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ARCO Madrid, 2017.

ARCO Appeals Court Ruling Against Its Exhibitor Selection Process

The Spanish art fair ARCO, which will open its 2019 edition at the IFEMA fairgrounds in Madrid on Wednesday, February 27, has appealed a court ruling that stated its process for selecting exhibitors lacks transparency, El País reports. The fair came under scrutiny when a Madrid-based gallery, My Name’s Lolita Art, questioned why it was rejected from participating in the fair in 2016.

My Name’s Lolita Art had previously exhibited at ARCO from 1990 to 2007. In 2008, however, its application was rejected. When gallery owner Ramón García Alcaraz decided to reapply in 2016—after his artists had become involved in projects with higher profile creatives such as Takashi Murakami and Banksy—it learned that it was ranked 247 out of 258 galleries that applied for booths. Since only 163 exhibitors were approved, the gallery was not selected. When the fair refused to provide García Alcaraz with any further information, he filed a lawsuit claiming that the fair’s decision-making process was “arbitrary and discriminatory.”  

“My legal actions have never had any financial interest,” García Alcaraz told Artnews. “My intention was instead to provoke a change toward transparency and fairness in the selection process for the fair so that the best of Spanish artists can be exhibited in the most important art fair of their country.”

The judge who ruled against ARCO in November 2018 agreed with García Alcaraz. “It is evident that [the fair] did not obey the ‘principle of transparency in selection’ that must govern a public organization like IFEMA (whose majority control is in the hands of the Community and the City Council of Madrid),” the court ruling stated.

It continued: “With the scant information given to the applicant, it is impossible for them to know if their project has been judged fairly.” The judge also noted there is nothing preventing committee members from showing favoritism toward certain galleries.

The selection committee—which is comprised of up to fourteen members chosen by ARCO’s senior management—votes independently through a computer terminal and therefore doesn’t have to break down the reasons why some galleries are chosen over others.

On their decision to appeal, the organizers of the fair told El País that “the regulations [governing hiring and recruitment for public entities] do not apply to the selection of galleries.” They also called ARCO’s selection process “impeccable” but said that they will review the situation before future editions.