MADRIDFOTO a view from the press room

© Miranda Gavin, Alejandro Duran models the 3D glasses for me

MadridFoto – now in its second year – has moved to a new location in the centre of Madrid, the Palicio de Deportes (sports stadium) on Calle de Goya. This is a good move by all accounts, as last year’s fair was held in a less accessible venue situated closer to the airport. What’s more, the duration of the fair has been extended for an extra day to “better attend both an expert audience and the general public alike”.

Before I take you on a mini tour of the space, as I walked around yesterday – a day given over to press and VIPs, including corporate and institutional collectors – here are a few facts about MadridFoto 2010 from the press release:

58 galleries, representing almost 350 artists

19 galleries from Madrid, 20 from the rest of Spain

22 foreign exhibitors

The only problem with these figures is that the numbers don’t add up to a total of 58 galleries, but to 61. It’s not so important but I have asked about this and will amend these figures if necessary. The mission of the fair is “to popularize contemporary art and foster photography collections”. To this end, two round table discussions will take place “on the current state of photography”. Saturday’s discussion focuses on collecting while Sunday’s event explores “the current state of the medium”.

© Miranda Gavin, Adding the finishing touches

Other events over the weekend include a series of book signings from Thursday to Sunday. Antoine d’Agata is scheduled to do a book signing on Saturday, however, when I asked someone at the Galeria Rita Castellote about this yesterday, I was told that he won’t be attending but there will be signed copies available.

Now for the tour:

The press conference was difficult for me to follow as there was no English translation and my Spanish is far from fluent. So, I will skip over this part (except to note that there was talk of “the difficult economic times”) and leave it to the photos to tell the story. Oh yes, as I only have internet connections at the hotel, I am not able to post as quickly as I had hoped and have to wait till I am back at the hotel (with quite a tight schedule) before uploading – and I just lost the connection, again…

© Miranda Gavin, The press conference

As the fair was not open officially yesterday, galleryists were still putting the finishing touches to their booths. The layout of the fair is designed by Jacque Arquitectos with a brief “to enhance the sightlines and bolster communication between visitors to the fair and the exhibitors”. The layout thus consists of “a series of plazas” through which visitors stroll. Further, “all the booths are exactly the same size, thus shifting the attention to the works of the artists on view , independent of the gallery’s status or clout”.

The majority of the stands are located within the sports stadium and when I walked in, it took me a moment to orientate myself – the space is not just huge, it’s cavernous. Indeed, it gave me the sensation of being cocooned, or wrapped, in the stadium shell.

As to the photographic work on show, in my next post I offer a series of vignettes drawn from my stroll through the photo fair yesterday and today. But this will have to wait as I need to return to the fair for a silent auction of photos by Alvaro Ybarra Zabal, The Gunmen of the Bolivian Revolution. All proceeds go to the Vicente Ferrer Foundation. Zabal is a photojournalist from Bilbao represented by Getty Images.

© Miranda Gavin, Skateboarding 3D by Sebastian Denz, Robert Morat Galerie, Hamburg, Germany


2 responses to “MADRIDFOTO a view from the press room

  1. Hi Miranda

    Nice meeting you in Madrid!

    I think the problem with the numbers that don’t ad up is a good point as it gives a good idea of the laissez-faireness of the fair in general.

    Having been to noumerous fairs this is by far the most strange one I have ever been to. Strange in the sense that information on key issues seem to change everyday… programmes change… opening hours change etc.

    Plus as you mention service is poor. There is no internet connection (or rather there is one but they will not give us the code), there is no food to buy, the programme was not handed out until the third day of the fair… OK – I think I’ve made my point by now 😉

    And where are all the guests? Galleries from as far as New York and Mexico have come to a fair with frustratingly few guests. Even on the first preview/VIP-days the fair was everything but busy!

    I guess this is due to a combination of things:
    1. A relaxed southern european mentality
    2. A serious crisis that apparently peeked in Spain just the week before the fair.
    3. An ash cloud that kept some of the international VIPs from coming.
    4. A weak marketing of the fair.

    Anyway, the general atmosphere on the fair on this last day is frustration. Everyone is more or less just waiting to pack up and go home…

    • Hi Birgitte, Good to meet you too. Thanks very much for your thoughts, as I had to leave so early on Friday it is difficult to know how the rest of the fair went. From what you say, it seems that there are a number of improvements that can be made, especially in terms of communicating information to the press, VIPs and galleries. Translations in English of all important texts, being once such suggestion.

      That there is no wi-fi lik or internet connection available is not good, from my point of view. I had hoped to be able to write and take photos while at the fair, yet, to get internet connection I had to return to my hotel ( 12 euros for 24 hours). The face of publishing has changed, news can be online immediately, audiences are following news in a number of ways using digital platforms, and are communicating using new technologies.

      The effects of the volcanic ash on visitor numbers etc is, as you say, another factor to consider. I thought that I may not be able to make it and Acts of Nature are difficult to predict :). Yet, it does appear that contingency measures need to be in place. There were only four international press at the fair, myself included. I wondered if this is also because PhotoEspana is coming up and press choose to attend one or the other as they are only a month or so apart.

      So, what about sales and visitor numbers, Birgitte? Were numbers poor? What about the round table discussions? Did they have simultaneous translation into English? I get the impression that these were not good on both counts. Did many galleries sell anything? Would they come back? Another gallery mentioned that the Armoury show was better this year, but then that is in the US.

      It also makes me think about the demise of photo-london – how it came and went, and has not been resurrected. Paris Photo is still around, but I also understand that it is a more expensive, especially for new galleries who are not established, meaning that for some MadridFoto is affordable, and I understand, that some galleries made some good deals on booths and stands as it got closer to the dates for the fair.

      Thanks again. I will post some reflections tomorrow, as I am on up to my ears in writing. There were a few surprises for me, as I walked around the fair, and I’d like to share them. Miranda

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