Do you allow optional cookies?

In addition to technically necessary cookies, we would like to use analysis cookies to better understand our target group. You can find out more about this in our privacy policy. You can revoke your consent at any time.

Kobel's Art Weekly

20 years Frieze London; photo Stefan Kobel
20 years Frieze London; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 42 2023

When a curator of a hip private art centre in Berlin mocks the victims on Instagram with pictures of the slaughter of peaceful festival-goers and celebrates the "poetic justice" of the terrorist action, the young man has obviously lost his ethical compass.The cynicism that speaks out of such statements, which are not even that rare on social media, is staggering. The criminals of Hamas, who hide behind their own population in the Gaza Strip in order to provoke a reaction in Israel through their atrocities that exposes the enemy to the world, can hardly be surpassed in their contempt for humanity. Why there cannot be "two sides" in the assessment of this crime and why silence is not an option for otherwise politically committed people is explained very simply by Sascha Lobo in Der Spiegel: "Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organisation that, according to eyewitnesses, has killed children, first raped and then killed festival-goers. Many reports of the atrocities of the past days come from Hamas itself. During the attack on a kibbutz, terrorists allegedly took a grandmother's smartphone, murdered her, filmed the dying woman with her own smartphone and distributed the video via her private Facebook account, according to relatives. This is a new dimension of social media-based terror. There is no legitimacy for this in any world. This is not a 'Palestinian freedom struggle', this is a long announced, openly planned, attempted genocide by a terrorist organisation. It would never have occurred to you, and rightly so, at the time of 'Je suis Charlie', to take a closer look at the side of the Paris attackers in order to then weigh things up. You were right to be empathetic and in solidarity."

An idea of the division in Israeli society is conveyed by the artist and curator Liav Mizrahi in an interview with Philipp Hindahl for Monopol: "It's really important now to bring the hostages back to Israel. I feel that if we don't talk about them, people will forget about them. I think it's important to say that Israel needs to take out Hamas as an organisation, but definitely not kill two million people. We are grieving now because they killed innocent people, but I don't want to be on the other side killing other people. I am sure that art will come back."

Erica Zingher examines the difficult relationship, to say the least, of the art world, which likes to pretend to be progressive, to Israel and the Jews in the taz: "Anti-Semitic criticism of Israel is part of the good tone in the scene. We are currently witnessing how curators, artists and other people from the art and culture sector express themselves critically about Israel, how they trivialise violence. When a pogrom against Jews takes place, it seems to be acceptable to many,' says Stella Leder [co-founder of the Institute for New Social Sculpture]. The Institute for New Social Sculpture also repeatedly points out that these are by no means individual cases, but a structural problem. Leder complains that since Documenta fifteen there have been no consequences in terms of cultural policy, either at the federal or state level."

Boris Pofalla accuses parts of the art scene of latent anti-Semitism in the WeLT (paywall): "The art world, as was already evident in the defiantly apologetic reaction to Documenta fifteen, has not yet taken any action. Documenta fifteen, has willingly opened itself up to every anti-Israeli cliché in the last ten years, it has allowed anti-Semites into its institutions and passed off propaganda as significant. It has given free space to contempt for humanity, and for all this it has demanded funding and respect. European exhibition houses, not least, have thus contributed massively to the legitimisation of Israel-hatred. In this context, the Israeli art critic Hili Perlson speaks of a 'slow dehumanisation' of her compatriots. And now? The silence of institutions, artists and curators in the face of Hamas' barbaric acts is deafening. The scene will only be heard when it can condemn Israel for striking back. And that raises questions that are now becoming so agonising that no one can ignore them. And for which this one is representative: must curators who share the Palestinians' jubilation over the 700 dead be given professorships, like Reza Afisina and Iswanto Hartono at the Kunsthochschule in Kassel? The answer is quite clear: no. No, absolutely not."

The Czech-German media artist Michael Bielicky, who has just left the HfG in Karlsruhe, sees a general problem with regard to the funding structure in an interview with Andreas Schreiner for the NZZ: "I am extremely critical of the gesture of contemporary art today. Artists often think they only have significance if their art is political per se. That means that many are now making consciously postcolonial or gender-critical art. And they also do it because they get funding for it, support from the museums. It is an abuse of art. I really know a lot of people who go along with it to get ahead."

