Flash News. Arco and Madrid highlight Latin American art – A double-sided Gauguin


ARCO and Madrid highlight Latin American art

A high point in the European art fair calendar, ARCO opens its doors from 27 February to 3 March 2019 in Madrid with 203 galleries from 30 countries. As every year, one country in particular is given the spotlight, and this time it’s Peru, a country whose creative scene is cruelly lacking in visibility elsewhere. One of ARCO’s strong points, every year the fair offers a special focus on a Latin American country, and ARCO has now established itself as the absolute reference for the emergence of the Latam scene in Europe. On the fair itself, Peru is honoured with a selection of 23 artists and 15 galleries, as well as a number of meetings and conversations.

However, to give this year’s ‘guest of honour’ county even greater visibility, the fair’s organizers – including director Charles Urroz and curator Sharon Lerner – have reached agreements for the implementation of a dense and coherent programme of exhibitions in Madrid’s museums and art centers. With no less than 12 exhibitions organized throughout the city alongside ARCO, the result is a superb opportunity to discover the singularity and depth of Peru’s artistic scene. With the help of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, 120 artists have been selected to offer a chronological tour of the history of the country’s art. Madrid’s focus on Latin American art begins well before J.C. with an exhibition on pre-Columbian civilization at the Telefónica Foundation. Later periods are covered with exhibitions at the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofía focusing on works by Peruvians Camilo Blas, Martín Chambi, Julia Codesido and Elena Izcue, Argentines Norah Borges and Emilio Pettoruti, and the Mexicans Ramón Alva de la Canal and Diego Rivera. The works of several private collectors are also on show including those of Eduardo Hochschild and of Ella Fontanals-Cisneros. Indeed, the latter closed down her arts center in Miami (the Cifo) last year and donated about 700 works to Spain. Part of this magnificent collection is now on display at the Tabacalera, a huge building located in Madrid’s artistic golden triangle, near the Reina Sofia Museum. In short, over the years, ARCO has managed to build a strong identity by concentrating its research and promotional efforts on Latin American art. Today, the whole of Madrid is synchronised to provide additional intensity to ARCO’s commitment.

A double-sided Gauguin

A major signature… an early work… an almost unknown canvas… and a very original feature… it could be the plot of a novel, but it’s the storyline behind an exceptional sale. On 29 March, Paul GAUGUIN’s (1848-1903) The Pissarro Garden, Pontoise Pier in Pontoise will be offered for sale. Of small dimensions (65 x 54 cm) with a fairly ordinary subject, the painting is nevertheless unique! It depicts a garden – that of Camille Pissaro – and dates from 1881, a pivotal moment when Gauguin left the financial security of his job as a stockbroker and devoted himself to painting. At the time, Gauguin regularly visited Pisarro in Pontoise and referred to the great Impressionist painter as “my dear master”. From Pisarro, Gauguin learnt to work colour in the tradition of the Impressionists. Pisarro also instilled in him a certain independence of eye and spirit, two fundamental elements in Gauguin’s future development. The work in question is therefore an “early work” even though its author was already 33 when he painted it. There is more than just a garden in this landscape. The touching presence of the umbrella transforms the scene into a tribute to Pissaro, who is known to have always worked under a parasol on sunny days.

However, the real specificity of this canvas does not become apparent until one walks behind it. On the back of the Jardin de Pissarro, Gauguin sketched not one, but two self-portraits! To economise on materials, using both sides of a canvas was relatively common for Gauguin and for many other artists of his generation too. According to Gauguin’s catalogue raisonné, this was one of his very first double-sided works. But what is remarkable about this one that it shows a completely different technique on each side. According to Estelle Guille des Buttes, chief curator of the Pont-Aven museum, “on the one side we have Impressionism, and on the other we have Synthetism” a technique of solid colours that is completely different from imitating the effects of light in nature.

Kept in the same collection for nearly a century and in excellent condition, Jardin de Pissarro, Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise is being offered for sale for the first time and has only been shown in public twice since the 1920s. It is therefore the Paris branch of the prestigious sales company that will have the privilege of auctioning the work. The estimate of €600,000 to €900,000 seems very modest. Gauguin’s prices inflated spectacularly during the speculative bubble on Impressionist works at the end of the 1980s / early 1990s and have never fallen despite the 2008 financial crisis. Works from this period are rare on the market and the presence of two self-portraits on the back makes it a unique work of its kind, says Sotheby’s. The reserve price has not yet been fixed, but it is probably the most important Gauguin’s work available on the French market for twenty years. The bidding could therefore be intense.