SP-Arte opened the doors to its 2017 edition on Wednesday in São Paulo. Now in its 12th year, the fair welcomes 159 galleries into the halls of Oscar Niemeyer’s iconic Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo. The fair has grown considerably in its number of international exhibitors, which is up to 44 this year, spanning galleries from Europe, Central and South America, the U.S., and Japan. The audience of fairgoers, which is 95% Brazilian, has also grown (from 6,000 in 2009 to 27,000 in 2016).
Exhibitors to a great degree catered to that audience, presenting choice works by historic and contemporary Brazilian artists, from modernist
, to the recently deceased
. The fair also represented the strong design history in the country, with 25 Brazilian design galleries exhibiting. More broadly, it placed greater emphasis on modern artists and the trajectory of contemporary art—a new curated sector, Repertório, is devoted to artists who have made integral contributions to contemporary art. Also notable this year is a curated exhibition of Japanese artists, in honor of the city’s new cultural center, the Japan House, which opens next month.
Ahead of the fair, SP-Arte director Fernanda Feitosa addressed the weight of the current economic crisis in Brazil. She said that while there is no good time for an art fair now, “we cannot live by expecting a good time or a better time.” In times of crisis, she said, galleries must tighten their business practices and tap into creativity in order to strengthen their programs.
“The art market is not immune to the ups and down of the economy, not in Brazil, not anywhere else,” Feitosa said, “but we have a different strength, we’re moved by passion, we are moved by a piece you really want to buy and these passions are not limited by prices.” This not to say that SP-Arte has been unaffected by the crisis. While the fair witnessed a decline in sales between the 2015 and 2016 editions, the director remains optimistic. “These are cycles, you have to be prepared.”
While blue-chip international galleries and Brazilian galleries primarily brought their most prominent and sought-after artists, there was a strong range in terms of medium. “The artistic language in Brazil is very broad,” Feitosa said, pointing to the country’s strong art-historical traditions in painting, photography, sculpture,
, and abstraction. Exhibitors, attuned to this history, focused on these more traditional mediums rather than digital and video works.
While the fair was flush with mid-career and established Brazilian artists, there were still discoveries to be made. Below we share 15 artists who are producing innovative and thoughtful work, from Brazil and beyond.