Austrian Art Dealer Sues Viennafair Parent Company over Unkept Guarantees

It's Art Port's second lawsuit in two years.

Directors Michaela and Christian Czaak claim several assurances by fair organizers were not kept. Photo: Galerie Czaak, Vienna
Vienna Fair Photo: Christian Jungwirth via VIENNAFAIR

Vienna Fair
Photo: Christian Jungwirth via VIENNAFAIR

The Vienna-based Galerie Czaak is suing the parent company of the Austrian art fair Viennafair over misleading assurances and guarantees, seeking €22,300 ($24,224) in damages.

In a lawsuit filed at Vienna commercial court on December 2, Galerie Czaak accused Art Port president Wolfgang Pelz of not keeping assurances made to exhibitors.

According to Der Standard, the complaint alleges that Viennafair charged exhibitors €2,490 ($2,704) excluding VAT—or €142,000 ($154,251) in total—for “media partnerships,” which was advertised as targeted exposure in print and online media, to attract visitors to the fair. According to Galerie Czaak this assurance was not, or inadequately implemented.

“In my view advertising for the fair was not implemented to the agreed extent. Not by far,” gallery director Christian Czaak told artnet News in a telephone interview. “Several colleagues and I explicitly asked the organizer to divulge what the money was spent on. We were referred to a newsletter which contained no information.”

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

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

The complaint also reportedly alleged that organizers baited prospective participants with the promise that high-level Austrian galleries had signed up, which would inevitably attract high-profile collectors. It turned out that leading Austrian galleries such as Galerie Nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Charim Galerie, and Galerie Krinzinger had turned down participation from the outset.

“Their participation was verbally confirmed when we signed up,” Czaak said, adding that “when we asked organizers again if they were exhibiting at the fair, the answer was yes.”

Other high-caliber galleries were allegedly added to the exhibitors list at the last minute, enticed by steep discounts of up to 80 percent on booth fees. This understandably upset the participants who signed full-rate contracts as early as June for the fair, which took place in October.

Czaak explained that “several colleagues mentioned this at the fair and two dealers personally told me that they received discounts of up to 80 percent.”

Directors Michaela and Christian Czaak claim several assurances by fair organizers were not kept. Photo: Galerie Czaak, Vienna

Directors Michaela and Christian Czaak claim several assurances by fair organizers were not kept.
Photo: Galerie Czaak, Vienna.

 

On Monday, Art Port director Wolfgang Pelz filed a counter suit against Galerie Czaak relating to alleged unpaid fees totaling €12,500 ($13,578) from Viennafair 2015 and Art Salzburg 2014, which Art Port also manages.

Art Port is also involved in a separate lawsuit relating to damages to the floor tiles at the University of Salzburg, part of which was rented as a venue for Art Salzburg 2014. The suit alleges that Art Port has not reimbursed the university for the €30,000 ($32,588) repair costs.

Neither Wolfgang Pelz nor Art Port spokesperson Monika Vanecek-Pelz could be reached for comment. Art Port’s website is currently inactive.

The lawsuits could be damaging to the fledgling fair which saw a complete change of management this year and is facing competition from the new fair Vienna Contemporary, whose inaugural edition was met with critical acclaim.


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