulating colors and frames, questioning the medium by physically attacking it. Borinski proves there is a future for Stan Brakhage’s heritage of experimental filming, and Poggi is brave enough to show it.
(Image on top: Paolo Icaro, Aerial Rights, 2006, Carrara marble and oxidized steel string, 188 x 60 x 30 cm; Courtesy of P420, Bologna.)