For a brief few days last month, the art world consisted of nothing but Spanish galleries -- or at least, so it seemed for visitors to DeArte 2003, a fair of 32 Spanish galleries held in Madrid's incomparable Palace of Congresses, Jan. 22-26, 2003. Spanish culture minister Pilar del Castillo together with Madrid mayor Jose María Alvarez del Manzano were honored at the inaugural of the event, which featured works by more than 400 artists in a space measuring 2,000 square meters.
DeArte was frankly established last year to take up some of the slack in the national art market that resulted from the increasing international appeal of ARCO, Madrid's other major art fair (which opens with 275 galleries from 30 countries, Feb. 13-18, 2003). In contrast, DeArte focuses specifically on Spanish art, by both emerging and established artists.
Prices ranged from €300 to €70,000, and it seems that prices in Spain are a bargain compared to what is found elsewhere on the international market. More than one observer has noted that speculators can find works in Spain that treble their value as soon as they leave the country.
Among the Spanish masters whose works could be found at the fair were Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Chillida, Tàpies, Oteiza, Juan Gris, Clavé, Saura, Mompó, Rafael Canogar, Granell, Josep Guinovart, Lucio Muñoz, Manolo Valdes, Pancho Cossío, Pedro Grifoe, Luis Feito and Alexanco.
The fair also featured some performances and installations, including one by Jose Luis Serzo titled The Physiological Impossibility of Maintaining a Sublime Thought and another by Dukessa, whose new work is dedicated to tolerance and women's liberation. Corporate participation in the fair included workshops sponsored by IBM on new technology and its use in the arts.
Among younger showcases at DeArte, the always elegant dealer Jon Espel from Galería Mun in Madrid brought colorful works by the Basque pop artist Victor Arrizabalaga, whose heavy iron sculptures are hand-painted with lacquer. Each has its own unique identity.
The Marc Sabata Gallery from Barcelona presented abstract works by the abstract Norwegian artist Anya Magnussen, who lives and works in Barcelona. Her rough-hewn paintings attain an expressiveness through their mix of structures and forms, lights and colors.
Sculpture by Joan Barrantes, which is known for its juxtaposition of contrasting raw materials (iron and rocks), was featured at Galeries Bennassar from Mallorca. Linked by a power point, slender iron sheets wrap up and sustain heavy rocks, evoking sense of an intimate shelter in his effort to capture a fleeting instant.
Madrid dealer Juan Kreisler presented the recent work of the artist Monica Rodriguez, whose pieces compile a sketched structure open to different readings. Galería D'Art 4, which hails from Castellón, presented the latest works by the veteran artist Juan de Ribera Berenguer, who is son of the well-known painter Rafael Berenguer and considered one of Spain's leading figurative painters.
DeArte had presentations as well from nonprofits, such as the International Center of Prints, the Fundación CIEC and the Fundación del Sur, which promotes cultural exchange among Mediterranean nations. The president, Maria Paz Ballesteros, brought in some interesting pieces from Francisco Cruz de Castro (b. 1935, Madrid), an artist who considers both thought and technique as the keys of his artistic activity. Deeply attracted to the expressiveness of matter, Cruz de Castro presented four abstract images of sand clocks, done in a masterful mix of acrylic with marble powder and sand. These works capture the present and show the injuries of time gone by.
Overall, DeArte offers a good overview of Spain's contemporary art panorama. Its promoters, Miguel Tugores, Gema Lazcano and Juan Kreisler (among other collaborators), are to be congratulated. They can be proud to have reached a large audience and helped foster a strong national art market. Spain is an enlightened country rich in creativity, where art is just around the corner.