The 10 Best Booths at Art Cologne 2015

From Capitain Petzel to Pearl Lam Galleries, these are the fair's hottest booths.

Sanja Iveković, "Sunglasses (Women's House)" (2002–2004, work in progress).
Photo: Hili Perlson.
Booth by Wallner Gallery with works by Dan Graham, Jeppe Hein and Alexander Tovborg at Art Cologne 2015<br />   Photo: Courtesy Koelnmesse.

Installation view of Galleri Nicolai Wallner with works by Dan Graham, Jeppe Hein, and Alexander Tovborg at Art Cologne 2015
Photo: Courtesy of Koelnmesse.

Art Cologne—the oldest art fair in the world—is a quintessentially German affair. Some may call it “regional,” but as Art Cologne’s director Daniel Hug put it in a conversation with artnet News, that is not a qualifier that requires any special justification. With the number of world renowned German artists and influential German art movements receiving museum shows around the world, he says, not to mention the art-friendly infrastructure that sees a host of institutions, museums, and galleries in every German city, what else should Art Cologne be if not German?

Kicking off its 49th edition, the fair has been slightly restructured to accommodate 209 galleries spread across three levels (as opposed to two in previous editions). The most expansive level, on the second floor, is dedicated to Contemporary Art. Level 1 is reserved for modern and postwar art, and the upper level features young galleries in the “New Contemporaries” section, while hosting a “New Positions” program for emerging artists, and the “Collaborations” section held in cooperation with NADA.

Indeed, the fair is unmistakably German: Subtlety trumps pomp, and, in general, exhibitors opt for understated booth presentations. What’s on offer, too, is predominantly German.


Sigmar Polke, Der Kuchen ist alle ? (2006) at mike karstens.
Photo: Hili Perlson.

Sigmar Polke—whose retrospective “Alibis” is now on view at The Ludwig Museum in Cologne—can be spotted in numerous booths, as can Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Martin Kippenberger, and Imi Knoebel.

And while Germany’s top galleries didn’t disappoint, some of the preview day’s most compelling presentations came courtesy of exhibitors from farther afield.


Sanja Iveković, “Sunglasses (Women’s House)” (2002–2004, work in progress).
Photo: Hili Perlson.

1. Espaivisor gallery from Valencia, Spain, showed a stellar selection of political work by women artists such as Lea Lublin—who is getting a retrospective show at the Lenbachhaus in Munich this summer; Argentinian performance artist Graciela Carnevale; and Croatian photographer Sanja Iveković. All of them tackle aspects of womanhood and feminism in different times and under different political regimes. Iveković’s series “Sunglasses (Women’s House)” (2002–2004), overlays blown-up advertisements for designer sunglasses with accounts collected in different shelters for battered women.

2. Wentrup Gallery showed several of the leading Germans represented by the Berlin-based gallery, such as Olaf Metzel, Timm Ulrichs, Florian Meisenberg, and Miriam Böhm. However, it was the separate “New Positions” section featuring collaborative artist duo Peles Empire (Katharina Stöver and Barbara Wolff) that delighted viewers. The duo’s namesake, a lavish Romanian castle from the 19th century, had been once again used as source material for a wallpaper, which was mounted inside the Schindler House in Los Angeles. The artists documented the dismantling of the interior to create a new wallpaper, with the rips and tears giving the illusion of depth to the two-dimensional prints.

3. Nosbaum & Reding presented works on paper and wooden sculptures by Cameroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo. Works by the Paris-based Toguo, shown in Cologne for the first time, will be exhibited in the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale next month, as part of “All the World’s Futures” by Okwui Enwezor.


Su Dongping, 2014 No. 17 (2014), left, and Su Xiaobai, Glacial Lake (2013), right, at Pearl Lam Galleries.
Photo: Hili Perlson.

4. Pearl Lam Galleries, first-time exhibitors at Art Cologne, brought a selection of Chinese artists with strong formal or biographical ties to Germany. Su Xiaobai, for example, studied at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, a transformative experience for the onetime Social Realist painter. Su’s work now focuses on color, surface, and material, with thick lacquer layered generously on linen and wood. A new discovery for the gallery is Sudong Ping, a complete autodidact who has never been exposed to Western avant garde, but whose thickly layered work became increasingly abstract as he rebelled against other forms of painting.

5. Galleri Nicolai Wallner from Copenhagen presents a glass pavilion by Dan Graham titled Time/Space Warp (2015) mounted especially for the fair. The gallery’s booth also mixes a presentation of cool steel-and-glass works by Jeppe Hein with warm, lush large-scale fabric collages by Alexander Tovborg, who explores myth and archetypes in his Klee-inspired pieces.

6. Contemporary Fine Arts – CFA Berlin will sell the collection of German photographer F.C. Gundlach later this year, and its booth served as teaser and preview, with offerings by Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger. To offset the stress on Cologne artists, the gallery also dedicated another booth to young American artist Borden Capalino. Culling images of furniture from Craigslist, Capalino adds cow bones, goat horns or foodstuffs to the heavily lacquered canvases.


SUPERFLEX, Liverpool To Let (2012) at 1301PE Gallery.
Photo: Hili Perlson.

7. Another young discovery came courtesy of Duve gallery, whose solo booth by Jens Einhorn was sold out midway through the preview day. Einhorn studied under Tal R at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and graduated last year. He works with glue, pigments, and mesh fabrics, which he rips off the canvas to create textures, tears, and chance patterns. The bundles of mesh arranged on the floor can be bought separately, to correspond with the painting each had once stuck on.

8. The gallery 1301PE exhibited a solo presentation by the Danish collective SUPERFLEX. A gallery assistant clicked visitors to the both on a hand-held counter, with the numbers appearing on a large screen. This IRL statistic however, does not have any affect on the value of the works on view, unlike click numbers to websites, and no solution was offered when asked about statistics for returning visitors. The gallery also showed the work Liverpool To Let (2012), a series of 46 banners produced by unemployed banner painters in Liverpool and shown at the biennale there in 2012.


Sigmar Polke, Vollmond im Widder (2004) at mike karstens.
Photo: Hili Perlson.

9. From the numerous galleries showing works by Sigmar Polke, the solo presentation by mike karstens gallery stood out, as it offered a comprehensive insight into the artist’s lesser-known graphics. Working with Polke during the last 10 years of his life, the gallery, which also runs a printmaking workshop, has helped Polke produce the first graphic prints he had made for the magazine Kunstkapital. The play of light and color evident in a series of lithographies on diffraction foil makes clear why these editions should be viewed in an exhibition setting rather than in a catalogue.

10. Capitain Petzel gets an honorary mention for its carefully thought through hanging. While the exclusion of loud and audacious works from this fair makes for an overall pleasant and harmonious booth experience at most galleries, Capitain Petzel managed to create fascinating relations of contexts and forms between its artists. A yellow painting by Matt Mullican hangs next to a dark triptych by Robert Longo, with an installation by Seth Price on the opposite wall. Walead Beshty and Maria Lassnig enter into dialogue on another corner, and a visual poem by photographer Natalie Czech is on the wall facing them.

Robert Longo,Untitled (Moon) (2014), left, and Matt Mullican Subject over Element (2015), right, at Capitain Petzel. Photo: Hili Perlson.

Robert Longo, Untitled (Moon) (2014), left, and Matt Mullican, Subject over Element (2015), right, at Capitain Petzel.
Photo: Hili Perlson.

Visit Art Cologne in Hall 11, Koelnmesse, Messeplatz 1, in Cologne, Germany, from April 16–19.

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