According to the dictionary, a fair is “a gathering held at a specified time and place for buying and selling goods; a market” or “an exhibition, as of farm products or manufactured goods, usually accompanied by various competitions and entertainment”. And I ask, what is so unique about art fairs? Is it the same to buy, sell, or promote a consumer product or a work of art? What happens to a collector who can visit hundreds of galleries in a few hours? The answers can be found in ArtRio, the fair that took place from the September 5th to the 8th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we were able to see up close what was happening in the trenches of the art market.
ArtRio is one of the world’s largest contemporary art fairs. More than 100 galleries showed their collections in six pavilions of Rio’s Mauá Pier. Participating artists and galleries came from 13 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, United States, France, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, Peru, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay. Their works were displayed in 140,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Since its first edition in 2011, the fair has grown in quality and quantity. “The numbers achieved by ArtRio in its first two editions reinforce the enormous potential of the Brazilian market and the demand for fairs and events related to art”. According to fair organizers, “in 2011 ArtRio included 83 galleries and received 46,000 visitors. In 2012, the numbers grew to 120 galleries, and 74,000 visitors”. The goal this year was to bring superior quality galleries and the potential to attract international collectors from outside the Rio-Sao Paulo axis. “The art market in Brazil is maturing rapidly, and we believe it is necessary, at this time, to stimulate the arrival of new collectors and art lovers,” explained ArtRio associate Brenda Valansi.
But who is in charge of choosing these galleries and what criteria do they follow? For this edition, a Committee comprising gallery owners Alexandre Gabriel, Anita Schwartz, Cecilia Tanure, Greg Lulay and Matthew Wood carried out the selection. These experts chose the galleries based on their relevance in a particular market, the quality of their exhibitions and the artist they represent, or their impact on other international art fairs.
As a novelty this year, new concepts like VISTA and LUPA were added to the usual sections PANORAMA and SOLO. ArtRio made a daring but necessary decision. VISTA became a space dedicated to young galleries and experimental curators, which brought works by emerging contemporary artists with innovative proposals. The LUPA program, curated by Abaseh Mirvali, showed site-specific works and installations (works created specifically for the precise location where they are shown) at the annex 4 of the Mauá Pier warehouse.
This fair has found its own place in the visual arts scene and has become one of the most significant events for Latin American art. At the beginning of the article, we tried to unravel the difference between an art fair and other fairs. It is clear that going to ArtRio is more than just touring a gallery-decked hallway. ArtRio opens doors to new artists, encourages experimentation and innovation, and offers works specifically created for that space during those days. And so I now ask you, ArtRio, is it just an art fair, or much more than that? ■