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Kobel's Art Weekly

Not quite Viennacontemporary's partner of choice (above); Photo Stefan Kobel
Not quite Viennacontemporary's partner of choice (above); Photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 37 2023

The beginning of September has become the new hotspot in the art world calendar, the selection is now so unmanageable that not only the public, but also the media have to strongly select whom to pay attention to. The Brussels Gallery Weekend is at best still covered by local media.

The Viennese art fairs have a turbulent history, which Nicole Scheyerer outlines on the occasion of the Viennacontemporary in the FAZ: "The Viennacontemporary has had three difficult years, and not only because of Covid. Although it was one of the few art fairs in Europe to physically take place in autumn 2020, it did so with hardly any foreign participation, lower stand rents and a reduced audience. After these losses, the competitor Spark Art Fair also entered the scene in 2021, to which many Viennese galleries gave priority. After the war in Ukraine began, the Russian majority owner Dmitry Aksenov, who had invested a lot of money in Viennacontemporary since 2013, withdrew. The fair is said never to have made a profit anyway. According to trade fair manager Huber, Aksenov's loss carry-forwards made his farewell an expensive process of cutting the cord. The public sector helped Viennacontemporary with 1.69 million euros. The amount of this Corona aid - more than for any other fair in Austria - is causing discussion. This year, Viennacontemporary invested in a better stand design, which the BWM Architekten office built in the form of elongated bunks."

Katharina Rustler emphasises the Viennacontemporary's established connection to the East in the Standard: "Like last year, about half of the participants come from Austria, the rest come from a good 20 countries, mainly from Eastern Europe - still only a fraction of previous editions. A strong local scene is the basis for a strong international fair, they say. That is the definite goal for the future of the art fair".

Hanno Hauenstein gives a basic course in Vienna at Monopol: "When you think of Vienna in the 1920s, you probably first end up with Schiele, Kokoschka and Freud. The city is a symbol of the creative energy of the budding 20th century. Of course, this is a Eurocentric, sometimes clichéd image. But Vienna's artistic light has not been extinguished because of this. With several important art academies and internationally oriented museums and galleries, the city is a central attraction for young and contemporary art. This is evident these days at the Viennacontemporary (VCT), which, like last year, opens almost simultaneously with the Curated By festival."

The gallery festival Curated By opened in parallel this year under the motto "The Neutral" in the sense of the philosopher Roland Barthes, which Almuth Spiegler picks up on in the Presse (paywall): "In it, this term is positively occupied, as 'passionate, fervent activity' that makes intensities 'bubble up like champagne'. We Austrians like to read that, of course. But we also like to see such intelligent gallery exhibitions".

My report from Vienna can be read in the Handelsblatt.

Katharina Cichosch visited the Frankfurt gallery openings for Monopol: "For the fifth time, local galleries are joining forces to form the Frankfurt Art Experience and pooling their expertise and skills for a month under the banner of contemporary art. The umbrella brand was founded by Tyrown Vincent as an event that makes art accessible to everyone with tours, guided tours and expert talks. The extent to which the Städelschule is a powerhouse for the city's art scene can be seen in the programme of galleries: Several former Städel students are represented with exhibitions this year."

Georg Imdahl looked around Cologne and Düsseldorf for the FAZ: "It is off-spaces like these, run by young artists, that provide an art city with the necessary supply of energy and now also enrich the start of the Rhineland galleries in the autumn season, around fifty of them under the heading 'DC Open'."

After numerous western galleries, Frieze with its second edition is preparing to strengthen Seoul as a new market centre in Asia, observes Laura Storfner in the Tagesspiegel (paywall) : "The question of whether Hong Kong will be replaced by Seoul as a hub in the region has been occupying the art world not only since this autumn of fairs. Some say Singapore and the South Korean capital are in a neck-and-neck race for pole position on the Asian art market. Others see the return of Art Basel as a resurgence of Hong Kong after Covid - despite increasing repression. But everyone agrees: Seoul is vibrating. The city deserves to rise - thanks to ambitious institutions like the Leeum Museum and a gallery scene that can compete internationally."

