First-Timers Flock to Art-O-Rama in Marseille

Welcome to Europe's most relaxed art fair.

Installation view of Manuel Scano Larrazàbal and Dorian Gaudin at Galerie pact, Art-O-Rama 2016. Courtesy Art-O-Rama.

Taking place at the end of the summer on the Côte d’Azur, the boutique art fair Art-O-Rama is a regular stop for French collectors passing through Marseille for a weekend of art and social events en route back from vacation. For its 10th edition, which opened this past Friday at the Friche la Belle de Mai—a former cigarette factory that houses several art institutions, artists’ studios, and cultural offices—the small fair had bolstered its VIP program, bringing collectors from across Europe to the Mediterranean coast.

During the opening hours of what must be one of the most relaxed art fair previews in Europe, local regulars, such as Marc and Marie-Helene Feraud, and the psychoanalyst collector couple Marc and Josée Gensollens—also on the fair’s committee, and who host a visit to their collection every year—browsed the aisles alongside visitors from across Europe, like Belgian collector Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Italian collector couple Giuseppe and Simonetta Casarotto, and first-time fair visitors Gabrielle and Dieter Kortmann from Cologne.

But not only Europeans braved the prospect of networking in shorts in the punishing heat of late August: perhaps thanks to the addition of Stefan Kalmár, director of Artists Space, to the selection committee for the first time this year, a handful of New Yorkers spent the weekend there, too, including MoMA’s chief curator of media and performance art, Stuart Comer.

As for the exhibitors, the list of 20 galleries and seven exhibitors in the editions section also included several first-timers, such as Ellen de Bruijne Projects from Amsterdam, and a conspicuous, five-strong Berlin representation with three out of the quintet of art dealers from the German capital participating for the first time: Chert, Grimmuseum, and Lars Friedrich.

Art dealer Ellen de Bruijne in front of a work by Klaas Kloosterboer at Art-O-Rama 2016. Photo artnet News

Art dealer Ellen de Bruijne in front of a work by Klaas Kloosterboer at Art-O-Rama 2016. Photo by artnet News.

“I’ve always looked at how the fair developed,” de Bruijne told artnet News, “and one of the French collectors I work with asked me ‘why don’t you come?’ I usually try to do one fair in each country, but this is special,” she adds. “The interests of collectors and curators who come here fit with the gallery’s program.” In addition to “dot paintings” by Klaas Kloosterboer, made out of cut-up garments (and priced at €12,000), the gallery was also showing a series of photographs by Kasper Akhøj taken during the renovations of Eileen Gray’s E-1027 villa, a modernist gem located not far from Marseille, in the south of France.

The black-and-white photos trace the meticulous renovation process that was only made possible due to the misattribution of the edifice to Le Corbusier, and which was corrected during research conducted to save the house. The photographic works, priced at €3,000 each, will be exhibited at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM) in 2017.

Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art i

Installation view at Laveronica gallery, Art-O-Rama 2016. Courtesy Art-O-Rama.

“You meet all the local collectors here,” said Coraddo Gugliotta of Laveronica gallery, from Modica, Italy, who were participating for the second time. That, and the fact that the fair was small, allowing for real conversations to develop, were the arguments for joining the fair that every exhibitor repeated to artnet News.

Second-time participants in particular seemed to enjoy the contacts made last year: Neumeister Bar-Am gallery placed a painting by Priscilla Tea, an abstract landscape resembling a digital, Second Life-like rendering of a horizon, with a notable Marseille-based collector. Over at Daniel Marzona gallery, works by conceptual photographer Johannes Wald found a new home, too. The artist trains his camera at Berlin’s state collection of official molds, including for sculptures that have been destroyed by bombings, the replicas thus becoming the originals.

Judging from social media this past weekend, one could get the (false) impression that the end of August in Europe is the busiest time for art fairs: gallerists could choose between CHART and CODE in Copenhagen, or Art-O-Rama in Marseille. Paris-based gallery Antoine Levi—who’s also on the selection committee for this fair and a founding member of the young, gallery-launched mini fair Paris Internationale—didn’t. “We’re doing both this and CODE this year,” director Nerina Ciaccia told artnet News. “Art-O-Rama is a fixed point in the year for us, but we also wanted to try something outside the usual path.”

In the separate Editions section, the most cost-effective work at the fair was also the most daring. Publisher mfc-michèle didier presented a reenactment of a 1978 performance by the trio UNTEL which included a fashion show at the Louvre, with a collection called TOURISTE. At Art-O-Rama, the gallery presented re-issued shirts from the collection, UNTEL, LA CHEMISE TOURISTE, which sold for under €100, and a separate work titled UNTEL, LA POCHETTE TOURISTE, including a passport and other travel necessities bunched together in an airport-security-approved plastic bag.

The daring part came during opening night, when six performers, male and female, modeled the shirts, but wearing nothing else, turning the exhibition space to a runway in a very intimate performance.

Having won the bid to host Manifesta 13 in 2020, many here believe in the growth of Marseille’s art scene.

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