Beyond Arco: Our picks from Madrid's Art Week

From left to right: Joao Louro, Clockwise from Above #04, and Lucia Koch, Air at Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

We can now officilly say that the art hangover was totally worth it. Our Madrid adventure probably turned out more intense (and wet) than expected, but we feel lucky to have been able to see a good deal of  galleries and artists from all over the world in many different formats.

Álvaro Gil's Toroide Explosion at L21


Before Arcomadrid opened, we kept ourselves busy checking the galleries around Doctor Fourquet Street; something similar to Linienstraße in the old days but with lots of free drinks. Our highlights: Berlin artist Ignacio Uriarte's works at OTR, the playful group show STATEMENT at L21, Maria Loboda at Maisterravalbuena and some of the works from Leandro Erlich's solo at Nogueras Blanchard. We also had the opportunity to have some wine and a chat with german-french artist Thomas Vinson, who was really excited to be in Madrid for his solo show at the THEREDOOM.

Not far from the afore mentioned street in the barrio of Lavapiés, and conveniently close to a pretty yummy galician restaurant and a rather picturesque andalusian bar (insider's tips here) we could also find Marta Cervera. On the current group show, Living with art, the gallery is presenting a carefully curated selection of artists whose talents and common passion for color and whimsical shapes have been spotted in New York. The works by Sadie Benning, Marcel Eichner, Dean Levin and our very own Despina Stokou will be on view through March 26, 2016. Highly recommended if you happen to be visiting the spanish capital.



ARCOmadrid 2016
The well announced 35th edition of the fair has been an event to look forward to with great excitement. Great expectations and a certain sense of optimism seemed to rule the mood of pretty much everybody involved in the fair.
We went through absolutely all of the booths and pretty much everywhere they would allow us to go in, except for the super VIP areas, where only important personalities such as collectors, executives, and the king and queen of Spain are granted access.

Right after the award ceremony, we met with Leonor Serrano, the winner of the first edition of the Solán de Cabras Award. The fancy water bottled in blue has chosen the London-based artist from a handful of young talents after having her gallery introduced her in an open call competition for emerging spanish creators under 35 years old.

We were lucky enough to catch Leonor and talk with her about her installation Harmonic Motion. Between kisses, phone calls, congratulations and waved helloes, the artist we have had in our spotlight since her latest show at Marta Cervera revealed us all the secrets behind her work.

She told us about the proccess and the challenges of adapting Harmonic Motion into the given space. On this installation consisting of seemingly random objects and found footage of tropical birds, many different elements meet and support each other in order to deliver the idea of seduction. "Art seduces us through gestures", explains Leonor, who has recreated a tropical hideout full of paradise birds, leaves of monstera deliciosa and tools such as brushes from her studio, presented here as sculptures resembling bird tales.

The flights and moves of these paradise birds during mating rituals have been studied and translated into lines with the help of a choreographer and then represented in the wall as spotted guidelines that glow in the dark. By doing this, the artist keeps the seduction game going by luring the audience into reproducing sensual moves that takes the image into another level of expression.

Leonor was excited to take part on an art fair for the first time in her career, while she is also convinced that this will have a huge impact on her production due to the visibility that the award is going to give her.
Read more about the installation Harmonic Motion on this text by Ángels Díaz Miralda Tena.


On our second day at ARCO, when they opened their gates to the general public, there were more waxed moustaches, more bow ties, more middle aged ladies with great taste in art and designer clothes and overall more irony than during our first stroll around the halls of the fair. And that also translated into the bling bling art being more present.

“This seems like an eye-catcher, let's go see what it is about” - I overheard a middle aged couple of collectors while contemplating the hordes of people armed with phones staring in front of some bling bling art piece. They are taking a selfie of their reflection on an Anish Kapoor. Crowd pleaser factor is pretty high at Lisson Gallery.

Their Jorinde Voigt's and Ánglela de la Cruz's were quite requested (my sources inform).


Chantal Crousel's combo worked pretty well. Young females collectors found the "hairy" works of Mona Hatoum feminist and daring. Some other guest didn't see it at all and stepped into one of the pieces creating quite a fuss at the parisian booth. Dahn Vo, currently on view at the Crystal Palace of the spanish capital, had also quite some impact, albeit at a price of 39.000€ the piece.

