Art Berlin Contemporary is Now Officially an Art Fair (At Last!)

We can stop pretending it's a "curated selling exhibition."

Tobias Rehberger presented by neugerriemschneider at abc 2014
Photo: Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Jens Ziehe, Berlin

Art Berlin Contemporary (abc) has announced a new development, effectively becoming an art fair. Now in its eight edition, abc will, for the first time since its inception, accept exhibitors based on an open call for applications this year, rather than by invite only.

abc has been known to reinvent itself with every iteration. But this change marks a coming of age for the event which started as an experimental, gallery-initiated, and theme-based selling show running parallel to the now-defunct main fair, Art Forum, which closed in 2010. Having functioned as Berlin’s de facto main art fair since then, abc’s organizers (who are indeed, not a convention company) would go out of their way to circumvent the F-word, deemed too commercial for the poor-but-sexy city, with complicated descriptions such as “a curated selling exhibition.”

Nevertheless, as abc’s artistic director Maike Cruse hinted last year (see Art Berlin Contemporary Lures Fresh Collectors), inviting galleries, rather than selecting them from submitted applications, often meant that abc had little recourse with regard to what artists or works gallerists decided to bring. Combined with the fair’s open architecture, this policy ran the risk of amounting to a rather chaotic–sometimes even downright clashing–visual experience.

“We hope to be able to reach out to galleries we’ve not been able to invite before, galleries that may have some interesting projects in mind for abc,” Cruse said in a statement. “Furthermore, the selection process will make the curation of the entire presentation much easier.”

abc updates its architectural scheme every year, with designs that negate the concpet of renting out booths. Befitting the new development, this edition will also get a clearer design devised by architects June 14 Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff. Taking place from September 17–20 at Station Berlin, abc will select around 100 galleries to present in formats ranging from solo presentations to curated projects, both indoors and outdoors.

Last year’s edition was one of the most successful in terms of sales, and attracted a number of high-profile curators including Tate’s Chris Dercon, the Stedelijk’s Beatrix Ruf, and the Serpentine Galleries’ Hans Ulrich Obrist, among others.

“We’re really excited to see how our galleries respond to the new concept,” Cruse added. But abc’s new identity should first and foremost appeal to the German collectors base that Berlin finally managed to attract last year. If last edition’s success is repeated, Berlin might just have gotten itself a serious art fair.

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