Madrid’s ARCO art fair ups its pace in Lisbon

 In Entertainment, Expansion, Internationalization

Lisbon has recently joined the travel circuit for art fairs, with ARCOlisboa offering a platform for premium international collectors.

The launch of Madrid’s ARCO art fair in Lisbon three years ago was a sign of the city’s sudden cultural emergence. Its debut came as Portugal started to recover from an economic recession, and the capital wasn’t yet known for its art market.

Since then, ARCOlisboa has grown in prominence and now has the support of the EDP Foundation and Lisbon council, among others. The Lisbon council, for instance, is investing €180,000 towards the next event.

“Our relationship with the council has been great since the first fair and its support has been strengthened in this third edition to the extent that it has ­become a co-organiser,” Carlos Urroz, ARCOlisboa director, tells Essential Business.

Other sponsors include the Ministry of Culture, EGEAC, Tourism of Portugal and the Millenniumbcp Foundation, as well as galleries, art centres and institutions. Urroz says the increasing number of sponsors reflects the city’s growing ­enthusiasm for contemporary art.

Art fairs around the world are proving to be a successful way for galleries to connect with their audiences. Sales at art fairs reached around US$12.7 billion in 2015, and sales by galleries at fairs have been increasing, according to TEFAF (European Art Foundation). There are over 250 international art fairs around the world. Fifteen years ago, there were only around a dozen.

“Art fairs are an opportunity to meet with people in the sector and exchange ideas,” Urroz said. “Today, there are so many art fairs around the world and each one has its own identity. It wouldn’t make sense for all the galleries to go to fairs because that would be negative. They would all be the same and there would be no differentiating mark.”

ARCO, which will run from May 17-20, focuses on galleries which “fit into the Portuguese, Latin American and Euro­­pean context”. New galleries featured this year include Krinzinger (Vienna), Helga de Alvear (Madrid), Carreras Mugica (Bilbao) or Greengrassi (London).

International fairs like ARCO act as a crucial platform for galleries and artists to meet collectors, museum directors and other key players in the sector. ­Carlos Urroz also pointed out that at art fairs it is easier for collectors to get to know new galleries and artists, all under one roof.

“For five days and in the same space, you can see artworks from different ­galleries and that helps getting to know an artist’s work in depth. Lisbon also ­offers interesting exhibitions in the best museums and art centres. All this makes visiting a fair like this very attractive,” he said.

Until recently, Portugal wasn’t an ­obvious destination for international art fairs, but ARCO took advantage of the country’s financial recovery, along with the impressive tourism boom and the ­arrival of real estate buyers from abroad.

“ARCOlisboa was born as the Portuguese capital underwent a good moment at all levels, boasting some of the best artists in the world. Lisbon is the best place from which to reach the outer world and expand. It’s also a place where people want to be, a destination which many people have as a second home and which receives visitors with high purchasing power,” Urroz pointed out.

ARCO takes place at Portugal’s ­Cordoaria Nacional, a former ropes ­factory, thanks to support from the ­Portuguese navy and EGEAC. “Apart from being a beautiful building from the 18th century, its architecture offers a unique design which is also ideal consi­dering the number of stands, enabling visitors to circulate around the fair ­easily,” said the ARCOlisboa director.

The price ARCO pays per square metre is around €220, and the opening section of the gallery which will be ­dedicated to young artists is €3,000.

This year, the fair is introducing solo shows, featuring artists like Esther ­Ferrer, Àngels Barcelona, José Carlos Martinat, Mónica de Miranda and ­Carlos Carvalho. Another novelty is a space created in collaboration with ­Lisbon’s Architecture Triennale.

While he says his goal is to maintain moderate growth and improve the fair’s overall quality, Carlos Urroz highlighted the fair’s commitment to representing Portugal’s cultural scene, pointing to ­crucial role of art fairs in promoting and connecting artists.

Praising Lisbon, Urroz concluded: “There are certain feelings, contacts and exchanges that don’t exist in other places. Lisbon is the best place to reach the outer world.”

Tickets to ARCOlisboa cost €15 and can be purchased at the Cordoaria ­Nacional.