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Fair in Sao Paulo re-emphasizes city's status as Latin America's art mecca

SAO PAULO--Sao Paulo, Latin America's financial hub, cements its status as the region's cultural mecca this weekend with the 8th edition of its modern art fair that is attracting a growing foreign presence.

Officially known as SP-Arte, the country's biggest contemporary art fair is drawing a record 110 galleries, including 27 from abroad, at the Biennal pavilion designed by Brazilian star architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Among the foreign galleries represented at the event, which opened Thursday and runs through Sunday, are La Caja Negra and La Fabrica from Spain, Sprovieri and White Cube from London, Yvon Lambert from France, Leon Tovar Gallery from New York and Fernando Pradilla from Colombia.

“This is a historic edition with a higher presence of foreigners, not only foreign exhibitors, but also foreign visitors,” said fair founder and director Fernanda Feitosa, who saw this as a sign of the event's enhanced international prestige.

“Foreign visitors make up 10 percent of the total this year,” she told AFP as hundreds of art lovers thronged the three floors of the 15,000 square meter (161,458 square feet) exhibition hall in Sao Paulo's Ibirapuera Park.

“SP-Arte is among the top 10 art fairs in the world and it is definitely the best fair in Latin America,” she added.

Last year, the event drew 89 galleries, including 14 from abroad, as well as more than 18,000 visitors.

Rising affluence in this South American giant which now ranks as the world's sixth largest economy means that money is pouring into the thriving art market.

According to a recent study by the Brazilian Association of Contemporary Art, domestic galleries have seen their revenue grow by 44 percent over the past two years, turning Brazil into one of the world's most prosperous art markets.

APex Brasil, the domestic export promotion agency, said the country exported a record US$60 million worth of artworks last year.

“We are conscious of our role in this new reality in which the art market is no longer restricted to a minority but should be expanded to reach more classes of society,” said Fonteisa.

Eliana Benchimol, who owns a Rio gallery bearing her name, agrees.

“Brazilians are becoming more and more interested in art, particularly wealthy people in their 40s and 50s,” she told AFP.

“Sao Paulo is Brazil's wealthiest city and so it is not surprising that it also boasts the most dynamic contemporary art market,” she added.

Benchimol is here to exhibit works by well-established artists such Vik Muniz and Rubens Scarelli of Brazil or French-based Venezuelans Carlos Cruz-Diez and Dario Perez-Flores.

Her most expensive piece is “Psysichromie” in which Cruz-Diez combined color theory, science, kinetics, mechanical engineering to produce an innovative work that defies easy categorization.

Benchmol hopes it will fetch around US$250,000.

Alessandra Modiano, coordinator of the London-based gallery Sprovieri, also ranked the Sao Paulo fair as among the best in the world in terms of the quality of the work and the organization.

Sprovieri is showcasing “Fire Leap,” a 15-minute slide show of pictures of children by famed U.S. photographer Nan Golding, as well as works by Italy-based Greek artist Yannis Kounellis and young Brazilian artists.

The Tokyo-based gallery Kaikai Kiki meanwhile said it sold four pieces on the fair's opening day, including one by German artist Anselm Reyle that fetched US$150,000, according to its coordinator, Nao Tazaki.

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This photo shows a “magic doll” concept work by Venezuelan artist Mariana Monteagudo, on display at the SP-ARTE 2012 — a three-day exhibition of modern and contemporary art by 110 galleries including 27 from abroad — at Ibirapuera park in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday, May 11.

(AFP)

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