ARCO Madrid Feels A British Invasion and Goes Online

Article excerpt

MADRID, Spain--Although its organizers manage to make every new edition of Arco--short for Feria Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo--a special one, this year's event, Arco `01, will certainly go down in history as the most original to date.

Said Arco press spokeswoman Marietta Vazquez, "We wanted the first Arco of the new century to be an extremely innovative event to allow us to maintain our lead as one of the art fairs most open to a truly international presence, one that is close to revolutionary in scope."

This credo is why Arco's international jury came up with a short list of 274 of the world's leading galleries, 105 of them from Spain, the remaining 169 from the rest of the world--of which only 11 were from the United States. By comparison, France presented 17 of its most important galleries, Germany was represented by 18 and Italy brought 20.

Great Britain was this year's special guest, and the 50 British galleries that participated in Arco 01 lost no time in making it evident that, as Vazquez put it, "The British art market is undoubtedly the most important in the current European art scene. Indeed we were surprised by its stunning youthfulness."

This was quite apparent in the scope of the British presence at Arco, which tended to focus on the past 10 years of British creativity. The commissioners of the British segment, Kim Sweet, Matthew Higgs and Charles Esche, managed to persuade some of the leading lights of that country to attend and sell their work at Arco `01. Arco `01 also kicked off with four roundtables on its first day--all of which were centered on the theme of "Art in the U.K. now"--with separate panels devoted to space, media, geography and collecting.

Indeed, Arco has been one of the international art fairs to innovate in the subject of collecting, and this year's roundtables managed to attract such personalities as Iwona Blazwick, head of exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London, and Greville Worthington, a major British art collector based in North Yorkshire.

Given the importance Arco accorded Britain, and Britain gave itself, Britain will certainly be a hard act to follow, especially during forthcoming editions of Arco. Next year's special guest will be Australia, with Switzerland to follow in 2003, Greece in 2004 and Canada in 2005.

Strangely enough, one of the most innovative segments of this year's Arco was devoted to the displays of a number of internationally known galleries. …