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September 22, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014

arteBA has good year for sale and education

arteBA features painting, photography, installation, video, sculpture, and even performance.
By Silvia Rottenberg
For The Herald

BA fair becomes more international, with half of galleries coming from abroad

As great as the variety of artworks are the people visiting arteBA 2014. “Some people aren’t even aware that it is a fair, where art is intended for sale,” says María Olmedo of arteBA, “they come to look at the show.” The art show is one of sale, mostly, but also of education, and promotion — of art in general and Latin American art in particular.

Looking at the art presented by the carefully selected galleries, 82 in total representing over 500 artists, is an educational experience in itself. Yet, the Dixit Petrobas section is an excellent introduction into the multifaceted way contemporary art can be regarded: from a formal perspective – artists working with different and mixed materials; from a political point of view – the artists positioning themselves in the larger global context; and focusing on identity – such as gender or sexuality. Curator Andrea Giunta gives an overview with fantastic works from both public and private collections as well as works on loan from galleries at the fair, and thus for sale.

Photographs of Leandro Katz’s Catherwood project, present in this section of the fair can soon be seen in Lima’s museum MALI, one of the institutions present with their acquisition representative. Katz has followed the tracks of English expeditors Stephens and Catherwood and re-appropriated the image that the latter made of the ancient monuments in Central America. Katz is represented by a gallery from the United States. It is remarkable and worth mentioning that most of the galleries present from outside Latin America have brought their Latin American artists with them.

“This focus makes the fair unique”, says María, while at the same time a lot of galleries are praising the fair for having become so much more international. There are more international collectors and galleries present than ever before. The TATE is also present and bought a work from Lotty Rosenfeld, South America’s first performance artist. The work is not at the booth anymore, but Isabel Aninat explains: “It’s a photograph of Lotty drawing a large white cross on the street in front of the government house in Chile, during the dictatorship: putting her life at risk, by making this visual sign, symbolizing her protest.” Casa Blanca is soon to be admired in London.

Window to the world

About half of the galleries at the fair are from outside of Argentina. “This was a goal of arteBA, that we set about 4-5 years ago and we are glad that it is becoming what we aimed it to be.” Inclusion in the international arena seems to be developing well — maintaining the uniqueness is a challenge though.

The Benzacar Gallery, having been on the selection committee, which sets the entry standard for partaking in the fair, confirms this: “This fair is not about showing trends, like some fairs are. In Argentina, in Latin America, it is very much about what art can be and that is what is presented here.”

One of the main reasons though for this gallery to have been invited to the selection committee, aside from being with the fair since its beginning, is precisely because it has been at so many international fairs. The organizational committee of arteBA has also travelled around the globe to learn from the world of the fair. The aim to internationalize, taking part in the global world of the art fairs, whilst maintaining a Latin American, or perhaps even Argentinean touch, is the challenge and when found; the secret to arteBA’s success.

And a success it is: there are as many visitors expected as last year, even though open one day less to the public, and galleries are overall very happy with the sale. Some of them are even sold out.

Having a selection committee, an acquisition programme, and previsits, it could be argued that the world of art is sustaining itself, leaving one to wonder whether this is desirable. Here comes the role of the fair as a promoter, not only outside its national border, but also inside. French gallerist Philippe Charpentier, with very strong political works by female Latin American artists, wonders where the new faces are. Argentine gallerist Daniel Abate, with the magical piece, by Diana Aisenberg and the until-the-opening secretly-held art project “one million dollar installation,” by Carlos Echegaray, already accepts that he has his own clientele and is not expecting more per se.

Creating new collectors

But there is a movement going on, and arteBA is the perfect platform to stimulate this development of a new generation of collectors. Prizes are not as high as in more internationally established fairs, like Frieze or Art Basel. And there is more diversity, without following one visual language of art that sets a trend.

At arteBA there is painting, photography, installation, video, sculpture, mixed media constellations, and even performance — it remains unclear how that is being sold, but being led by a blind person through the fair, a project by Roberto Jacoby, through Galería Baro, is a worthwhile experience: making one realize how much we depend on vision.

“At first sight, it was,” says a couple that recently moved to Argentina, “when we saw the work of Amaya Bouquet at MiauMiau Gallery. No, we don’t know her, nor her work or even this gallery for that matter. We are not collectors, and neither do we know much about art, but we were just drawn to this work, which at second look offers even more!” With great excitement they describe the work, and while they do so, their eyes light up. “The next day I woke up and was again thinking about that art work.” They came to arteBA, and found it inspiring. New collectors can be born here, allowing for the art world to grow in Argentina.

A kid comes out of Marta Minujin’s hut. He was in there quite a while. “What is in there?” “A movie,” he answers, “about the hut”. “Do you like the fair?” He nods. Having been introduced to Minujin at such a young age, the promise for the future looks pretty bright.

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