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Fair time. Time for the pilgrimage en masse to Madrid. Arriving in the capital from all across the country so that you have the sensation the whole art sector of your city has been abducted and hurled into Madrid. We meet in ARCO, in the usual bars and galleries and increasingly we also meet up in satellite fairs such as JustMad. The prince and princess of Asturies and the minister Wert pass through ARCO, but not JustMad. Better that way, because it’s probably no thrill for a gallerist to cross paths with the man who raised VAT and lowered morale.
We went to JustMad. This emerging art fair is celebrated in the parking of a luxury hotel. The scale and format of the parking (the luxury is somewhere else): a diaphanous space, made to a very human scale. It allows the visitor to stroll through an art fair without ending up saturated or with the postmodern de Stendhal syndrome and for galleries and participants to be in an environment of encounters and friendly proximity, almost familiar.
This year the curatorial team has been substituted for an advisory committee made up of galleries. Apart from consolidated spaces, with established trajectories, there was a lot of more modest and young galleries participating, that manages to create an equilibrated balance between the prices of the works being exhibited and the price of the stand itself. This fact, along with the participation of artists without agents, means it’s possible for proposals to access the fair that are configured within different scenarios and levels of the market, with other business formats and ways of representing and selling work.
The fact that these different levels coexist in the same fair, levels out the value of art: a piece of 80 euros can bring or say as much as one of 15000. Reorganising these aspects and lending visibility to other proposals that refute the idea that the gallery is the only possible agent for selling art.
One could also appreciate in the fair the desire to recognise the activity of exchange and not just through buying-selling, with the presence of projects focussed on residencies, such as Felipa Manuela, Homesession or 2000 vacas. Equally in the section JustCampus, with the pro-academic collectives focussed on training and professionalization, and the platforms for creating networks between artists and cultural agents, that brought diversity and expanded the contents of the fairs.
But the best thing about the fair wasn’t what was there, so much as what happened: the ease with which one could interact with galleries, artists and collectives, exchange ideas and experiences. In these turbulent times it is still possible to do things, generate networks and affinities, create different constellations and open new pathways. In the face of such a discouraging social and political context as ours, to wager on other models for forms of working and interrelating is one of the ways to not fall into defeatism or resignation.
As an anecdote, this year there was controversy. There was the always franco with the Brazilian artist Vitor Mizael and his work, that consisted in a pack of stuffed dogs. The dogs, it seems, didn’t die at the hands of the artist so much as were gathered, already dead, from a dog pound and later taken to a taxidermist.
Once more art as a device with which to think about our world, to question the values we have, what we consider important and what it is that we are not capable of seeing.
We went to Just Mad, the fair of emerging art. Despite all the consequences of the label “emerging”, we like to think of tomorrow as something to do as of today.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)