Continuity and change: some of the keys to the art fair’s success

The 14th edition of arteBA Feria de Arte Contemporáneo – Contemporary Art Fair, which ended last Wednesday, is to be noted down in the fruitful history of this fair as one exhibiting a sign on continuity and change. We say continuity because of the large number of visitors: 85,000 people, who acknowledged the event as a luring invitation to a fully consecrated Argentine and Latin American art fair. We say change since a good number of meaningful innovations were added to those traditional proposals that helped make up the fair’s profile throughout the years.

Those art galleries which, from the very beginning, have accompanied the growth of this fair, this year made their bet exhibiting excellent works and a great variety in their proposals –a fact that granted the general quality of the fair and awakened the interests of many local and foreign purchasers. For the great majority of those galleries, this fair’s edition meant good profit: some exhibited works by consecrated artists; many showed works coming from authors who have a well known career and are publicly acknowledged; some others presented young artists whose work raised much interest.

The programming of the Latin American Circuits/ International Circuits cycle, to be held at the fair’s auditorium, was one of the strongest bets this year. The presentations became a success marked by the large public that crowded every single event that took place in the auditorium. Sponsored by Deutsche Bank, a series of free lectures and debates were essential to a never failing public willing to listen to the occasional visitors as well as the local and international art experts.

Well known connoisseurs such as Gustavo Buntinx, Rafael Doctor, Andrés Duprat, Ticio Escobar, Fernando Farina, Eva Grinstein, Paulo Herkenhoff, Llilian Llanes, Marcelo Pacheco, Justo Pastor Mellado, Gabriel Pérez Barreiro, Gabriel Peluffo, Mari Carmen Ramírez, José Roca, Adriana Rosenberg and Julián Zugazagoitia, as well as gallery owners Orly Benzacar, Florencia Braga Menéndez, Horacio Dabbah and David Pérez Mac Collum exchanged their opinions with an audience ready to discuss and give their opinion. The six o’clock forum became a must for critics, curators and local scholars, and the hall was really crowded during the five reunions scheduled by the organizers.

A new element in this 2005 edition of the fair was Barrio Joven, an area for fresh galleries and emerging spaces. These were previously selected by curators that had surveyed the art production of the whole country under Banco de Galicia’s sponsorship. For those used to more traditional works and art schools, Barrio Joven became an excellent opportunity to get in touch with the most avant-garde proposals coming from some of the cities represented in this selection, such as Mar del Plata, Bahía Blanca, Tucumán, Córdoba, and Rosario. A good level of sales in this less traditional area serves to reinforce arteBA’s vocation to encourage the growth of an incipient number of collectors interested in the new tendencies.

The second edition of the arteBA-Petrobras Award also became a space for reflection and debate about the most contemporary trends in Argentine art. The eight short-listed projects demonstrated the existence of a very interesting area of artistic production –one not necessarily havened by the most orthodox objectives in the art market. Group projects such as the one by Oligatega Numeric and art pieces involving a risky exhibition, as the Torre, by Axel Straschnoy (which was awarded the $20,000 acquisition prize) or the installation of machines and objects on the floor by Leo Estol –they all offered the opportunity to assess work systems coming from areas rather removed from the established canons. The second non-acquisition $5.000 prize was awarded to the video installation 15 segundos by San Jorge y el Dragón (Natalia Lipovetzky and Jorge Gutierrez).

Under programs such as the Matching Funds arteBA-Zurich, other actions were carried out with institutions to encourage the purchase of art pieces. Through the Programa Matching Funds arteBA-Zurich, four important museums of our country received, in an alternate mode, a sum of money that constitutes part of a fund meant to buy works of art during the fair. On the other hand, each museum made this sum even (counterpart funds) through some other sponsorship, person or institution, thus conforming the total sum. This way, the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino from Rosario purchased the work "La piedra lunar" by artist Ernesto Deira, from the Galería Agalma arte. The Malba-Colección Constantini chose for its collection “0303”, by Pablo Siquier, from Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte, and “Sin título” by Marina de Caro, exhibited in Alberto Sendros art gallery. On the other hand, "Sombra Paraíso", by Liliana Porter, from Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte, is now part of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires’ collection. Finally, the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio A. Caraffa from Córdoba will take to that province “Forme Galbée”, the work by Carmelo Arden Quin, from Laura Haber Galería.

MariCarmen Ramírez, from the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, visited arteBA2005 and, through the Proyecto Internacional –Matching Acquisitions Funds–arteBA, she bought “Paisaje constructivo de Montevideo” by Héctor Ragni, exhibited in Cecilia de Torres-Oscar Prato’s gallery.

The groups of collectors from the Texan cities of Houston, Austin and from Rosario, the Argentine city in Santa Fe province, were among the most enthusiastic within the Programa de Coleccionismo arteBA which, for the second consecutive year, was under the auspices of the JP Morgan.

In reference to the works exhibited in arteBA, the presence of the ever valuable “constructivist” tendencies of the 40s and 50s (concrete art and madí) and the timely revision of the “young master” Antonio Berni in the year of his centennial, were two of the most outstanding features among the large number of art pieces on show. The Argentine spaces as well as the foreign ones showed great names represented by those wonderful works the connoisseurs took little time to assess and appreciate.

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