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ARCOlisboa is an opportunity to “share the talent of African artists with the world”

The 6th edition of the ARCOlisboa International Contemporary Art Fair is seen as a “very positive” opportunity to “share the talent of African artists with the world”, underlined galleries from Mozambique and Angola to Lusa.

: Rodrigo Gatinho/Observador
Rodrigo Gatinho/Observador  

On the eve of the inauguration of the international event, in its biggest edition ever, with 86 galleries from 23 countries, including 25 Portuguese, the wings of Cordoaria Nacional are bustling with the final assembly of the exhibitors and the works of the artists they represent.

In 2019, the management of the fair organized by IFEMA (Feiras de Madrid), in partnership with the Lisbon City Council, launched the Africa in Focus section, led by curator Paula Nascimento, a project in which the fair continues to invest, and which this year it receives eight galleries.

Galeria Arte de Gema, from Mozambique, is one of the galleries that have been present at ARCOlisboa since the beginning of this project, founder and director Élia Gemuce, who opened the space in 2016, in Maputo, told Lusa.

"The experience [at ARCOlisboa] so far has been very positive. The beginning was a bit slow, we still didn't know the market well, but as time went by we were doing more fairs, gaining experience, and getting to know the artists Mozambicans", recalled the curator.

In this edition, Arte de Gema will present works by three artists, all born in Mozambique: Ângela Ferreira, Gemuce and Thandi Pinto, the last two residing in Maputo, with works in painting, models and photocollage.

"We've been bringing in new artists, and the experience has been very satisfactory", pointed out the director of the Mozambican gallery, adding that the aim has been to bring in artists from different generations and with different artistic practices.

For Élia Gemuce, ARCOlisboa "is an excellent platform to interact with different audiences, who also come into contact with the gallery after the fair to try to get to know Mozambican artists better".

Last year, ARCOlisboa, the largest national fair dedicated to contemporary art, brought together 65 galleries from 14 countries and received 11,000 visitors in the four days it opened to the public, according to figures released at the time by the organization.

"It is a very good space for the visibility of artists, and above all being part of this Africa in Focus project, it is very relevant for our work", underlined the Mozambican curator.

Asked about the way in which the internationalization of African artists has been taking place, the gallery director said that it mainly involves their presence at fairs, namely in Johannesburg, South Africa, where this week a similar event is also taking place.

"We have always looked for ways to internationalize because we realize that many Mozambican artists are still little known. They have a lot of talent and we want to make it known and share it with the world", she stressed.

At Galeria Arte de Gema, more than 90 percent of the artists are Mozambicans, and the rest are foreigners whose practice is linked to Mozambique, she described.

Also present at the fair since 2019, the Movart gallery – founded in 2015, in Luanda, Angola, by Janire Bilbao – is present at this 6th edition of ARCOlisboa with the work of a Portuguese-speaking artist: Fidel Évora, who will present the solo " Safe Space", a critical and historical look at consumerism.

"In previous years we brought groups of artists, but this year we thought it would be better to explore a stronger concept, with a solo", said Marília Marques about the work of the Cape Verdean artist, curated by Leonor Veiga.

The manager of Galeria Movart, which in 2020 also opened a space in Lisbon, said she had "a lot of expectations" about this year's edition of the contemporary art event.

"Fairs have never disappointed. They are always spaces where many connections are made around the world, and this is Movart's objective: to create a movement between countries, and that artists can be easily recognized or talked about", she stressed to Lusa.

For the gallerist, it is important "not only in commercial terms but mainly to create new relationships and partnerships that can make artists known".

The Africa in Focus program once again focuses attention on research into contemporary art from the African continent, and will also include galleries from Morocco (African Arty), South Africa (Afronova and Guns & Rain), as well as France (193 Gallery), Germany (Artco) and Portugal (Insofar and Perve), with individual exhibitors that will be spread throughout the fair.

These contents are complemented by other African galleries participating in the General Programme, in addition to Movart, L'atelier 21 Art Gallery, from Morocco, and the Angolan This Is Not A White Cube.

"ARCOlisboa is the biggest national and international contemporary art fair that takes place annually in Portugal, and the eyes of great collectors and institutions are focused on this space", evaluated Marília Marques.

Movart was born mainly to represent African artists, but since the beginning of the year it has been open to other artists who deal mainly with diaspora issues, she pointed out.

This year, the participation of Portuguese galleries represents 30 percent of the fair, with 25 represented, and the international segment accounts for 70 percent — 61 galleries —, mainly from Europe.

For the fourth time, ARCOlisboa will award the Opening Lisboa Prize, whose jury, made up of professionals from the sector, will recognize the best exhibitor in the section with the concession of the exhibition space at the fair as a prize.

In this edition there will again be the ArtsLibris space, an area specialized in artist editions, photobooks and digital publications, with around thirty national and foreign exhibitors, in Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria, with free access to the public.

As in previous editions, there will be a parallel cultural program in conjunction with institutions such as museums, openings and visits to exhibitions and private collections, among other events.

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