Art Salzburg Founder Wolfgang Pelz Takes Over Vienna Fair

How many fairs can the Austrian capital sustain?

Wolfgang Pelz, director of Vienna Fair. Photo: via Meinbezirk.

Update your diaries: a new fair, albeit with an old name, has just been added to Vienna’s already busy fall season. And we are not talking about Vienna Contemporary, set up by Vienna Fair’s former management team (see Vienna Fair Rebrands as Vienna Contemporary). Art fair veteran Wolfgang Pelz, who also manages Art Austria and Art Salzburg, has secured the licence to take over Vienna Fair from Reed Exhibitions. A newly-minted version of the fair will take place from October 8–11 at its usual location, the Messe Wien convention center (see Art Fair Battle Brews as Art Salzburg Founder Seeks Rights to Vienna Fair Brand).

This announcement could deal a serious blow to Vienna Contemporary, which will see its debut edition from September 25–27, at the historical Marx Halle in the center of the city. The senior management, previously at Vienna Fair, left Reed Exhibitions, which was constantly changing the event’s dates. “For us, it was all about being able to fix the date of the fair,” former Vienna Fair director Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt told artnet News. “The only option Reed offered us was to change dates every year.” She probably didn’t expect Vienna Fair would come back to haunt her.

Who will win this “art fair battle” remains to be seen, though. The new Vienna Fair’s choice of date is rather puzzling, as it finishes only days before Frieze London opens to the public, on October 14. Does this mean that Pelz has a different tranche of galleries in mind?

This seems to be the case. Talking to Der Standard, the businessman explained he was not worried about the proximity to Frieze, as his fair targets different dealers and collectors. He has nonetheless taken a leaf out of Frieze’s book, launching a “Vienna Fair Masters” section, clearly inspired by Frieze’s own old masters fair Frieze Masters.

The true question here is how many art fairs can Vienna sustain? In addition to the refurbished Vienna Fair and the new-kid-on-the-block Vienna Contemporary, the city also plays host to several fairs for modern art and antiquities: Art & Antique Hofburg, which takes place November 7–15, and WIKAM (Wiener Internationale Kunst- & Antiquitätenmesse) from November 6–15. One thing is certain: not all of them will thrive.


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