Thoughts on this year's edition: Arco has gotten bolder and more modern by leaning towards a geometric sensibilty that is still attractive to the eyes of the collectors and other potential buyers, and less brown paper-based/collagy/modernist, although not losing the "brown quality" to it; make it more “documenta crowd” oriented due to a good number of anthropology-based installations.

After an intensive marathon at Arco, and having checked out all the 221 participating galleries, we said farewell to the big fair for a little while. In less than three months we will be reunited in a different scenario: Lisbon.

But for the time being, and avoiding the saudade by all means, we kept ourselves distracted in a rainy Madrid that luckily had a lot of indoor art events to offer.


ROOM ART FAIR @ Petit Palace Hotel

On a crisp friday morning, we met up with RAF organizer Ana Sanfrutos, who was receiving the press with a smile in her face at a fancy lounge where a catered brunch consisting of spanish delicacies was being served.

She seems to coincide with pretty much every single hard working agent that I have crossed paths with these days when I ask her about how she is feeling; she is not nervous, but happy and confident, and a little bit tired too.

The Berlin-based curator tells me about her endeavors oragnizing ROOM ART FAIR at the Petit Palace Hotel, located in the wealthy area of Alonso Martínez. For its 5th edition, Ana and her associates at Boreal Projects have taken over the direction of this format in which 37 galleries from Spain and other places such as London, Berlin or Basel are showcasing their artists on top of pillows and bed covers and inside shower stalls.
Ana, who has curated other projects such as Kleine Salon or Zona Dynamic in Berlin, has been in Spain for the past month, dealing with both the hotel organisation and galleries coming to Madrid from all over the place from Canada to Buenos Aires.

Aida Chaves, María Eugenia Chenlo and Ana herself aim to change the way that people collect art and make it more accesible to the general public with their projects. By offering works at a more affordable price range, they are inviting young people to invest in emerging talents from all over the world while also getting over the prejudices that collecting art entails.

While sipping white wine at the lounge designed by architect Teresa Sapey, I ask her about her predictions for the fair and she is more than positive: They just opened less than an hour ago and one of the first visitors purchased a piece instantly.

A talk on how to start off collecting art, a fashion show, a good deal of performances and music events make Room Art Fair an attractive initiative, beyond the novelty of meeting artists and gallerists living in the rooms that also serve as gallery booths.

On Saturday we met with Dalila Virgolini, one of the most unique artists we have stumbled upon in Madrid. Dalila is a self-proclaimed, self-constructed celebrity and artist working in the fields of photography, video, pop music, and on this ocassion, fashion.

We found the diligent pop star at her room and attended along with her to the unveiling of "Sensation": a collection of fashion pieces and an audiovisual documentation conceived between Madrid and Berlin, where the artist likes to spend some time creating and getting inspiration for her work, which is also integrated into her lifestyle.

For this new project, Dalila continued her usual line of work by addressing topics suchas the junction of fiction and reality through the life of a modern celibrity and internet as her way of channeling a self-constructed character based in her own dreams. 

On Saturday, her army of fringed models recruited through facebook took over a floor of the hotel Petit Palace sporting her creations to the beats of electronic music. Far from being the usual catwalk, this performance took the visitors by surprise generating a lot of interest during one of the peaks of the fair.

The artist claims that this is the only time her designs are going to see the light, except from the times the artist might consider a good idea to wear them while shopping groceries in Lavapiés this summer.

Casa Leibniz had some undeniable charm to it. Knowing the palace from some other events such as design markets, we knew we wanted to have that aristocratic experience that comes with the visit again.

Consisting on texts and installations, the setting of Casa Leibniz was the most refreshing art project we have seen during our big art binge. On this group show, site-specfic works by young spanish artists curated by Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart filled the house with their presence, while reflecting on the idea of the domestic space.

Way of Scape, an installation by Julio Falagán deals with the negative effects of neoliberal politics in our society. The artist motto really touched us: skies are common spaces; skies are the only thing that belong to all of us and are not own by private companies.

So far so good, this year's art week at the spanish capital have been quite entertaining. While exhibitors, organizers and other cultural agents are doing their balances, we are still recovering from the big art hangover. Luckily, the sun is finally shining over Madrid.


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