An entertaining polemical critique of Frieze London and the current art production on show at it was written by Jonathan Jones for the Guardian: "All of which makes such paintings lovely to hang on your wall, no? Only if you have a very high boredom threshold. They are at best slightly distracting for a moment. There is no sign here of artistic revolution or challenge. The great upheavals of modern art don't just seem to have come to an end at Frieze. It's as if they never happened. Whatever you think of Picasso's personal life, he did shake the foundations of western culture. Whereas art now, on this evidence, exists to mildly entertain in a tasteful, reaffirming, bland way. Frieze has become a corporate snooze. Have the galleries been actively encouraged by its big-business owners to Disneyfy themselves? Or is that just the way art is now? The neo-Victorian craze is very apposite. The crowds admiring these timid artistic efforts may not wear top hats and crinolines, yet we could just well be at the Royal Academy in 1850."

Stephanie Dieckvoss of the Handelsblatt is not really enthusiastic either about one or the other Frieze: "The large galleries play it safe. The costs are high, there should be something for every taste. David Zwirner, Thaddaeus Ropac, Lisson, Pace, Perrotin and many others show a mix of large-format pictures like in a general shop. [...] On the other side of Regent's Park, at 'Frieze Masters', things are more sedate as usual. It narrows more and more to post-war art, especially from the 1950s to the 1980s. The 'Modern Women' section also looks at this era. One may wonder where the difference is with the 'Spotlight' section, which has been rediscovering women's art in particular for years. That is important and brings surprises. But sometimes the flâneur thinks there were already reasons why some positions were forgotten."

The Frieze flag is held by the London correspondent of the FAZ Gina Thomas: "There has always been talk of Frieze burning out, of Brexit and competition from Paris+ par Art Basel stealing the top spot. The prices may not be quite as juicy and the courage to take risks less, but in the aisles the mood swelled and brisk sales were reported." The latter, however, is not a valid argument; almost all major galleries are now pumping these actionist completion reports into journalists' inboxes from the first day of opening."

Silke Homann tells Monopol which stands caught her eye during a tour of Frieze. I was at Frieze for the Tagesspiegel and also visited satellite fairs for Artmagazine.

Colin Gleadell reports on the generally mediocre auctions at Phillip's , Christies and Sotheby's in London at Artnet.

As a gallery location, however, London is still attractive, believes Vivienne Chow at Artnet: "For Asian art dealers hoping to venture into the global market, London is still one of the best places to go. For many, a lingering familiarity with London stems from Britain's colonial rule of Hong Kong, which was culturally influential in the region throughout the 1980s and '90s. It has also remained as a main art trading hub in the Asia-Pacific since the 1997 handover to China. As Asia's art scene and market continue to expand, gallerists from the continent are keen to explore opportunities beyond the region, and London, where 20 percent of its population identifies as Asian, becomes a top choice."

Monopol has identified not only collectors but also artists among the 500 richest Germans according to Manager Magazin: "There is also an artist among the 500 richest people in Germany. In 293rd place with a fortune of 0.7 billion euros, 'Manager Magazin' sees Gerhard Richter, Rosemarie Trockel is in 500th place with a fortune of 0.39 billion."

I read the third Art + Tech report on collecting digital art for the Handelsblatt.

The accusation of double standards in the moral assessment of the trade in art and NFTs is raised by Annika von Taube at Monopol - towards whom, actually? She is prompted by a sentence handed down in August against a former employee of the NFT trading platform OpenSea for a verdict in May: "In fact, there could be no question of insider trading here - or if the use of knowledge about when and where which art is offered were punishable, then half the art world would be in jail. No, there is definitely a double standard here. In the end, however, it doesn't matter which moral standard is applied to which market. The main thing is that there continues to be room for a creative approach to pricing and the handling of goods - because if buying art were as transparently regulated as shopping at the supermarket checkout, there would no longer be an art market." In fact, however, the conviction was not for insider trading but for stealing confidential information from the employer. In the press releases, however, it quickly became insider trading. Otherwise, the case would not have been worth a headline.

Art trade archives are an important source for provenance research. But not all companies or their heirs deal with the subject transparently, Hubertus Butin researched for the FAZ: "Madeleine Albright, the former American Secretary of State whose family was murdered in the Holocaust, demanded at the Washington Conference on Nazi looted art in 1998: 'We must dig for the truth. That means that all researchers must have access to all archives, and by that I mean full access everywhere, starting now.' To this day, however, various private archives have not complied with this demand. This includes the Paul Cassirer Archive & Walter Feilchenfeldt Archive in Zurich: it is not open to the public and its holdings remain opaque."

semi-automatically translated


Get the latest articles from Zilken's Newsblog and Kobel's Art Weekly directly by email.
Dr. Stephan Zilkens | Zilkens Fine Art Insurance Broker