Like a reunion of old friends, the usual suspects were on Tuesday back awaiting the arrival of visitors to this year's Arco Madrid International Contemporary Art Fair, the capital's big annual date with the contemporary art world - Alex Katz (Javier López), Eduardo Arroyo (Álvaro Alcázar), Marcel Dzama (Helga de Alvear), Dora García (Juana de Aizpuru), Antonio Saura (Tyler Naheem Fine Art), Julian Opie (Mario Sequeira), Ai Weiwei (Ivorypress)...
But despite the familiar faces there are a few new additions for this 33rd edition, which runs until Sunday at the capital's Ifema exhibition center. Architect Andrés Jaque has humanized the common areas of the pavilions and streamlined the route round the stands. There is also the increased internationalization: director Carlos Urroz's team has selected 218 galleries from 23 countries, believing the fair's only salvation lies in looking abroad. "The Latin Americans come to see the Europeans; and the Europeans look for a point of contact with Latin America," Urroz explains proudly while searching for one of the show's star pieces among the stands: an exquisite example of one of US artist's Dan Graham's famous transparent pavilions. Titled Tunnel of Love, it can be found at the stand of Danish gallery Nicolai Wallner.
"We have reserved 290 hotel rooms for collectors from all over the world and 150 museum directors and professional art buyers and 40 foreign journalists are coming," Urroz adds. In total there will be 500 international participants this year on a budget that has risen to "around 900,000 euros."
Other highlights of this year's fair include the drawings and diagrams showcasing the creativity of star chef Ferran Adrià on the EL PAÍS stand and Pablo Picasso's Compotier, Bouteille et verre (1922), which will set you back 1.25 million euros at Leandro Navarro. It is one of the most expensive pieces at a fair where Finland is the guest country and painting wins out over every other discipline.
Which is not to say there aren't also performances, such as the one devised by Yann Leto for the Murcia gallery T20. Called Congress Topless, it consists of a pole behind a curtain around which two strippers do their thing in protest at the Spanish parliament. In all probability, it will be one of the most-talked-about events at this year's Arco.
ARCOmadrid International Contemporary Art Fair. Until February 23 at Pabellón 7 & 9, Ifema Feria de Madrid, Madrid. www.arco.ifema.es