As Argentina’s Economy Falters, Museums Come to the Rescue, Snapping Up Works at arteBA

South American dealers say art offers a form of refuge in volatile times.

Fernanda Laguna, Untitled from the
Fernanda Laguna, Untitled from the "Abstract Shapes That Look Like Something" series (2018). Image courtesy of Nora Fisch Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Sales may have started quite slow at arteBA, the leading Argentinian art fair that wrapped up in Buenos Aires on Sunday. But in the end, some collectors—and, notably, a number of museums—did not go home empty-handed.

Many dealers had low expectations going into the fair, which opened against the backdrop of a gloomy Argentinian economy. In 2018, the country’s economy shrank 2.5 percent and unemployment ticked up to nine percent. Hopes are high that economic reforms will help the country to rebound from a severe currency crisis this year.

“I think that the story this year was how surprised we all were that despite the economic crisis the fair worked so well, sales were brisk, record sales for some galleries, very good ones for others,” veteran Buenos Aires dealer Nora Fisch told artnet News. “We went into this fair with a high level of uncertainty. For us, it is important to continue to have the support of our local collector base, as arteBA is our main annual event in terms of revenue. It happened!

“One could have several sociological, emotional or economic hypothesis about why the fair was vibrant despite a gloomy economic context,” she continued, “but it is clear that the local art market, which has been slowly expanding in recent years, is showing resilience.”

Osías Yanov, Pies de agua (2018). Image courtesy of Nora Fisch Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Osías Yanov, Pies de agua (2018). Image courtesy of Nora Fisch Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Fisch placed two works with international museums, among other sales. The fair has a particularly robust museum acquisitions program supported by local philanthropists, which allocates $10,000 each to participating museums to acquire work from the fair.

The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Massachusetts acquired a two-part work by local artist Osías Yanov that consists of a reconfigurable sculpture and a photograph referencing queer culture. Curator Ruth Estévez, who will be co-curating the next São Paulo Biennial, selected the work.

The Tamayo Museum in Mexico City, meanwhile, acquired a painting by Argentinean artist Fernanda Laguna from her series “Abstract Shapes That Look Like Something.”

Another Buenos Aires gallery mainstay, Ruth Benzacar, sold a mixed media work on canvas by 83-year-old Argentinean artist Marie Orensanz for between $5,000 and $10,000, as well as a mixed media work on paper by Guillermo Kuitca for a price between $50,000 and $100,000.

Marie Orensanz, <i>Di.so.lu.tion</i>. Image courtesy of Ruth Benzacar Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Marie Orensanz, Di.so.lu.tion. Image courtesy of Ruth Benzacar Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Benzacar’s other sales included three metal works by Eduardo Basualdo (who was featured in the Art Basel Cities public art program curated by Cecilia Alemani last September) priced between $6,000 to $12,000; two small wall sculptures made with metal pipes by Luciana Lamothe priced from $12,000 to $14,000; and a mixed-media painting on paper by Marina de Caro, priced from $12,000 to $18,000.

A representative from Roldan Gallery told artnet News it had sold a painting by Nicolás García Uriburu, entitled Plaza San Martín (1978), to Santander Rio for $180,000.

Nicolás García Uriburu,, Plaza San Martín (1978). Image courtesy of Roldan Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Nicolás García Uriburu,, Plaza San Martín (1978). Image courtesy of Roldan Gallery, Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, Federico Curutchet, the artistic director of Barro Gallery, said it sold work by every artist at the booth, including pieces by Mondongo, Gabriel Chaile, Matías Duville, Martin Legón, and seven drawings by Nicanor Araoz. He said a member of the Guggenheim Museum’s board also bought a work from Argentinian-born, Miami-based Agustina Woodgate’s “National Times” series. Woodgate will be the first Argentinian artist to be included in the Whitney Biennial, which opens next month.

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