Will Lufthansa Strike Affect New York Art Dealers Heading to Art Cologne?

Of the many inadvertent victims of the end-of-week flight cancelations by German airline Lufthansa due to a planned strike by its pilots are some galleries attending Art Cologne. The fair, which runs from Thursday, April 10 to Sunday, April 13, touts itself on its website as “the world’s oldest art fair for modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st century,” and sees among its roughly 200 international exhibitors many big galleries with New York locations including Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner, and Salon 94 along with a cluster of smaller Lower East Side galleries including Callicoon Fine Arts, Canada Gallery, and Jack Hanley.

“They’re the biggest shipper to Art Cologne,” said one flustered Chelsea art dealer who wished to remain nameless. The gallery is currently scrambling to find another shipper.

The strike is the result of a failure by Vereinigung Cockpit, the union representing the pilots, to negotiate an agreement with the airline over compensation. About 3,800 scheduled flights for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have been canceled, including 134 flights to and from US airports.

The timing is a bit tricky since installation and set-up by exhibitors and shippers is set to begin on Saturday April 5, the day after the strike is set to end. Art Cologne’s sales manager for exhibitors Birgitt Schnitzius denied that the fair was aware of any potential problems due to the strike.

“I just know from the media that Lufthansa is going to strike and that’s it,” Schnitzius told artnet News during a phone call. Asked whether it has affected the planned set up and installation at Art Cologne, Schnitzius replied, “At this moment no. But set up and delivery can start on Saturday this week, April 5. There is still some time.” Set up, she says, will continue through Tuesday, April 8 at noon. Asked whether art dealers or shippers had contacted her to convey they were having difficulties due to the strike, Schnitzius said, “at the moment, no such requests received in our office.”

Likewise, Zack Tornaben of the New Art Dealer’s Alliance, which is organizing a new invitational sector called Collaborations that features booths housing collaborations between two galleries or one gallery presenting a collaborative project, said about the Lufthansa strike and its possible effects on shipments to Art Cologne, “we haven’t heard anything about that yet.”

“The strike for Lufthansa is for everybody including Atelier 4,” said Elhanan Abramoff, import/export manager at Atelier 4, a Long Island City-based art shipper working on art shipments to Art Cologne. “So everybody can feel it.” Though Abramoff denied having any shipments going out in the next three days on Lufthansa (“I don’t have any shipments going on Lufthansa in the next three days”), asked if he had had complications, or had to switch any shipments that were originally scheduled to fly out the next few days, he said, “If I have to I will look for other options.” Just then, he said his Lufthansa representative, Jeurgen Brees, walked into his office. Brees denied knowing of any complications related to Art Cologne and suggested we call Lufthansa for an official news release.

While some New York dealers may have been affected, galleries with German outposts, like Peres Projects (bringing German-based artists David Ostrowski and Dorothy Iannone), were shipping works by land and were unaffected. Other New York art dealers seemed unaware of the strike.

“Our shipment went,” said Canada Gallery director Phil Grauer. “I don’t know if it went through Lufthansa or what.” But for Grauer, there wasn’t much to lose. “No one ever loses a limb. It’s an interruption for a day or two, maybe at worst and that could maybe be a loss.” Whereas Grauer says the fair, which was founded in 1967 by Cologne dealers Hein Stunke and Rudolf Zwirner, has a “clubby” atmosphere and is mostly for “senior established Rhineland dealerships and collectors,” for smaller New York art dealers, like himself, it’s more about “getting to know people rather than making expensive sales.”

AXA, one of the largest art insurers, which is holding an art preview by special invitation at Art Cologne on Wednesday April 9, could not be reached for comment.

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