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Art and Economics at Madrid’s Feriarte
Imagine stepping into an industrial sized exhibition hall filled with tiny galleries from antiquities to the avant-garde art of the 20th century, sat side-by-side with the Renaissance masters and medieval stone masonry. The Feriarte, Madrid’s Fine Arts and Antiques Fair, is breathtaking in epic proportions, and it is run differently to your usual art gallery. People walk about leisurely, you can pick up a magnifying glass and really examine the paintings, dealers sit in their little installations smoking defiant cigarettes, but what makes the Feriarte so different to the experience in classical museums, such as the Museo del Prado, is that here you can buy everything on display – if you have the money.
After strolling round the hall, taking in the amazing and eclectic objects on display, I began to delve deeper and I interviewed some of the gallery owners about their paintings and artefacts. We talked about their proudest pieces and the state of the economy – and how it affects the private art world. There were two main conclusions I left with, the first is that the Feriarte offers an outstanding selection of quality fine arts and archaeology from all countries, movements and time periods, and also that the art world is not suffering as much in the current economic climate as you might think.
Babylonian Kudurru (1125-1105 BC)
Stone, 53.3 cm in height
J. Bagot Arqueología
First, I’d like to address the highlights of the exhibition. Even though I was given a list in my press pack of the principal pieces on display, I thought it would be more interesting to talk to the gallery owners themselves about what they thought their favourite and more curious pieces were. My first port of call was archaeological antiquarian, J. Bagot Arqueología, whose Imperial Roman Venus sculpture had caught my attention, but it was the Babylonian Boundary Stone which was their most unique item. Originally from nowadays Iraq, dating from the years 1105-1126BC, this Babylonian “Kudurru” from the second dynasty of Isin, is an incredibly rare piece: it’s one of the three remaining of its kind in the world. Besides it laid a Bronze Persian Lion’s Head, a beautiful piece of workmanship in excellent condition.
Archaemenid Lions head
J. Bagot Arqueología
Continuing along the theme of archaeological artefacts available for sale, another gallery that interested me was Jesus Vico, with their wonderful display of Roman mosaics and antique coins. Their highlight was a small, but beautiful, Roman nude carved out of marble, originally excavated in the Syria/North Africa region and is a rare piece of sculpture.
Zeugitania. Carthage (264 - 241 a.C.), Tridracma
Gold - 12,4 gr., 2,36 cm. in diametre
Relating to the fine arts, I found the fair to be dominated by post 18th century art, however Madrid based art dealers and restorers, Theotokópoulos, named after the Greco-Spanish artist, El Greco, could boast an impressive collection of Italian and Flemish Renaissance works. Pieces they were proud of included a canvas of the “Virgin with Child” by 14th century Sienese artist, Bartolo di Fredi Cini, whose paintings have been sold in large museums, such as the Louvre, and whose work is rarely on the private market. Another piece that fascinated me was the 17th century Flemish painting by Frans Francken II of the “Tower of Babel”. This exquisite work is rich in meticulous detail, from the individually painted, miniscule figures of the workers from the foreground to those disappearing into the background like tiny ants. I was kindly allowed to examine the painting with a magnifying glass to really be able to explore and study this work. It has an interesting history, where the figures in the foreground were actually painted by Frans Franken’s brother, Ambrosius Francken II.
Bartolo di Fredi Cini (Sienna 1330), The Virgin with Child
Tempera on panel, 58.7 x 49.7 cm
Frans Francken II (Antwerp 1581) and Ambrosius Francken II (Antwerp 1590)
The Tower of Babel
Oil on Canvas, 47.5 x 71cm
Nineteenth and 20th art was well represented at the Fair, art gallery, Lorentart, housed an impressive collection of paintings including a canvas from the impressionist Spanish painter, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, which alas, had been sold by the time I arrived at the gallery, a Dalí original titled “The Alchemist” (which was apparently going at a good price, as Dalís go), various works by the Spanish impressionist, Darío de Regoyos and a modern canvas of mixed mediums by Manolo Millares from the mid-20th century, a multimedium work powerful in expressing painful and angry emotions. The nearby gallery stand, Rafael Lozano Art, housed two stunning canvasses from different eras, one from the lesser-known Spanish surrealist, Oscar Dominguez titled “L’Atelier de l’Artiste” and an impressive work by Miquel Barceló titled “Talls.” The 20th century Majorcan artist headlined the Feriarte, with two key pieces featured in the Fair’s catalogue, the other being “1/2” in the Ignacio Redondo gallery. For those of you looking for cubist works, then the Manuel Barbie gallery is the place to go, with a cubist still life by Pablo Picasso, originally from a German collection in the 30s, and a cubist composition by Marie Blanchard from the early 20th century.
Marie Blanchard (Santander 1881), “Cubist Composition” 1916-1917
Oil on canvas, 33 x 24cm
Manuel Barbié Gallery
The quality of the art presented at the Feriarte is undoubtedly world class, but how is business faring under the current economic climate? After interviewing a variety of galleries and dealers at the fair, the general consensus is not what you might expect. While business and sales may be slower than usual, there has also been an increase in demand for high quality art. Sales are suffering for mid-range antiquities and art, but on the higher end of the art and archaeology spectrum, sales have been doing really well. The main reason for this could even be directly linked to the crisis – more and more people are buying paintings, sculptures and archaeological artefacts as an investment. Art and archaeology will gain in value while the market falls, and may prove to be a less risky investment, then say property or shares. There has been an increasing demand for archaeology and art nouveau era artefacts, the latter being very fashionable at the moment. Some dealers even view the economic situation as a positive thing, meaning art buyers are being more selective, forcing dealers to move faster due to competition. It means that professionals in art and antiques sales must move out of their comfort zone and adopt a more creative attitude. So while the fair itself has been slow this year, most dealers said they have met their target margin and haven’t noticed a huge impact on the sale of art to private collectors. To summarise, now is the time to invest in art and archaeology, since prices are reasonable and there is a great deal of opportunity to be had.
Oscar Dominguez, L’Atelier de l’Artiste 1951
Rafael Lozano Art
Whether you’re a collector or only an impoverished art lover, the Feriarte is worth the visit, if only to expand your experience of art outside the medium of State museums. Art here feels alive, in motion and sought after, and you can really get up close and personal to numerous paintings, sculptures and artefacts where you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do so. I can safely say I came away from the Art Fair knowing a great deal more, not only about art, but the economics surrounding the art world.
I would like to give a special thanks to the galleries and dealers who were kind enough to show me their works and answer my questions at the Feriarte 2011:
Manolo Millares, Canvas no. 60 (1959)
Mixed media on burlap, 162 x 130 cm
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