Although the presence of Carlos Urroz is familiar in Miami, each of his visits attracts the interest of the media. The reason is that this man of simple ways and gentle dynamism, one of the most prominent personalities in the current art scene, is the director of ARCOmadrid, the International Contemporary Art Fair of the Spanish capital.
Urroz was ARCO’s deputy director from 1994 to 1998. He managed the Helga de Alvear Gallery until 2005 and was a member of the advisory board of the ICO Foundation (a Spanish public company whose goal is to promote culture). He is also the founder of Urroz Projects, a firm dedicated to organizing cultural events. Urroz served on the advisory board of the State Corporation for Spanish Cultural Action Abroad, and since 2008 he is the visual arts consultant of the Community of Madrid.
But his persona as a cultural manager was projected internationally after his appointment in May 2010 as director of ARCOmadrid, one of the most comprehensive and influential contemporary art fairs in the world. Since then, Urroz has carried the event through a severe economic crisis in Spain. He has managed to set its course, rejuvenate the fair and turn it into a profitable project for the delight of art lovers.
ARCOmadrid recently organized a luncheon at the SLS Hotel South Beach, in Miami Beach, Florida, to promote its 34th edition, which will be held from February 25 to March 1, 2015. The event took place during Art Basel Miami Beach, and Urroz talked with azureazure.com about ARCO’s current state of affairs, the prevalence of Latin American art, and his projections for 2015.
JESÚS ROSADO [JR] / How would you define ARCOmadrid in its current stage?
CARLOS URROZ [CU] / ARCO is a fair of discovery. We work with curators, museum directors and directors of biennials to screen artists before we show their work to other museum directors, curators, and collectors. In that sense, it is full of surprises that provide the opportunity to discover exceptional emerging artists.
JR / What place does Latin American art occupies in ARCOmadrid?
CU / It has a very prominent place. ARCO was the first fair to host the leading Latin American galleries. The presence of Latin American art arrived at ARCOmadrid in 1997 with 34 galleries from Latin America. In the 2015 edition, Colombia will be the guest country, and Latin American curators will organize the Solo Projects section. I believe that ARCO is the major gateway for Latin American art in Europe, and a forum for European galleries to come in contact and learn about Latin American artists. These, in turn, can show their work for the first time to the important world of museum directors, curators and biennial directors in the European continent. I can say that, today, Latin American art floods our fair.
JR / Did your presence at Art Basel Miami Beach implied particular intentions for ARCO´s objectives?
CU / For us it is a great time to meet other gallery owners, get to know them better and see what kind of stands they install, to meet collectors attending the exhibition, and curators with whom we can work in the future. We promoted, worked hard, and organized a luncheon to inform and encourage collectors to visit us during the event in Madrid next February.
Juan Andrés Gaitán, Curator of ARCO Colombia & Carlos Urroz, Director of ARCO Madrid.
JR / How do you anticipate the 2015 edition of ARCO? Will it be governed by the parameters of previous years?
CU / It will be a fantastic year. There is a selection of 20 artists chosen by Juan Andrés Gaitan, a fabulous Colombian critic who works between Mexico and Berlin and is an expert in the international and Colombian art scene. I think we will have a big turnout. The fair will also take into consideration the shifting trend in the Spanish and European economies, which will affect the outcome. I think what’s new is that ARCO is inviting galleries to present one or two artists per stand, so it will be a calmer, more selective event with the atmosphere of a small biennial.
JR / In these times of crisis in Spain, is ARCO solvent? Does it produce earnings in proportion to its budget?
CU / ARCO is an economically viable project, and we have overcome the toughest economic times by adjusting our costs and making a smaller and more sustainable fair. At present, it is certainly a feasible project that can last many years.
JR / What do you think has been your contribution as the fair’s organizer?
CU / I love to work with artists, to learn about them. I try to reach that point when, after studying the work of an artist, you begin to see the world in a different way. That is what we try to accomplish in ARCO: making it a fair geared more towards the creators, not just the objects. At ARCO, visitors obtain information—besides the type of work and its price— of what’s behind the creative process, and what inspires an artist. That is what I want our guests to absorb when they visit ARCO. I want them to focus on the artist´s ideas and the sentiment expressed in the work exhibited, beyond the object, the money and the market.
JR / What guidelines would you suggest to the collector attending ARCO?
CU / To be willing to be surprised, not to go with preconceived ideas or with a shopping list and to learn about the creators, whether they are a significant figure or an emerging artist. I want them to be seduced by the work and decide to buy it, to help the artist create his next piece.
JR / How do you rate what you saw during the latest Art Basel Miami Beach? Is there anything in particular that you consider especially noteworthy?
CU / It is a great fair that confirms the interest in Latin American art in the United States, Latin America and around the world—featuring an increasing number of young artists who are gaining importance and are being consolidated as promising figures with a long career ahead of them. There was a revitalized market that brought back active buying. The projects by very young, and very experimental artists impressed me. I also saw very interesting pieces by artists who surely will draw attention in the coming years.
JR / Have you noticed a definite identity in Art Basel Miami Beach?
CU / Latin American art is a crucial subject. I think it is the access door to the art of Latin America in the United States and, of course, a fair that offers serious collectors the possibility of acquiring very original pieces.
JR / Is there anything you want to tell our readers who are interested in art?
CU / That we hope to see them, of course, on February 25th in Madrid, for a very different, interesting and surprising fair. ■