Spanish Art Fair ARCO Madrid Taken Over By Politics

Spanish Art Fair ARCO Madrid Taken Over By Politics

Maria Marques for Harper's Bazaar - 25 February 2018

Spain's most important contemporary art fair, running from 21-25 February, overshadowed by an unexpected turn of events.

In a break from tradition, this year´s edition of ARCO, Spain’s premier art fair, which runs from 21-25 February in the Spanish capital, is not hosting a guest country or region. Given the political and existential crisis that has gripped Spain since the Catalan independence vote last October, it is perhaps not a coincidence that the fair’s organisers wanted to steer clear from highlighting a specific nation and, by inference, a unified cultural identity. “The notion of nationalism in the arts has to a large extent been superseded,” affirmed Carlos Urroz, at the helm of the fair since 2010, a few days before its opening.

Nationalism, however, is alive and kicking in contemporary Spain and the events that unfolded on Wednesday, 21 February, during the fair’s collector and professional preview, proved a steely reminder that, all too often, art imitates life. In a regrettable first in the fair’s long history, an artwork by Madrid-based artist Santiago Sierra, well-known for his uncompromising and provocative stance, was removed from the stand of renowned gallerist Helga de Alvear, as it was deemed too inflammatory by IFEMA, the company that runs ARCO.

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