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Kobel's Art Weekly

Zona Maco Mexico; photo Stephan Zilkens
Zona Maco Mexico; photo Stephan Zilkens
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 7 2024

Whereas the first two months of the year used to be a largely fair-free period, events are now particularly crowded around the last week of January and the first two weeks of February. The individual art fairs therefore have to vie for media attention. Maximilíano Durón provides Artnews readers with what he considers to be the ten best stands in the Zona Maco in Mexico, as well as the information that the fair centre was difficult to reach. His interview with the founder of the satellite fair Material Art Fair is somewhat more enlightening. Of course, he also selects the ten best stands here.

For a change, Sarah Belmont also selected the seven best stands at the 1-54 in Marrakech for Artnews. Chinma Johnson-Nwosu offers a coherent text in The Art Newspaper: "Many newcomers to the fair seemed surprised by its international audience, particularly since some first-time exhibitors had curated their booths with a primarily Moroccan or North African audience in mind. Gallerists Pratiti Shah and Gabriella Abia Biteo-Talon of the London-based African Art Hub, for example, say that the gallery deliberately chose slightly different works to what they brough to 1-54 in London-less portraiture, more abstraction, it seems-although they are pleasantly surprised by the diversity of 1-54 Marrakech's audience. [...] Yet there is also strong representation from within the country and the continent. Touria El Glaoui, the fair's founding director, says that she is seeing a growing Moroccan audience at the fair."

A week after other media, but embedding it in a larger context, Gina Thomas' report on the India Art Fair in the FAZ is well worth a read: "India's underdeveloped museum landscape leaves a lot to be desired due to a lack of state involvement. However, thanks to more and more initiatives by private museums, foundations, galleries and companies, a museum and exhibition culture is expanding that enables potential buyers to train their eyes, refine their taste and, after the usual introduction via luxury goods, above all watches, move on to the acquisition of art. At the India Art Fair in New Delhi, the largest fair for modern and contemporary art in South Asia, high visitor numbers, brisk sales, especially to Indian collectors and institutions, and the all-round receptions in galleries and private homes like something out of a Bollywood film, along with a club night with booming bass beats in the garden of the German embassy, made this mood of upheaval and change tangible."

Christiane Meixner attempts to cover the Affordable Art Fair in Brussels with the means of a fair report for WELTKUNST. The preview of Art Karlsruhe placed directly above it on the website, however, is labelled as an advertorial.

Scott Reyburn asks in The Art Newspaper whether the art market will recover this year and which segments could win and lose: "So collecting art becomes a names and numbers game that, apparently, is very difficult to win. Which is probably why 78,000 people turn up to an art fair to window shop, rather than actually shop, and one key reason why the market fails to meaningfully expand. [...] But as Douglas Rushkoff, the author of Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, pointed out in the Guardian, today's digital Robber Barons, unlike their Gilded Age forebears, 'don't hope to build the biggest house in town' but rather the biggest 'colony on the moon, underground lair in New Zealand or virtual reality server in the cloud'. This makes collecting art, let alone building museums, generally surplus to the reputations of the new breed of ultra-confident, ultra-rich entrepreneurs."

When outsiders look at the art market, the impression is often disturbing. For her book "Get The Picture", which Lauren Mechling presents in the Guardian, author Bianca Bosker herself delved into its depths: "In her book, she dares to break down the strange codes and customs of the contemporary art world - why, for instance, it is entirely gauche to call something 'beautiful' or why must gallerists say they 'placed' a painting rather than announce that they "sold" it? "Artspeak is an exclusionary code where every word needs to be bigger than it should be,' she explains. 'The more syllables the better. There's this needlessly complex way of discussing everything, and in a voice that makes you sound like you're running out of batteries. If you read an artist's statement and wonder why it doesn't sound like normal English, Bosker has a theory for you: she posits that Artspeak emerged in the 1970s when critics were trying to emulate the clunkily translated essays of French academics."

The president of the Goethe-Institut Carola Lentz no longer seems to want to lend her face to the slashing of German cultural expenditure, surmises Gerrit Barthels in the Tagesspiegel: "Under the harrowing global political circumstances, especially in light of the tense situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the effects on the cultural sector (in an article on Spiegel Online, she complained about the "restriction of freedom of art and opinion" and a "moral rigorism"), Carola Lentz seems to have seen no prospect of a promising second term in office in conjunction with the funding cuts and savings so euphemistically sold as "transformation"." The fact that the Foreign Ministry is cutting back on the comparatively low expenditure for the flagship of German culture abroad is really not the best idea of the current government. However, Lentz himself is not entirely uninvolved in the current situation, Stefan Koldehoff points out on Deutschlandfunk radio (audio), and he calls for the honorary post to be properly remunerated in future.

The sale of major works from the Marx Collection is just the beginning, believes Hubertus Butin in the FAZ: "The Marx family may have exerted pressure, but Hermann Parzinger bears the main responsibility for the loss of the three paintings and for the new contract, as he gave his consent to both. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation should finally account for its decisions and stop suggesting that 'everything is in order'. The museum itself, 'Berlin Modern', which is to house these and other collections in its discount store architecture, is - like many others - anything but in a good position, criticises Jörg Häntzschel in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (paywall): "If you already have anaemic museums, then the new one should at least formulate some idea: of Berlin, of modernism, of art, of our time. But this is not recognisable. What exciting things could be done with the 450 million in Berlin's museums. Now there's another one where money will be tight again."

A new private foundation in New York will support twelve artists with 100,000 US dollars each over two years to finance their work, reports Angelica Villa at Artnews: "Trellis is committed to distributing unrestricted grants that don't track the artist's use of the money. [Founder Corina] Larkin described how the group she assembled to run the organisation is conscious of what it takes to sustain the labor that goes into artists' practices and maintain their security. Disbursing the grant over two years is part of an effort to make a slightly 'larger financial commitment,' she said. They're forgoing a more conventional route in which $5,000 to $10,000 grants are given towards a project, approved as part of a proposal process. That approach, she said, doesn't address the issue of sustaining an artist's livelihood."

Another auction house has parted company with its boss, reports Eileen Kinsella at Artnet: "Bonhams announced today that its CEO, Bruno Vinciguerra, is stepping down after more than five years in the role. Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, the auction house's executive chair, who joined its board in 2020, will take the helm on an interim basis."

According to documents from the insolvency administrator, London's Simon Lee Gallery has debts totalling around £10 million to 154 creditors, including other galleries, artists and exhibition companies, reports Kabir Jhala in The Art Newspaper.

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