ARCO Madrid 2020 - The Return of Craftsmanship

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Last week we visited Spain’s most important contemporary art fair which took place between the 26th of February and 1st of March in Madrid
ARCO became notorious as one of the most important contemporary art fairs within the worldwide circuit at the beginning of the 21st Century. After some difficult years over the last decade, coinciding with the deep economic crisis in Spain, it has seen a strong recovery over the last editions and we felt an atmosphere of renewed confidence and maturity this year. The sensation we perceived is that the fair has now established itself for good as a relevant global event.

With more than 100,000 visitors and over 200 galleries from 31 countries, it is a substantial marketplace for the art business. Furthermore, Madrid now has seen a number of parallel art fairs happening at the same time which turn the City into a mecca for art every month of February.

In this edition there was no guest country to the fair to showcase their national art. As every year, political and social topics are represented throughout art in some more or less scandalous pieces which give the press a great opportunity to report on the fair.

Aside political topics such as Riiko Sakkinen’s piece ‘Franco was not as bad as they say’, particularly relevant in a year when the extreme right wing has made a big comeback in the Spanish political scene in the last general elections, we found many works with social focus on equality and women’s rights, or environmental concerns.


Ai Weiwei presented his Zodiac series, a beautiful and colourful collection of pixelated paintings based on the Chinese calendar, and we loved the always intriguing long face statues by Jaume Plensa. Alongside those, works by world renowned Olafur Eliasson, Chillida and many other artists at the top of the art market, populated the two pavilions of the fair.

Digital art which has been strongly present in past editions, seemed more subdued this year, and we certainly saw less screens and projections than three years ago, when Opie’s walking figures seemed to be everywhere.

Instead, one of the most significant trends of the fair is the renaissance of craftsmanship and the increasing presence of works in traditional textiles, tiles and ceramic. This seems to tie up very well with the increasing concern about the environment and shows how art is now embracing more and more the use of natural and raw materials.

Artist Valeska soares presented glass chandeliers suspended over mirrors, Carlos Aires featured a mural made with ceramic dishes depicting military men. We saw wallpapers, delicate embroidery covering a bull head, pieces of deconstructed furniture and use of old techniques in many shapes and forms in what is now becoming a sort of new category within the art scene, linking the manufacturing tradition with cutting edge artistic creation.

We left feeling fulfilled by the enormous variety and excellent quality of the works showcased in the fair. The hard work put on by the organisers and the galleries to curate a great event was certainly well received by the public. We look forward to next year’s edition, to see a lot of new spanish and international art.

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