“The fact we’re here means there’s smoke, and now we’re trying to find the fire raging,” says Mera Rubell, sitting next to her husband, Donald Rubell, in one of the lounges at SP-Arte. But the couple of übercollectors from Miami may have had a hard time trying to spot that flame this time around. The months leading up to the event’s opening have seen the biggest collapse in the Brazilian economy since the 1990s, with the local currency losing a third of its value against the dollar and a recession drawing near.
In the days leading up to the fair, gallerists were uneasy. Even at parties surrounding the event, the atmosphere seemed somewhat charged, and some dealers were just short of heralding a market apocalypse before setting foot in ’s
Bienal pavilion, SP-Arte’s home in the heart of São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park. Soon, however, the dark clouds began to dissipate—though not to reveal clear skies just yet. There is doubt on the horizon, and sales were slower in the first days of the fair in comparison to previous years. But it’s also not all that bad, thus confirming a truism in the art world: gallerists are known for complaining just as much as they are for embellishing a sales figure or two amidst the fair bustle.