Art Cologne Will Clash with Berlin Gallery Weekend in 2017

Is Cologne trying to take back Germany's art scene?

Art Cologne 2015.
Photo: Koelnmesse

Berlin or Cologne? In April 2017, that will be the question that art dealers based in the German capital and collectors from around Germany and Europe will be asking themselves, because Germany’s two most important art events will be taking place in the same week.

Art Cologne—Germany’s largest and oldest art fair—has announced that its 2017 edition will take place from April 28 to the May 1, the dates traditionally occupied by Berlin’s Gallery Weekend, a popular and much-emulated format in which over 50 Berlin galleries host openings on the same weekend.

In a statement given to the German art magazine Monopol, fair director Daniel Hug indicated that the clash was due to scheduling issues with the fair’s venue at the Koelnmesse convention hall.

In Berlin, the clash has provoked outrage. Even in the ultra-competitive art world, there are unwritten rules ensuring that fairs and major events respect the dates of their competitors.

“The fact that two such important German art events will now be held on the date that for 12 years has been occupied by Gallery Weekend is an incredibly unfortunate decision, especially for galleries that regulary participate in both,” Maike Cruse, director of Berlin’s Gallery Weekend told artnet News in an email. “The clash of dates presents timing and logistical problems,” she added, diplomatically. “We do not want to speculate about the possible strategies of Art Cologne.”

Installation View, Florian Meisenberg Somewhere sideways, down, at an angle, but very close, Wentrup Photo: Marco Funke, courtesy Gallery Weekend Berlin

Over 50 Berlin-based galleries host simultaneous openings on Gallery Weekend, attracting collectors from around the world.
Photo: Marco Funke, courtesy Gallery Weekend Berlin

Indeed, the clash could seriously damage Germany’s art market. This year, some 21 Berlin galleries are confirmed to participate in both events—but that number is certain to decrease in 2017.

“If both dates clash, and it came to deciding between Gallery Weekend and Art Cologne,” the Berlin-based gallerist Johann König told Monopol, “I would—even as a native of Cologne—try to convince our clients in the Rhine region to come spend a weekend in Berlin.” The cities are about half a day’s travel apart, so it is unlikely that most visitors would attend both.

The Berlin-based gallerist Guido Baudach agreed. “The collectors’ community will probably try to attend both” he said, “but there will almost certainly be losses for both Cologne and Berlin since not everyone wants to take the related travel stress upon themselves.”

Echoing König’s statement he added “If in doubt, we will give preference to the Gallery Weekend in Berlin. Without question. However—like our other Berlin-based colleagues—we hope that it doesn’t come down to that in the end.”

Benjamin Agert, a spokesperson for Art Cologne told artnet News that the fair is not prepared to comment at this time “As we are currently in discussions with Gallery Weekend.”

Gallerists and collectors alike are hopeful that the dialogue between the two parties will lead to a mutually beneficial compromise.

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