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21 March 2024

Avalanche, ARCO Madrid 2024

Like almost everything that matters in life, like any truly significant event, it all began at this edition of ARCO Madrid 2024 in the most informal way. I could do the typical review of galleries, artists, collectors, and other insiders (usually outsiders in the nooks and crannies of their most secret facades), and I will, don’t doubt it. I’m going to mention quite a few facts in an encyclopedic manner, as many other journalists will do in the coming days. However, to bore myself less and consequently, at least try to entertain you more, I want to narrate this edition in a slightly more personal way. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

It turns out that I started by casually meeting the latest Prix Duchamp 2023 winner, the Swedish-Palestinian artist Tarik Kiswanson. He’s charming. And his gallery owners are just as charming, if not more so. Still not quite sure how, my friends and I ended up drinking, talking, and above all, laughing at the same table at Café Comercial. And so the ARCO avalanche began because there’s no other way to define the fair, because it’s a true deluge of information (high-voltage, that is).

ARCO Madrid 2024. Tarik Kiswanson. Vista instalación in Bonniers Konsthall, 2023.

Tarik Kiswanson. Installation view at Bonniers Konsthall, 2023. Photo: Jean Baptiste Béranger

Hannah, Alberto, and Alix are part of Carlier-Gebauer, the Madrid and Berlin-based gallery representing Tarik. Their exhibition “In the Wake” is well worth a visit. Kiswanson, coinciding with ARCO, has created a room in the space that greets you levitating. And it’s extraordinarily light. It makes you question, during the first few seconds of false perception, the oldest laws that may exist. Yes, those that revealed to Newton that an apple must always fall, just like avalanches, returning to the metaphor that underpins this review.

And in the most remote mountains of Madrid, those that lead to IFEMA (and certainly, with all the flags welcoming you, it looks like a Wes Anderson alpine hotel), this latest edition of Spain’s most prestigious contemporary art fair took shape (now catering is provided by Mallorca). And it’s not very risky to say that ARCO has already achieved a certain pedigree because one of the star pieces, the most shared in all internet stories, was “Manuel” by the artist Rodrigo (how wonderful all this lack of surnames). And it’s a nostalgic piece, one that takes you directly to the 1983 edition. And dear ones, where there’s nostalgia, there’s history. And if there’s history, there’s already pedigree. “Manuel” was a queer love song that they say twisted with exquisite controversy in that edition. Thanks to the José de la Mano gallery, we were able to see it again. And truth be told, the piece exudes poetry.

ARCO Madrid 2024. Rodrigo, "Manuel", aparecida en la 2ª edición de ARCO en 1983

Rodrigo, “Manuel”, first presented in the 2nd edition of ARCO in 1983

Also quite dazzling were the Juan Pablo Echeverri pieces from the Berlin gallery Klemm’s. The recently merged Prats Nogueras Blanchard had a Wilfredo Prieto that I would have immediately hung in my living room. The Italian gallery Laveronica took a risk and succeeded with Daniela Ortiz. Let’s take a little detour. This Peruvian artist has exhibited in such disparate places as the Palais de Tokyo (absolute reverence), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, or our very own Reina Sofía (permanent collection). Her discourse can certainly be labeled in a thousand ways; post-colonial, feminist, and even radical. But her pieces (especially her tapestries) or her series of reinterpreted matryoshkas are a very successful exercise in shaking up the white-patriarchal narrative. Bravo to her and her gallery representatives.

ARCO Madrid 2024. Juan Pablo Echeverri, "Futuros Extraños", 2016

Juan Pablo Echeverri, “Futuros Extraños”, 2016

And before we continue with the visit (please don’t fall asleep), a brief paragraph of pure frivolous gossip. Of course, among gallery owners, artists, and performers, IFEMA was filled on the first day with those arty celebrities deserving of a small mention. Among the professionals, certain buyers (we hope they were) with quite a pedigree. Borja Thyssen was wandering among German galleries. Agatha Ruiz de la Prada too. There were some well-dressed wax figures resembling ninot style, or perhaps they were the Palomas Segrelles. And above all, the official inauguration of Felipe + Letizia or Letizia + Felipe. And they had a gesture with Espacio Mínimo from Madrid due to the recent and unexpected death of one of its founders, the Murcian gallery owner Pepe Martínez Calvo.

ARCO Madrid 2024. Letizia + Felipe durante su visita a ARCO Madrid 2024.

Letizia + Felipe during their visit to ARCO Madrid 2024. Photo courtesy of ARCO

And now, let’s continue with more thorough content. The Brazilian gallery A Gentil Carioca flooded its space with the proposals of Denilson Baniwa (one of my favorites). And Brazil is hot. Through pieces with an apparent naïve appearance, the artist addresses complex themes. I particularly recommend looking for his works Barbie and Roubo das Flautas, both from 2023. As stated in the gallery’s press release – “The solo exhibition titled Y-Juca-Pirama: stories of a developing tropical country addresses themes such as the ancestry and traditions of Brazilian indigenous peoples, while also examining the oppression and violence faced by these peoples since the colonial era.” And perhaps my own classification of his works as naïve aesthetics is a direct result of the intellectual violence that Europe has championed and which it is absolutely mandatory to abandon today. Nevertheless, his tapestries were truly marvelous.

ARCO Madrid 2024. Denilson Baniwa en A Gentil Carioca, ARCO Madrid 2024

Denilson Baniwa at A Gentil Carioca, ARCO Madrid 2024. Photo © 2014 – 2024 · Art Viewer

To wrap up, a special mention goes to the gallery owner-curator-activist, and above all, taste maker, Ismael Chappaz. As always, he didn’t disappoint, and besides his own space, we were able to see his collaboration as an artist with Carles Congost. The pieces they presented would have found a place in my new home if I had had enough money. Because any artistic expression that questions the fragility of the prevailing concept of masculinity over centuries of darkness is always worthwhile. And, of course, heartfelt congratulations for making it possible for “The Most Given of Givens,” a video installation by Eli Cortiñas, to become part of the Reina Sofía’s collection

ARCO Madrid 2024. Eli Cortiñas, "The Most Given of Givens", vista instalación video 3 canales

Eli Cortiñas, “The Most Given of Givens”, video-installation 3-channels

All in all, ARCO Madrid 2024 was indeed an avalanche of information, proposals, people, and concepts—a veritable whirlwind of life across two temporary pavilions. Like any collapse, any landslide, it hit us with full force in a short span of time. But it’s these natural phenomena that gradually change the external appearance of things, and consequently, the primordial interior that shapes them.

(Cover image: Carles Congost, “Sunset”, 2013)

Jesús Nebreda Galíndez is a specialist in design and art for digital platforms with a Master’s degree in Cultural Management from the City University of London whose thesis was on Fashion as one of our latest societal cultural products. Jesús has worked for institutions such as the British Museum and Saatchi Gallery and on art and design retail platforms such as Pamono and more recently Artsy. He is a regular contributor writing reviews and interviews for the publications METAL, Acero and Neo2.

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