New energy at Bogotá art fair amid growing wealth
With its percentage of millionaires rising faster than Brazil and Mexico, Colombia’s collector base is expanding
By Charmaine Picard. Web only
Published online: 31 October 2013
Colombia’s growing economy and emerging art scene energised the ninth edition of Bogotá’s ArtBo contemporary art fair (25 to 28 October). Its director María Paz Gaviria, the daughter of the former Colombian president César Gaviria, was appointed in April 2012, and by many accounts she has raised the quality and has made the roster more international, with foreign galleries accounting for 80% of this year’s 65 exhibitors. “We conceive of the fair as an alternative market and as an alternative art scene. We are positioning ourselves as a fair based in Latin America, and not as a Latin American art fair. That’s my strategy,” Gaviria said.
The country’s growing prosperity has expanded the local collector base creating an attractive emerging art market. According to a report issued this month by the research firm WealthInsight the number of millionaires in Colombia has grown by 39% since 2007, surpassing the growth rate in Brazil and Mexico during the same period. “The economy in this country is very, very strong. I have the feeling that there is more happening in Latin America compared to in Europe right now,” said the Stuttgart-based dealer Michael Sturm, who participated at the fair for the first time.
The optimism comes despite widespread protests and riots this summer from the country’s industrial workers, including farmers, coffee growers, milk producers, truckers and miners, which resulted in two deaths in Bogotá. Facing plummeting approval ratings—a Gallup poll in August saw President Juan Manuel Santos’s public support drop to 21%—the government gave in to the protestors’ demands earlier this month and has promised to raise $1bn-$1.5bn in aid for farmers. Santos’s administration is also working to come up with a national agricultural policy by the end of the year, ahead of elections next spring. While these troubles were little discussed at the art fair, many of the nation’s leaders came to the event in support of the local Colombian galleries and to promote the developing tourist industry that is reinforcing the economy.
The Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, the private-public business entity that funds the art fair each year, invited over 250 international VIPs to the event. Seen walking the aisles were the Singapore collectors Mabie and Graeme Briggs, Louis Adler of Houston, Randy Shull and Hedy Fisher of North Carolina, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros of Miami and Cuba, and Rodolfo Viana and Ana Karmen Longobardi of São Paulo. Brazilian dealers came out in force with ten galleries participating in this edition.
New York’s Magnan Metz gallery sold out its booth of pieces by Miler Lagos, Mangle and Roberto Diago. São Paulo’s Vermelho gallery sold a wall installation by Carla Zaccagnini to Bogotá’s Museo de la Banco de la República for $25,000 on opening night and several pieces by Chiara Banfi and Nicolas Bichal. Sales at Galeria Luisa Strina were strong, with works by Nicolas Paris, Pablo Accinelli, Marcius Galan and Pedro Motta selling from $5,000 to $30,000 to Latin American and European collectors. According to the gallery director Maria Quiroga, prices at ArtBo are lower then at Frieze in London where the gallery brought works valued from $15,000 and $300,000 the previous week, yet she believes the Colombia market is important. “We tried the art fairs in Mexico and Argentina, but we feel like Colombian collectors are more open,” she said.
ArtBo takes place less than one week after Frieze in London and runs concurrently with Fiac in Paris. When asked if the timing of the fair will impact the fair’s future growth, Gaviria responded: “Several exhibitors that participated at Frieze last week are here now with no trouble, but changing the date is something we would take into consideration.”
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