Barbara Kutscher reviews three New York fairs at once for the Handelsblatt, with an unusual focus: "While leading American galleries are striving to attract Asian collectors in Seoul this week, the Photofairs fair, founded in Shanghai in 2014, now wants to conquer New York. For founder and CEO Scott Gray, it is already the second attempt at the world's largest photo market, the USA. [...] The focus on new media and video art is aimed primarily at a young audience. Young are also most of the 56 international galleries, including 37 from the USA." The Armory Show and the Independent 20th Centutry are only worthy of mention to her: "Just a few metres away, the Armory Show opens New York's autumn season with fresh energy. It celebrates its 30th edition next year. With 225 exhibitors from 35 countries, it is even more international this year. The fact that it has belonged to the London brand Frieze since July, which allegedly paid the real estate investment trust Vornado 24.3 million dollars, is so far only indicated by the net presence unified with the Frieze fairs."

The focus of Frauke Steffens' report for the FAZ is on the Armory: " Back are the art collectors from their summer residences on Long Island or Cape Cod. They are now pushing their way back through the halls of the first major art fair of the season instead of through traffic jams on the roads to the beaches. The Armory Show is making only its third guest appearance at the Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan, and already big changes are afoot: London-based art fair organiser Frieze has bought its New York rival - for $124 million from an investor conglomerate (F.A.Z. 15 July). The newspaper "The Art Newspaper" is on display in the exhibition hall, with the dramatic headline that there is a "British invasion". At least on the personnel level, it looks more like continuity so far: Fair chief Nicole Berry, in post since 2017, is staying on."

David Cassady at Artnews reflects on the future of fairs in the realm of Frieze: "In some ways the Armory Show has everything that Frieze New York lacks. It's more community driven and frequently partners with legacy institutions in the city like the Kitchen and the final major tennis tournament of the year, the US Open, whereas Frieze New York, with around 60 galleries each awkwardly separated by a full floor at the Shed in Hudson Yards, has none of the New York grit that even the bluest-chip galleries in the city like to wear on their sleeve. Perhaps it's that sense of community that Frieze wanted to tap into. Some dealers hope that Frieze, which also operates fairs in London and Los Angeles, will be a boon for the Armory, allowing it to further dig into its New Yorkness and deepen relationships with the city's cultural institutions like the Kitchen and Creative Time."

Daniel Völzke criticises an episode of "Bares für Rares", in which a keeper sold a "Weltempfänger" by Isa Genzken far too cheaply for 16,000 euros to dealer Susanne Steiger. The author discovered the work for Monopol in a Sotheby's catalogue, but does not name the inconsistencies in provenance: "Apparently the 'Bares für Rares' guest sold to a collection, which in turn consigned to Sotheby's. Estimated price: up to 50,000 euros. The buyer gets the strange aftertaste free of charge." The "Bares für Rares" guest sold for cash to the dealer for everyone to see, although he was well aware of the actual value. The fact that all the other dealers dropped out early, although they too knew of the value, is reminiscent of unseemly practices of times gone by. The work is announced as "From an important private collection, North Rhine-Westphalia". This "important private collection" is then missing in the provenance: "Studio of the artist; Private collection, Berlin (received as a gift from the superior); Acquired from the superior by the present owner". The whole process does neither ZDF nor Sotheby's credit.

What happens when art is left to the free market can be seen in the sad urban fate of the Tacheles in Berlin, as Boris Pofalla points out in the WeLT of 10 September: "A cultural use in the old building had been prescribed by the city; funnily enough, this too is commercially oriented. Fotografiska self-confidently calls itself a museum, but it has no collection and is not a non-profit organisation. It is an internationally expanding company from Sweden founded in Stockholm in 2010 and now owned by the entrepreneur Yoram Roth, son of a Berlin real estate magnate who died ten years ago [who incidentally owns two adjacent properties]. Today, Fotografiska exists in five cities. The business model already has nothing to do with the old Tacheles in that they work entirely according to the conditions of the free market." In the Tagesspiegel Matthias Doll also doesn't leave a good mark on the typical Berlin real estate story: "Two days later, a branch of the commercial Fotografiska museum opens in the luxury quarter, 'with gastronomy on every floor', [documentary filmmaker Klaus] Tuschen reports, 'they've been screwed'. This refers to the cultural senate, whose head at the time, André Schmitz, still pointed out when the Kunsthaus was evicted in 2012 that the cultural reuse was written into the land register." And then the politicians are surprised that the electorate refuses to allow them to use the Tempelhofer Feld.

The lawyer and collector Sasa Hanten-Schmidt serves up anecdotes from the art market in her book "Spiel mit mir" (Play with Me), which Susanne Schreiber read for the Handelsblatt: "The 222 entertaining pages are not intended to be a classic guide to entering the art market. But they do shed light from a personal perspective on the highs and lows of an opaque market in which much depends on relationships. Who gets which work by a sought-after artist, for example, is decided by the gallery owner, not the customer interested in buying."

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