A Guide to the Best Shows to See During ARCOmadrid

Ahead of the fair this week, Max Andrews highlights seven exhibitions in the Spanish capital

BY Max Andrews in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews | 22 FEB 23

Alejandro Cesarco

Galería Elba Benítez

11 February – 1 April

Alejandro Cesarco, Midcareer, 2023video still. Courtesy: the artist and Galería Elba Benítez

Uruguayan artist Alejandro Cesarco reflects predominantly on film, photography and the book, and his works are imbued with emotional perceptiveness and literary intuition. The title of his latest film, Midcareer (2023), provides the poignant key to his first solo exhibition at Galería Elba Benítez, ‘Subtitled / Subtitulado’. Intermittent shots of Daniel Hendler, a screen actor known for his portrayals of characters somewhat adrift in life, are combined with a rueful voiceover in an essay on artistic growth, writing one’s own future and things better left unsaid. It speaks to endings as well as new beginnings.

‘Todo lo demás’ (Everything Else)


25 February – 28 May

Matadero Madrid and Espacio Afro, Festival Conciencia Afro, 2019. Courtesy: CentroCentro;  photograph: Estudio Perplejo

Since the 15-M anti-austerity movement erupted in Spain in 2011, Madrid has seen a proliferation of independent, self-run art spaces that make room for ‘everything else’ that museum inertia, academic formalities and commercial necessities often do not allow. ‘Todo lo demás’ showcases the nimbleness and diversity of 20 such organizations that embrace shared learning, participatory decision-making and neighbourhood-scale cultural proximity. Among these spaces, the Omnívoros cooperative workshop presents a sound installation (Taller en un lugar inapropiado, Workshop in an Inappropriate Place, 2023), while Espacio Afro (a cultural centre helmed by the antiracism researcher Yeison F. García López) displays a timeline of its activities and antecedences, and Espacio de Todo exhibits a formal garden of weeds that springs from its tactical urbanism and co-design projects (Jardín de las malas hierbas, Weed Garden, 2023).



11 February – 1 April

Galli, Turbasky, 1987, mixed media on cardboard, 122 × 86 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Nogueras Blanchard

The late 1970s and ’80s in German painting were marked by expressive gesture and figuration, yet its protagonists were almost entirely men and its mythology decidedly masculine. The work of the artist known as Galli – canvases characterized by ferocious, sometimes macabre visions – was largely overlooked despite its formal congruity with the so-called neue wilde movement. Now being reassessed in the context of a queerer and more nuanced history of the West German art scene of the time (Galli also acted in Ulrike Ottinger’s freewheeling film Freak Orlando, 1981) as well as contemporary crip theory (she is a person of short stature due to a genetic condition), her work in this exhibition at NoguerasBlanchard’s new space, which includes large works in acrylic and tempera on cardboard as well as smaller drawings, is a shifting lexicon of body and consciousness.

Ana de Fontecha

Twin Gallery

16 February – 25 March

Ana de Fontecha, 'Ángulo muerto’ (Blind Spot), 2023, exhibition view. Photograph: Mismo Visitante

Curated by Caniche, a publishing house specializing in artists’ books run by Carlos Copertone and Patxi Eguiluz, Ana de Fontecha’s exhibition at Twin Gallery, ‘Ángulo muerto’ (Blind Spot), takes its cue from an 1888 newspaper report concerning the murder of a woman. The killing took place in a home on the same Malasaña-neighbourhood street as the gallery, and de Fontecha’s sombre occlusion of the exhibition space by means of a configuration of cinereous MDF wall structures, is haunted by the mundane architectural details of the article and the public exposition of crimes that continue to plague Spanish society: gender-based domestic violence.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

Albarrán Bourdais

22 February – 22 April

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, 'Farmacias Distantes', 2023, installation view. Courtesy: Albarrán Bourdais, Madrid

Albarrán Bourdais presents an exhibition by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster that is the outcome of a conversation with the artist’s longstanding collaborator, the Spanish novelist Enrique Vila-Matas. Speculating on the role of pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the show opens with a green-and-pink neon (Farmaneon, 2023) that alludes to the cross, palm tree and snake motifs that are typical of Portuguese dispensary signs. Meanwhile, the centrepiece is a three-sided diorama (Farmacias Distantes, Distant Pharmacies, 2023) that portrays a dreamlike pharmacy bar where characters including the photographer Vivian Maier, the psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles and Vila-Matas himself seem to have taken refuge.

Juan Muñoz

Sala Alcalá 31

14 February – 11 June

Juan Muñoz, Plaza, 1996, 26 resin and pigment figures, each c. 140 × 50 × 45 cm. Courtesy: Juan Muñoz Estate and Sala Alcalá 31 | Comunidad de Madrid; photograph: Guillermo Gumiel

Undoubtedly Spain’s most internationally celebrated artist of the late 1980s and ’90s, Juan Muñoz, who died in 2001, would have been 70 this year. The simultaneously familiar yet baffling nature of his work imbues it with an insistent mood of suspense. This exhibition centres on more than a dozen works that function almost like scenography and emotive storytelling. It culminates with Plaza (1996) – first conceived for the Palacio de Velázquez in Madrid and not seen in the capital since – which features a footless group of Muñoz’s characteristic grey male resin statues, each with identical frozen grins and oversized suits, each isolated even in the crowd. A companion show, focusing on the first decade of the artist’s practice, will open at the Museo Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo in June.

Tamara Arroyo

NF / Nieves Fernández

16 February – 1 April

Tamara Arroyo, Vida comunitaria (Community life) (detail), 2023, steel, enamel, ceramic. Courtesy: the artist and NF / Nieves Fernández

Tamara Arroyo’s sculptural series often draw on her experience of Madrid’s high-density neighbourhoods, the uneasy attempts of architects and municipal planners to combine function and ornament, and city dwellers’ efforts to personalize their homogeneous surroundings. This has led her to study the herringbone patterns of social-housing brickwork (Trampantojo, Trompe-l'œil, 2019), create modular metal structures that evoke window security grilles (Año 59 de la Revolución, Year 59 of the Revolution, 2017) and craft bollard-like stacks of ceramic forms (Rutina, experiencia acumulada, Routine, Accumulated Experience, 2021). Arroyo’s second solo show at NF / Nieves Fernández, ‘Un Fatal Descontento de Lugar’ (A Fatal Discontent of Place), revisits a number of Arroyo’s projects in public space and consolidates a practice inspired by journalist and activist Jane Jacobs’s book on urban diversity, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961).

Main image: Juan Muñoz, 'Everything I See Will Survive Me', 2023, installation view. Courtesy: Juan Muñoz Estate and Sala Alcalá 31 | Comunidad de Madrid; photograph: Guillermo Gumiel

Max Andrews is a writer, curator and co-founder of Latitudes, Barcelona, Spain.