After Brisk Sales at Preview, A Slowing Down at Art Cologne 2016

Paintings rule the fair, and a naked tour spices things up.

Installation view of Katharina Grosse at Galerie Nächst St. Stephan Photo: Art Cologne
Installation view of Katharina Grosse at Galerie Nächst St. Stephan
Photo: Art Cologne
Art Cologne 2015 Photo: Koelnmesse

Photo: Koelnmesse

There were some clear winners at Art Cologne this year. Sales at this slow-burner fair usually take place all throughout its duration, with local collectors—well-informed and knowledgable, as they are often described by the dealers who come here—in the habit of mulling over any big decisions.

At Art Cologne, unlike in the bigger fairs across the border, they can take their time. Nevertheless, some galleries saw a buying frenzy during preview day and opening night which left gallery managers scrambling for smart last-minute rehangs.

Tatiana Trouve <i>Untitled </i>from the series "Intranquility" (2015)<br>Photo: courtesy König Galerie

Tatiana Trouve, Untitled from the series “Intranquility” (2015).
Photo: Courtesy König Galerie.

“We’re on fire,” said Sarah Miltenberger of König Galerie. By the middle of preview day, the gallery had placed almost everything at the booth with collectors, including a drawing on canvas by Tatiana Trouvé from her recent show at the gallery that went for €70,000; a mirror sculpture by Alicja Kwade for €80,000; works by Jorinde Voigt for €30,000; two new works on canvas by Paul Czerlitzki, which went to the collection of the Bundeskunsthalle for €30,000 each; and a painting by Katharina Grosse for €60,000.

Gallerist Johan König, a Berlin-based dealer who originally hails from Cologne, was among the Berlin dealers who spoke out against the change in dates planned for next year’s Art Cologne. Pushing the fair to the end of April in 2017 would mean a clash with the schedule of Berlin Gallery Weekend, the most important date for the German capital’s dealers, who see a concentrated week of handsome sales, minus the cost of shipping and travel to international fairs.

“If both dates clash, and it came to deciding between Gallery Weekend and Art Cologne, I would—even as a native of Cologne—try to convince our clients in the Rhine region to come spend a weekend in Berlin,” König told the German magazine Monopol last month. However, considering the flurry of sales made within the first few hours of the fair, it remains to be seen whether the gallery would really skip next year’s participation. (Although working together with others is not something Berlin is generally very good at, Art Cologne’s director Daniel Hug assured the press that an agreeable solution might still be in the works for both parties).

Installation view of Katharina Grosse at Galerie Nächst St. Stephan Photo: Art Cologne

Installation view of Katharina Grosse at Galerie Nächst St. Stephan. 
Photo: Art Cologne.

Works by Katharina Grosse also performed well at the booth of Vienna’s Galerie nächst St. Stephan. Dealer Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, who received the 2014 Art Cologne prize from the federal association of German galleries and art dealers (BVDG), was extremely happy with the first day at this year’s Art Cologne. “Art Cologne is so successful because of the personal relationships that we have built up with collectors and institutions for so many years,” she stated.

Within the first hours, Schwarzwälder sold a work on paper by Grosse (Untitled, from 2006) for €28,500; a small canvas by the artist, also untitled, from 2014, for €49,000; two works by Romanian artist Daniel Knorr, from his “Depression Elevation” series, ranging from €30,000-37,000. The gallery’s young addition to the roster, Sonia Leimer, has been performing well ever since her first outing at the Vienna Contemporary art fair last fall, and her chair-like sculptures—made of an iron beam and a cushion covered in textiles from the former Eastern Bloc—sold here too, for the friendly price of €4,300. The gallery’s main attraction, however, a towering 4 meter by 8 meter canvas by Grosse (pictured above) was still available on day two of the fair.

Installation view of Galerie Thomas at Art Cologne 2016 <br>Photo: Art Cologne

Installation view of Galerie Thomas at Art Cologne 2016. 
Photo: Art Cologne.

Raimund Thomas, this year’s winner of the Art Cologne Prize and a founding member of “Kunstmarkt Köln”—the first art fair founded in 1967, out of which Art Cologne was born—has participated in every single iteration of the fair. To mark the fair’s golden anniversary, the gallery—presenting on the level dedicated to modern and postwar art—conceived of a unique display focusing on small-format works that convey the entire spectrum of their artists, from Emil Nolde, Alighiero Boetti, Nam June Paik, and Marc Chagall (L’homme au parapluie, priced at $1,25 million) to the gallery’s youngest artist, Simon Schubert. The elegant arrangement attracted collectors like bees to honey, and on opening day, the gallery sold various works for €20,000.

