Marbella Gets an Art Fair, But Are Collectors Game?

Could this idyllic coastal city in southern Spain become "the next Miami"?

Next summer, the Spanish city of Marbella will offer more than its usual sunny beaches, yacht parties, and luxury shopping opportunities. An art fair is about to hit town. The inaugural edition of Art Marbella will kick-off on July 30—and it’s already calling itself “the most important event of contemporary art in South Europe.”

The venture, set to gather 50 international galleries, is the brainchild of Alejandro Zaia, the Argentinian co-founder of the Latin American modern and contemporary art fairs PINTA New York (which relocated to Miami in its last edition), and PINTA London. Despite tapping the booming Latin American art market, PINTA London has tended to underperform, and there are rumors that it might be discontinued.

But Zaia has already found sunnier pastures, and has enlisted a curatorial committee—including Omar López-Chahoud, founder and director of the Miami art fair UNTITLED, and María Chiara Valacchi, director of Milan’s non-profit Spazio Cabinet—to help him with the fair’s first edition.

Applications are open until March 30, so the list of  participants is yet to be drafted, but it seems unlikely that this new fair will challenge Spain’s premier art fair, ARCO, in any way. The Madrid-based fair, which gathers more than 200 international galleries every year and has been going for over three decades, still reigns supreme in Spain, despite its modest volume of sales.

Zaia’s choice of Marbella will surprise some. In the summer, Marbella might be heaving with affluent socialites from all over the world—which is potentially useful when trying to sell art—but it doesn’t have a contemporary art scene to speak of. The neighboring city of Málaga, however, does have major museums, including the Museo Picasso, the contemporary art museum CAC, and, soon, the brand-new Pompidou Málaga, which will open its doors next March (see “The Centre Pompidou Pops Up in Málaga”).

Organizers must be hoping to harness the momentum created by these art museums and replicate a “Miami effect” in this hedonistic and idyllic corner of southern Spain. But it remains to be seen whether serious collectors will add the coastal city to their already busy art fair calendars—or if Marbella’s well-heeled visitors will be tempted by the pleasures of contemporary art.

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