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Past, present and future come together at arteBA 2017

Alec Oxenford addresses those gathered for the launch of arteBA 2017, in the auditorium of MALBA. | EXPERIENCIA DIXIT 2017 rro.
By Silvia Rottenberg
For The Herald

Side events and expanded offerings threaten to steal the show as BA’s premier art fair returns to La Rural for a new edition

With its usual flair, the organisers of arteBA unveiled the details of its coming edition at MALBA’s auditorium last week. Ninety-one galleries from 20 different countries are participating in the event, which runs from May 24 to 27 at La Rural convention centre.

The different areas of arteBA — from the main space with galleries, to the newcomers at the Barrio Joven, the curated sections such as the U-Turn, the solo shows and the DIXIT exhibition, the artists’ publications section, as well as the Open Forum — are yet again sure to set the local artworld buzzing. New for this year are a series of talks by artists and the ‘Performance Box,’ a space set up in collaboration with the currently running Performance Biennale. ArteBA 2017 promises to be a treat, both for the curious visitor and the collector.

Centre stage at arteBA are the galleries and their artists, of course, yet it seems like every year arteBA takes on its role as a stimulator of the arts more seriously, collaborating with museums and other artistic endeavours happening in the city and including key figures to make the most of the side programme (which could easily loose its ‘sideness’ as it is becoming more and more interesting each year).

Thematically, both the present as well as the future are under scrutiny: with the curatorial team behind the DIXIT exhibition rro (Javier Villa of the Museum of Modern Art and Sarah Demeuse from Brooklyn) urging the visitors inside and outside La Rural to be more in the present. Agustín Pérez Rubio, MALBA’s artistic director, will also ask the public to think about the future — theoretically, in line with the community and technologically — with his discussion programme at OPEN FORUM, which is free of charge.

Important marketplace

The main section will also show the past. Hopefully not as extensively as last year, as the present and the future still need arteBA as a platform, with the event the most important marketplace for Argentine art. Still, works by masters such as Xul Solar and Berni can be seen and bought at Rubber International, Gallery Sur and Cosmocosa, respectively. Works by León Ferrari, Víctor Grippo, Jorge Pereira, Cesar Paternosto and Rogelio Polesello will all be present as well — the last three in the special Cabinet section, where galleries can shine a light on one artist in particular.

By showing past masters, arteBA and its galleries offer context, in which the present and perhaps even the future can be more easily understood.

For example, geometric art, which has been quite dominant in the history of Argentine art, helps you to understand Eduardo Basualdo’s desire to break away from lines and structures. Basualdo, invited to create this year’s special Chandon project, usually uses such techniques, as likely seen at Ruth Benzacar’s gallery. But in this special project, he will take it more literally and show us how to break free and fly away — or not? — by helicopter.

This project forms the entrance to the Barrio Joven, the space where young galleries are given a spot to present themselves and launch their artists. Of the 15 galleries, five are from the capital, five from elsewhere in Argentina and the last five from beyond our borders. As the galleries in this section take more risks, their offerings are either brilliant or completely off. Curiosity goes out to Espacio el Dorado from Colombia, who will show Andrés Matiás Pinilla’s 3D constructions, to a sound piece by Juan Sorrentino at Acefala Gallery and the usually refined curated stand of the Sputnik gallery, showing works from Sofía Durrieu and Ana Clara Soler.

Curation is also key in the U-Turn section, even though here it goes hand-in-hand with a network. The invited curator not only brings an idea into this part of the fair, but also his connections; galleries that are usually not represented at arteBA and will most likely show a different view on what is happening in the artworld. Chris Sharp, who works and lives in Mexico City, for example, has brought galleries and artists together from places such as Pristina and Tokyo, cities not represented before at this fair.

International flair

This year, more than ever, the international flair will be celebrated. At an event this week launching arteBA 2017, President of arteBA Alec Oxenford recalled that Argentina was the country in focus at the ARCO Madrid contemporary art fair earlier this year and he highlighted how Marta Minujin will shine at the Documenta contemporary art event in Kassel, Germany, with the re-construction of her Partenon of forbidden books.

National representation at the recently opened Venice Biennale was also cited, with Claudia Fontes featuring in the Argentine pavilion there and Liliana Porter, Martín Cordiano and Sebastián Díaz Morales forming part of the larger exhibition. Aside from Morales, works from these artists, who have an international platform, are present and for sale at arteBA: Minujin through the Henrique Faria gallery, Claudia Fontes at Ignacio Liprandi. Liliana Porter at Ruth Benzacar and Martín Cordiano at Walden.

Not only are we celebrating Argentines going into the world, arteBA is also thrilled at how the institutes here are embracing the world with high-profile shows, such as General Idea at MALBA, Anish Kapoor coming to Parque de la Memoria, William Kentridge celebrated in the light of the Performance Biennale and the PROA Foundation showing Yves Klein for the first time in this country. Jumping on the train of international interest, Spanish gallery Cayon will also bring works by Klein to the fair. The question undoubtedly being whether the Argentine collector can partake in the international artworld, such as the artists.

Prices are relatively low at arteBA in comparison to its big brothers such as Frieze, the Armory or Art Basel — the latter promising to focus on Buenos Aires in its ‘City Initiative’ which will be launched shortly. This is what makes arteBA interesting at an international level for curators and collectors coming from abroad: arteBA shows art that is usually not seen at international fairs, because it maintains its connection to the country and the region. Plus, it shows works with prices that, in the collectors’ world at least, are accessible.

While in the present the event is focusing on the international, the future is being discussed publicly in the side programme. I believe that arteBA’s key to success is finding a balance between showing the public something different, unexpected, surprising and exciting and —at the same time — promoting what Argentina and the region has to offer to the international artworld, staying true to its roots on the road to gaining a more international presence.

The 27th edition promises to find this balance, with the fair a podium for artists from both here and abroad, who together will surely bring us beauty, differing stand-points and most importantly, move us.

When and where

arteBA runs from May 24-27, 2pm to 9pm, at La Rural, 2704 Sarmiento Avenue. Entrance is $160 (50 percent discount for seniors, students and Club la Nacion members). A two-day pass costs $250 and four-day full access is $320. Open Forum is free of charge.

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