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Question of the Day
But the jewel in the crown will undoubtedly be the Gagosian Gallery, widely considered the world’s top. Gagosian is known for having his finger on the pulse of promising new markets and has opened 11 locations worldwide.
The gallery’s stand at ArtRio, which is expected to feature a 1937 Picasso as well as an extensive sculpture wing, is Gagosian’s first foray into South America. Rio’s art community was abuzz with rumors that he was planning on setting up permanent shop in the city, but the Los Angeles-born dealer called the ArtRio stand “a test of the appetite” there.
“We’ve had some success in recent years selling to Brazilian collectors at other galleries that we have in London and Paris, but honestly we don’t really know what to expect,” Gagosian said in a telephone interview. “Hopefully that’s just the tip of the iceberg and there are a lot of other collectors there in Rio.”
Artists themselves welcome the attention, and say it’s based on more than just an increase in Brazilians’ wealth.
Sculptor Raul Mourao has watched Rio’s art scene establish itself in the last two decades. When he started, there weren’t more than a dozen books out on Brazilian art in general. The opening of a single exhibit in Rio was a novelty that made news.
Now, dozens of exhibits show in Rio at any given time, and an established culture of publicly financed displays has taken root. Mourao has two openings in the coming month: one in a private gallery and one in a public square, where he’ll show six massive outdoor sculptures.
“It’s not just the art market; it’s the whole cultural scene that’s booming,” he said. “There are more plays, more movies, more books. Brazil as a whole is growing, and it’s natural that the art and cultural markets grow along with it.”
“If we didn’t have a rich history, fascinating work, a group of good artists, interesting movements, money wouldn’t make a difference,” Mourao said. “What is happening now, though, is that artists can produce with more confidence, in a field that is more welcoming.”
Other top international galleries making their debut at ArtRio include Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s KaiKai Kiki, New York’s David Zwirner and White Cube of London, organizers said.
One major question is whether authorities will lift a hefty import tax that can end up hiking the cost of imported artwork by as much as 50 percent above market prices. Last year, a one-time exemption was announced on the eve of the fair.
Partly as a result of the tax, Rio’s new collectors tend to focus on homegrown artists, at least at first, said ArtRio’s Valansi.
“We’re seeing that a lot of collectors here, who started off focusing on domestic artists, have begun to open their collections to international art,” she said.
That’s the case of clothing vendor Silva, who started out selling cut-rate jeans in Rio’s suburbs and became the top salesman at one of the city’s most exclusive boutiques.
He began his collection seven years ago with a slim, multicolored statue he bought for $90. Now, he says, he invests 30 to 40 percent of his salary on art.
His ever-burgeoning collection of 60-plus pieces, including a Medusa head-emblazoned plate by Brazilian star Vik Muniz, lend his apartment the feel of a lived-in museum.
By John McAfee
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