Plínio Palhano

Until the mid-19h century, Paris was the international leader of the art market, because, among other reasons, in its cultural tradition, it had been a revolutionary stage in the world of aesthetics and a basis for the most remarkable movements and artists who consolidated the modern art. After the period of French splendor, the supremacy passed on to New York and London. Today, this market is divided into the United States, which holds 49%, England, 28.75% and France, 5.6%.

According to experts, the English superiority is due to the commerce or to high level services as practiced by Sotheby´s, Christie´s and Phillips, which rule, mainly, the sales at auctions, thus gaining the international investors´ confidence with price guarantee and negotiation over their commissions. In France, official agents and appraisers are still tied to an old and hard statute which forbids this kind of practice. The increase of its market was limited by this procedure. The French are trying to get it back by restructuring the rules, which are now underway through the Parliament.

It is precisely in France where, in the XIX and XX centuries, art dealers like Paul Durand-Ruel, Ambroise Vollard and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, real forerunners of the present-day market, will be found. They, along with the artists, paved the way for a modern conception of art. In the first twenty years of Impressionism, for exemple, at that stage denied by the public and by the official criticism, there existed a real shortage of sales of works by its followers. Interestedly and prophetically, Durand-Ruel and Ambroise Vollard invested in those works, today regarded as foundation of several movements which enriched the XX century and overprized at the international auctions, fetching values higher than US$ 80 million as Portrait of Doctor Gachet by Van Gogh, sold in 1990.

The German Jew art dealer DH Kahnweiler surfaces at the art market of Europe, at the height of the great movements at the beginning of the XX century, following the first steps of Expressionism, Fauvism and, chiefly, Cubism, which interested him most for the trades of his gallery, set up at that period. As he believed "the remarkable painters make the remarkable art dealers", he allied himself to Vlaminck, Juan Gris, who was his friend and admirer, Léger, Derain, Picasso and many others. According to his own report to Francis Crémieux, in the book "My Galleries and My Painters", there was a fraternity between he and the artists: they always made contracts which pleased both parties.

Little by little, with the participation of these art dealers who set up their branches in New York, and the American collectors, the United States, in addition to dignifying its artistic heritage, started to hold overprized European works. Solomon R. Guggenheim, the founder of the Guggenheim Museum, kicked off the museum with his own important collection, which afterwards was annexed to that of his niece Peggy Guggenheim, who had a remarkable influence among the American artists by helping them with money and prestige. Also Leo Castelli, the outstanding American art dealer who defended, with a passion in dollars, his pop artists, in the 60s, with mighty power.

London, in turn, holds international auctions and is regarded as one of the most important hubs of production and diffusion of the contemporary art, above all of the Young British Artists generation, which spreads all over the world a wide range of novelties in plastic experiments. The millionaire Charles Saatchi is one of the responsibles persons for this favored position.

This tycoon not only possesses a vast collection by that generation, but its exhibition, "Sensation", sponsored by him in 1997 at the Royal Academy of Arts, was a tremendous success. According to several critics (among them Waldemar Januszczack, a critic for the Sunday Times), it made that Society come out of a certain "lethargy."

On the other hand, in Brazil, despite the competition in many sectors caused by a globalized economy, the art market goes at a slow pace as to the internationalization of its products. Art dealers, gallery owners and agents have undertaken efforts, above all in the southeast, and great happenings like the "Rediscovery Exhibition: Brazil + 500 (from 2000 to December 2002, supposed to be shown in seventeen international museums) and the biannual exhibitions of São Paulo have been held to warm up the art market, but even so we are still very far from reaching the international market in a more effective way. Yet, Marcantônio Vilaça was one of those who have stood out in defense of the contemporary Brazilian art. He belonged to a fellowship of collectors, art dealers and gallery owners who knew to follow their profession and honored it. He started his collection when he was a teen-ager, turning it into one of the most important in Brazil.

His passion for art was his way of living. He understood it as knowledge and transforming strength of human thinking. As the historian Paulo Herkenhoff put it: "for Marcantônio, art was the most important thing in life - except life like fondness." He picked the artists for his Gallery Camargo Vilaça and acquired their works to defend them at the great urban centers.

The links he set up to internationalize the Brazilian art were testimonies of a work taken on as a mission. He took part in important worldwide events and was a member of the Council of the Arco (Madrid), one of the most distinguished art fairs in Europe. With his professional endeavor, he showed that the art market is gained in an aggressive and enterprising way.