CAN Ibiza Has Ambition, but Can It Offer More Than a ‘Work-cation’?

The island art fair moved its dates to try to capture more collectors this year.

CAN Ibiza art fair sign for its third edition in 2024. Photo: Maria Santos Photography.

There’s no getting around it: art sales are slow in 2024. Would you rather experience the market’s stagnation in a soulless, urban convention center or in one of the world’s top holiday destinations, after a day spent taking calls by the hotel pool? The appeal of the latter option must explain the upbeat attitude of exhibitors at last week’s CAN Ibiza art fair despite the perceptibly modest presence of serious collectors.

Thirty-two galleries took a chance on the fair’s third edition, of which about half were first-time exhibitors. Most said they had been convinced to participate by Saša Bogojev, a well-connected curator who is the driving force behind the fair. The uniquely lenient opening hours of 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. helped seal the deal.

That the fair openly markets itself as a “work-cation” belies its growing ambition to capture more serious collectors. But does it have what it takes to establish itself as more than just a holiday destination? While still in its infancy, the fair is slowly attracting more established galleries, among them the international dealerships like Galleria Continua and Xippas, as well as New York’s Hollis Taggart. CAN has also switched its original mid-July slot to late June in the hopes of catching international collectors who came to Europe for Art Basel. However, the scheduling move was met with murmurs of dissent around the fair as multiple exhibitors speculated that the decision to open ahead of peak holiday season had resulted in a net reduction in footfall.

a large interior space with booths and lots of art that people mill about

Opening night of CAN Ibiza art fair’s third edition in 2024. Photo: Maria Santos Photography.

This matters because, for now at least, affluent families retreating to their second home in the Balearic islands are still the fair’s core target audience. To this end, the galleries put forward a cohesive display of strikingly colorful, predominantly figurative painting that certainly felt very holiday-home friendly. Prices were kept accessible, with most galleries citing ranges that fell somewhere between €2,000 to €15,000 ($2,150 to $16,000). Many sales were made online to remote collectors and multiple galleries were surprised to note more activity taking place over the weekend than on the VIP evening.

“The market [in Ibiza] has the potential to shift from decoration to good taste in contemporary art,” said Matteo Consonni, the director of Lisbon’s up-and-coming Galeria Madragoa. Hinting at the difficulty for any fair trying to transition from local boutique status to international market player, he added that it is “a process” and it will “need the efforts of all local cultural players involved.” 

a large structure in an interior space that has orange and pink walls and a double bed in the middle with art on the walls

Galeria Madragoa booth at CAN Ibiza art fair in 2024. Photo: Sayana Cairo.

Even within the fair’s eye-catching sea of color, Madragoa managed to stand out for the pink and orange murals of its zany “collector’s bedroom” concept designed by artist Luis Lázaro Matos. Consonni believed it was “a quite challenging booth that has not been understood by everybody, so sales were slow.”

Despite the regional bent of the fair, it has once again drawn an intrepid few galleries from further afield, including Piermarq* returning from Sydney, Akiinoue from Tokyo, and a handful of galleries from North America. These include Taggart, who traveled from New York for the first time and plans to return next year. He sold eight works by abstract artists like Osamu Kobayashi and Kathryn Macnaughton ranging from $6,000 to $15,000, of which the majority were bought online by U.S. collectors.

a large walled structure in an interior space filled with colorful figurative paintings

Ross-Sutton Gallery at CAN Ibiza art fair’s third edition in 2024. Photo: Sayana Cairo.

Also from New York is Destinee Ross-Sutton, representing primarily Black and African artists. She noted particularly high interest in a large painting by the Nigerian artist Joshua M. Adokuru, whose works sold out at 1-54 New York in May. The image of a young woman against a red ground sold for a “very modest” €12,000 ($12,900) to a London collector who vacations in Ibiza every year. Three more hopefuls were put on the waitlist for future works by Adokuru. In the very last hour of the fair, three local collectors enquired about a painting by Berlin-based Lunita-July Dorn that eventually sold for €5,900 ($6,350) to an Austrian buyer with a house in Ibiza.

Having captured holidaymakers’ attention, CAN has leaned into Ibiza’s worldwide reputation for great nightlife—the fair’s own eagerly-attended afterparty was held at the legendary superclub Pacha. But its continued success will also rely on establishing itself within the wider cultural scene of the Balearic islands. This primarily centers around a growing number of galleries in Mallorca, which is also home to initiatives like the artist residency at Neuendorf House that has already welcomed rising star Louise Giovanelli and well-established artist William Monk. The region received a major boost in 2021 with the launch of Hauser & Wirth Menorca. Can a convincing case be made for Ibiza?

a large walled structure in an interior space filled with colorful figurative paintings

Enari Gallery at CAN Ibiza art fair in 2024. Photo: Sayana Cairo.

Indeed, several galleries from Mallorca made the ferry trip to take part in CAN. Marc Bibiloni of La Bibi gallery said he sold 20 works with prices ranging from €1,500 to €25,000 ($1,600-$26,900). Though it was undeniably useful to meet new clients with residences in the region, he described Ibiza’s market as “seasonal” compared to Mallorca’s, which apparently “grows exponentially every year.” There were some notable absences from CAN: Parra & Romero, a well-established Madrid gallery that opened a permanent space in Ibiza in 2022, and the London and Stockholm-based Carl Kostyál gallery, which participated in the fair last year. This year, it opted instead to take advantage of the flow of collectors onto the island by opening a one-off, standalone exhibition at Casa Cardinale in Ibiza’s old town Dalt Vila.

Three of the fair’s exhibitors hailed from the island, of which a major headliner was Gathering, a gallery that launched in London in 2022 and has just opened a new outpost near the north of Ibiza, a relatively remote area where many part-time residents prefer to live. The gallery made a splash on the scene during CAN with the buzzy opening of “Painting Not Painting,” featuring works by Bruce Nauman and Stefan Brüggemann, who has a studio on the island. An outdoor dinner to mark the occasion was co-hosted by Hauser & Wirth, who represent Brüggermann, and attended by a throng of predominantly German and Russian collectors.

a white interior space that is brightly lit with a simple floor sculpture in the middle and then a silver surface with two small black horizontal lines in the middle and another work with the work "AH" on white and then "HA" on black

“Painting Not Painting,” at Gathering Ibiza from July 28 through September 1, 2024. Photo: Blythe Thea Williams, courtesy of Gathering.

Gathering’s founder Alex Flick hopes to elevate the Ibizan art scene so that it can better meet the expectations of seasoned international collectors. “[To bring] the London gallery ethos and the London gallery standard here is important for the island,” he said. At CAN, Gathering made a total of €50,000 ($54,000) in sales but Flick said the fair is very much still developing. “It needs a couple more years before it finds its potential. There were really good galleries but I would hope next year there are more art-world recognized, larger galleries.”

“The ingredients for a really interesting market exist here,” he added. “We’ve seen mega-galleries open in holiday destinations, whether its Gagosian in Gstaad or Hauser & Wirth in St. Mortiz. Ibiza is a much bigger ecosystem than any of those and the possibilities here are many times bigger.”

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