Great Finds and a Relaxed Attitude Make Art Cologne a Collector’s Paradise
The weekend ahead will bring buyers from the Benelux countries and France.
“This is a great fair for collectors,” says Berlin-based gallerist Javier Peres. “There are great works on offer, and no sense of urgency. They can really take their time before making any decisions.”
There was no sense of urgency to the fair’s first public day, either, but the spacious halls, which seemed a little empty in the morning, filled up slowly as the day progressed, and the sales began to flow more swiftly.
New layout is a success
That the three levels of the fair didn’t feel crowded could have less to do with actual visitor numbers and more to do with Daniel Hug’s decision to rearrange the layout and spread exhibitors across three levels instead of only two. “The fair looks fantastic,” Peres opined, and the sentiment was repeated by countless gallerists and collectors alike.
Peres brought works by artists Dan Attoe, Mike Bouchet, and artist collective Leo Gabin (Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem, and Robin De Vooght) to the fair; prices range from €25,000 to €60,000. The painting Welcome To My Art (1983), an alluring example of the uniquely individual position of Dorothy Iannone, was on reserve for a well-known German foundation.
“Art Cologne is a slow fair,” Peres added, but sales are usually strong, and the weekend ahead brings more buyers from the neighboring Benelux countries and France (see Strong, Fast Sales at Art Cologne Mark New High Point For German Art Fair).
The Rubells made the rounds, and so did Anita Zabludowicz
And while Art Cologne is predominantly the playground of German collectors from the Ruhr and the Rhineland, some international high-profile names like Donald and Mera Rubell and Anita Zabludowicz were making the rounds on preview day. They will participate at the congress held at the fair on Friday (see Anita Zabludowicz and Hoor Al Qasimi Among Mega Collectors Heading to Cologne Art Congress).
Gallerists on all three levels mentioned that collectors here are cautious—and very knowledgeable.
On the first day, everyone had works on reserve, and sales on the fair’s second level, which features contemporary art, started picking up. David Zwirner, whose father Rudolf Zwirner was one of the founding galleries of Art Cologne, sold several works by Thomas Ruff, going between €8,000 for smaller works to €100,000 for the large scale photograph r.phg.04_I (2015), and Wolfgang Tillmans’s Dürerstrasse (2009) sold for €80,000.
Zwirner also launched a new publication at the fair, the book No Problem: Cologne/New York 1984–1989, which examines the latter half of the 1980s through the lens of international art scenes that were based in Cologne—arguably the European center of the contemporary art world at that time—and New York.
50th anniversary for founding gallerist Hans Mayer
Hans Mayer, another founding gallerist of the world’s oldest fair on the Rhine, had double reason to celebrate: Galerie Hans Mayer marked its own 50th anniversary earlier this week, and Mayer was awarded the Art Cologne Prize for his outstanding achievement (see Düsseldorf Dealer Hans Mayer Awarded 2015 Art Cologne Prize).
Berlin-based Galerie EIGEN + ART enjoyed strong sales with asking prices ranging from €800 for small mirror works by a young position, Alex Lebus, to €800,000 for its top-tier artists. Gallerist Gerd “Judy” Lybke reported fast sales to mostly new contacts, and was particularly delighted about an edition by Olaf Nicolai—who’s one of the artists representing Germany at the Venice Biennale—that plays on the German word Blitz, for both lightning and flash. The sculptural work (a lightning catcher atop a camera tripod) is a rare material offering from the conceptual artist. An edition of six, a few have already sold for €12,000.
Blain|Southern, participating for the first time, brought works in the mid-price-range peaking at about €60,000, and sold pieces by each of the artists at the booth, including works on paper by Marius Bercea, and photographs by Wim Wenders. An exhibition the German filmmaker’s photographic work opened at the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf the previous night.
Museum-quality artwork reserved for institutions and private collectors
Gallerists on the downstairs level showed works at a higher price point, and reported museum-quality artworks on reserve for institutions and private collectors. Galerie Utermann from Dortmund sold several works on paper by Christian Rohlfs, from the 1920s, with prices starting from €20,000. The gallery was also offering a work it had sold 25 years ago, which has come on the market again: Emil Schumacher‘s Lana (1989) with an asking price of €195,000. Off the wall, a bronze by Karl Hartung titled Flügesäule (1960–1961) was on hold for €160,000.
Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie had the most expensive painting at Art Cologne on offer: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Sommernachtstraum (1937) valued at €7,59 million. Galerie Henze & Ketterer offered drawings and paintings by Kirchner as well, in the €3–3.5 million range. Two paintings were reserved and several pastel drawings by the Brücke artist sold for €50,000–60,000.
Everyone commented on the successful new layout, but the new arrangement had probably paid off most for the emerging galleries exhibiting on the third level (see Deutsche Bank Supports Young Galleries at Art Cologne).
Berlin gallerist Alexander Duve, a first-time exhibitor, sold out an entire solo booth by Jens Einhorn a few hours into the preview, with each painting priced at €5,800. He was dealing works off his iPad on the second day (see The 10 Best Booths at Art Cologne 2015). “It’s brilliant up here, it’s like we have our own fair just for emerging galleries,” he said, adding, “Some collectors came straight here first.”
Kour Pour artwork sells on first day
The Dublin-based Ellis King showed a solo booth by Kour Pour, and sold a painting titled They Typically Depict Classical, Biblical and Hindu Themes for $45,000, and a sculpture for $15,000 on the first day. “It’s a very interesting crowd here,” said the gallery’s Martin Rochford. “Collectors know what questions to ask; they understand the work.” The gallery is certainly enjoying attention from German collectors and institutional curators—King also had a very successful first time at Berlin’s abc fair (see Art Berlin Contemporary Lures Fresh Collectors).
Daniel Marzona, who opened his Berlin gallery in September 2014 (see Meet The Next Generation of Berlin Art Gallery Dealers) shared a collaboration booth with Sommer & Kohl gallery, and sold works by young Georgian artist Vajiko Chachkhiani for around €6,000. “Art Cologne will be my one German fair,” he said, “People come here to buy—good people, and good institutions.”
“Cologne is my backyard,” said Luxembourg collector Patrick Majerus, who focuses on emerging positions. “Art Cologne is where I started to collect,” He added, “You know everyone here, the opening feels like a class reunion,” quipping that he doesn’t get to close any deals during the preview because chatting with old familiar faces takes up the entire day.
Majerus was excited about the collaborations section on the upper level, where he found that two of his favorite Berlin galleries were sharing a booth—KOW Berlin and Kraupa Tuskany Zeidler. Majerus added a chocolate sculpture by Renzo Martens to his collection for €8,500, and his young nephew had made his first-ever art acquisition too: a small-scale edition version of a chocolate head by Martens that went for €40, probably the cheapest work at the fair.
Bitter complaints about Germany’s new tax regulations
But the mood at Art Cologne wasn’t all peachy. Dealers and buyers complained bitterly about Germany’s new tax regulations, which saw VAT on artworks soar from 7 to 19 percent. “There are some loopholes in the law, still,” said one dealer, but “these will be closed soon, and that’s going to be a real problem” (see German Dealers Lambast Tax Hike on Artwork Sales and German Dealers Forced to Make Up Tax Law).
The VAT adjustment is meant to ensure universality across EU member countries, but, as some dealers complained, “It’s still only 6 percent in the Netherlands,” a short drive from Cologne.
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