Visitors were invited to run a sponge-brush across the synthetic suede paintings of Ry

At Evelyn Yard, visitors were invited to run a sponge-brush across the synthetic suede paintings of Ry David Bradley. The solo booth sold out.
Photo: Hili Perlson.

But it wasn’t only the veterans who did well on opening day. On the fair’s third level dedicated to young galleries, the very young London gallery, Evelyn Yard, founded less than two years a go, sold out an entire solo presentation of works by Ry David Bradley. Using the Periscope app, the 32-year-old artist captures portraits which he transfers to synthetic suede. But in the series shown here, rather than fixing the lush material, the artist left the suede pliable, and visitors could take a sponge-topped brush and make patterns in the fabric, which could then be brushed back to its neutral position. Priced between £3,500 and £5,500, all works on view sold out within hours.

Back on the second level with its established contemporary dealers, Hauser & Wirth reported sales of two editions of Richard Jackson’s neon work, Ain’t Painting a Pain (2012), priced at $75,000 each, and Jackson’s acrylic painting The Men’s Room/The Trophy Room (2004), which went for $55,000. The gallery’s eye-popping booth drew a crowd for its site-specific wall painting by Jackson, and two museums showed interest in acquiring the work.

art cologne

Chun Kwang Young, Aggregation 11 – AP030 Blue and Red (2011). 
Photo: Pearl Lam Galleries.

Further down the aisle, Pearl Lam Galleries’ booth emphasized a strand of abstraction rooted in Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. During the preview of the fair, the gallery sold Korean artist Chun Kwang Young’s Aggregation 11 – AP030 Blue and Red, (2011) for $160,000.

Paintings are indeed favored at Art Cologne, and even the galleries on the second and third floors, expected to be more daring, played it safe and focused their offerings on two-dimensional art that goes on the wall. Berlin gallery Klemm’s managed to make the most of it with a well-curated juxtaposition of works by Viktoria Binschtok and Bernard Piffaretti. Binschtok’s work-process is rooted in the visual results spat back at her by image search algorithms, from which she creates clusters of intriguing formal repetitions and variations. Piffaretti’s practice has always been to divide his canvases in half, paint one side, and replicate the result on the other.

Tony Cragg <i> Palette, </i>(1983) <br>Photo: courtesy Buchmann galerie

Tony Cragg, Palette, (1983). 
Photo: Courtesy Buchmann Galerie.

Buchmann Galerie showed an early wall-work by Tony Cragg (pictured above) which was still available on day two of the fair, priced at €180,000. Cragg is opening a show at the Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, this coming Sunday, and this being a slow-burner fair—with collectors flocking to Cologne form the neighboring Benelux countries and Switzerland on the weekend—it still stands a good chance of changing hands. 

However, collector Alain Servais opined that the halt in sales after preview day was due to the auctions taking place in London at the moment. “If you’re a serious collector” he said, “you’d compare and see that some artists offered here sell for less at auction.” But is the cooling off in sales at art fairs really a result of competition from auction houses, rather than other fairs, or is everyone experiencing a slowing down?

What you don’t get at auction (not yet, at least) is a private naked tour. After artnet News’ roving correspondent Kenny Schachter faced a naked dilemma at Art Cologne, artnet News got in touch with Cologne-based journalist Stefan Haase, who was one of the three participants in Australian artist Stuart Ringholt’s naturalist morning stroll through the aisles.

“It was just me—a journalist—the artist, and one visitor, all male” Haase told artnet News. “It was very special, though. You realize that your face is your dress, and you only focused on the others’ faces,” he described. Although the tour took place this morning before opening hours, the textile-less troupe was surprised to find art fair staff on location. “One woman came out from behind a door, saw us, and turned right back around,” Haase told us.

As soon as initial inhibitions were left behind, the naked tour turned out to be an exhilarating experience. “You feel a breeze pushing you through the fair,” Haase described. “I felt like I were floating through the aisles.”

Art Cologne runs from April 14–April 17, 2016, at Koelnmesse, Cologne.


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