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Argentine market proves difficult for ArteBA dealers
The 20th edition of the ArteBA fair, held from 18 to 23 May, saw slower sales than the previous edition, but a boom in the local market for photography and paintings at the lower price points.

Dealers were quick to admit the Argentinian market is difficult, although the fair maintained its massive public following, with huge lines forming at the door every day.

Though figures are unofficial, it is estimated this year had a similar number of visitors as last year, nearly 120,000. Sales had not been tallied up by the time we went to press, but dealers said they had sold about a third less than in 2010 when revenue hovered around $6m.

The fair has become more international, with 30% of the 73 participating galleries from abroad. New wings of the fair, the Barrio Joven, with emerging Latin American galleries, and U Turn, with six galleries from Berlin, gave the event a more cosmopolitan feel.

But while more foreigners browsed ArteBA, most dealers from abroad lamented their poor performance. “This is simply awful, I haven’t sold a thing and no one comes by the stand”, complained Spanish dealer Ángeles Baños. “It is definitely difficult to sell things here, but it’s good to meet people,” said Peruvian gallerist Renzo Gianella, of Revolver.

By contrast, Alberto Sendrós, one of the leading galleries in Buenos Aires, was bustling with visitors. Every paintings in Matías Duville’s series Una Larga Noche was sold, seven of them for $24,000 and three with a $32,000 price tag, totalling $264,000—one of the largest results at the fair. Baró, the São Paulo gallery with a stand nearby, sold Roberto Jacoby’s 1968, El Culo Te Abrochó” series for $110,000 to a local private collector.

Another highlight was the sale of Marta Minujin’s 2011 Freaking on Fluor installation, which sold at RO gallery for $85,000 to celebrity collector Eduardo Costantini, founder of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba). Argentinian modernist Antonio Berni's El Sueño de los Injustos, 1961, sold for $200,000 at Montevideo’s Sur gallery, although other more expensive Berni pieces did not find buyers.

Other modern pieces by Berni and painters like Roberto Aizenberg were on show at several stands, but went unsold. Ruth Benzacar, a leading local dealer, did not manage to sell Aizenberg’s Homenaje a Matisse, for its $80,000 asking price, but sold all three photographs in Flavia Da Rin’s Carnival series for $5,500 each and Miguel Rotschild’s Los Angeles photograph for $3,000. Both artists are young photographers from Argentina.

“Photography here is really growing, but art as a whole remains very cheap”, said ArteBA director Facundo Gómez Minujin. “We are a not-for-profit foundation, so we’re not trying to make money with the fair. All the revenue we take in is used for production of the next fair”, added Minujin.

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