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ARCO Madrid Fails to Meet Expectations
The future of ARCO Madrid seems uncertain during its twenty-ninth edition as pressure mounts for a fundamental reorganization following sagging attendance and serious disagreements between the fair’s organizers and selection committee. Controversy arose as the fair’s selection committee accused the fair’s organizer, IFEMA, of interfering with the selection process, following the admittance of galleries that had previously been rejected including Manuel Barbié Galería, Victor I Fills Anticuaris, Galería Manel Mayoral, Galería Cayón, and Haunch of Venison. In response to these allegations 70 Spanish dealers and private collectors threatened to boycott the fair until ultimately an agreement was met whereby “the selection committee will be solely responsible for the selection of the participating galleries.”However various members of the committee had expressed concerns that this accord was meant only to smooth over appearances as the fair’s opening drew near.
The controversy has served to add fuel to the fire for many who have expressed concern that the fair is in need of a reimagining. Attendance dropped significantly from 190,000 in 2009 to 150,000 in 2010, while both Spanish and international galleries complained of few sales. The blame for this drop in both sales and attendance has been placed on limiting interior and exterior factors. Attending galleries complained that the fair itself had been too crowded and pointed towards a decrease in the quality of galleries admitted. They also suggested that a collector’s program that failed to favor sales and the organizer’s inability to capture a significant Latin American presence had led to the downturn. Extraneous factors, such as the sagging art market, the hard-hit Spanish economy, less government funding to cultural institutions, coupled with the emergence of higher quality competing fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach, Frieze and FIAC, inspire doubt regarding ARCO’s future.
The Spanish press, gallerists and collectors are putting pressure on the fair and especially its director Lourdes Fernandez to bring new dynamism to the next edition of ARCO, while also restructuring to adjust for a reduced market.