Art Cologne, promoting the art market’s avantgarde

 Cologne  |  7 April 2018  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

From 19 to 22 April, the 52nd edition of Art Cologne will be on. This year, the doyen of Germany’s fairs is presenting 200 galleries from 31 countries, divided into four major sections. Around 50,000 visitors are awaited at this great rendezvous in modern and contemporary art.


Set up in 1967 by gallerists Hein Stünke and Rudolf Zwirner, Art Cologne is now one of Europe’s oldest art fairs. For over half a century, the event has been supporting the renown of players on the international market. All along, one watchword has remained its driving force: revealing, discovering and buying art. And steered by Daniel Hug since 2008, Art Cologne looks like it’s on its way up again these days. Following a brief low patch in the 2000s, the organisers, in the last few editions, have reverted to a policy that makes sense. By favouring quality over quantity, they have chosen a strategy that seems to be bearing fruit. The number of exhibitors has been cut from 300 to 200. The fair’s layout has also been revamped, and now occupies a smaller space. By offering a new vision, Daniel Hug has succeeded in bringing prestige back to an event that had lost some of its shine – a case of less is more, one might say.

This 52nd edition of Art Cologne only confirms the merits of the chosen direction, both for professionals and the public. Just one small setback: its slot in the yearly calendar. In 2017, the organisers scheduled the fair at the same time as the Gallery Weekend in Berlin. A decision that caused a turmoil right up to the banks of the Spree. This year, Daniel Hug decided to go back to the fair’s traditional dates in order to allow collectors to attend both events. But given the overloaded calendar of international fairs, it’s now no easy matter to suit everyone’s schedules… So this year, Art Cologne is being held at the same time as Art Brussels – which happens to be celebrating its 50th birthday. A reason as good as any for the German event to outdo itself.

The cream of international galleries

In 2018, the 200 participating galleries hail from 31 countries and present works from over 2000 artists. The works fall into four main sections: Galleries, Neumarkt, Collaborations and New Positions. The main section, Galleries, hosts around 180 of the most renowned professionals on the market, presenting a selection of the best in modern and contemporary art. The many heavyweights among them include David Zwirner, Larry Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Lisson, White Cube and Gio Marconi. We can also note the presence of leading German galleries such as Sprüth Magers, Michael Werner, Gisela Capitain, Karsten Greve, Daniel Buchholz, Max Hetzler and Konrad Fischer. New arrivals this year include Kamel Mennour (Paris), Julian Sander (Cologne), Kanalidarte (Brescia), Ernst Hilger (Vienna) and Setareh (Düsseldorf). A breath of fresh air, backed by the participation of professionals from regions that are often not highly represented: 1335 Mabini (Manilla), Piero Atchugarry (Uruguay), Erika Deák (Budapest), On the Move (Tirana), Vartai (Vilnius) and Moderne (Silkeborg). Finally, numerous German galleries are on hand to offer a fine sample of the market on a local scale: among them, Mike Karstens (Münster), Löhrl (Mönchengladbach), Döbele (Mannheim), Hoffmann (Friedberg), Koch (Hanover), Schlichtenmaier (Grafenau) and Philipp Pflug Contemporary (Frankfurt).

Participants are selected by a committee of ten gallerists who are familiar names in the world of art: Jan Kaps (Cologne), Eleni Koroneou (Athens), Christian Nagel (Berlin/Cologne), Stefania Palumbo (Supportico Lopez, Berlin), Deborah Schamoni (Munich), Aurel Scheibler (Berlin/Cologne), Benoît Sapiro (Le Minotaure, Paris), Daniela Steinfeld (Van Horn, Düsseldorf), Rob Tufnell (London/Cologne) and Martin van Zomeren (Amsterdam). “Committee work is carried out in a true spirit of collectiveness,” comments Benoît Sapiro, director of the gallery Le Minotaure. “Each person brings his own specificities and the different visions complement one another. There was genuine exchange and conversation between all the committee members. The selection shows that Art Cologne is above all a fair that promotes art and taste, beyond the commercial aspect alone.”

The avantgarde in contemporary art

Since 1980, New Positions has emerged as a section that is financially supported by the federal government. The programme takes the form of 25 m² stands adjoining the galleries, where young artists present their works themselves. In 2018, no less than 21 creators were chosen to promote their work in the section. The jury – composed of Renate Goldmann (director of the Leopold-Hoesch Museum and the Papiermuseum in Düren), Martin Liebscher (artist and professor at the Offenbach University of Art and Design), Nikolai Forstbauer (journalist), Klaus Webelholz (gallerist) and Thomas Rehbein (gallerist) – has focused on the issue of the classic borders that exist between different media, techniques and materials.

Amongst the selected artists, we can single out the drawings of Mathieu Bonardet that bring out all the nuances of graphite (Galerie Jean Brolly, Paris). The artist’s black-and-white works strike a balance between a taste for formalism and for aesthetics. His motifs transcribe gestures and bodily movement, sometimes to the point of rupture (Lignes, 2011). The energy released by his works is captured in formats that are sometimes unusual (diptychs, frescoes, spirals) – and which open up to reveal a horizon, a road, an architecture. Meanwhile, Rebecca Ann Tess – proving to be a lucid observer of technical progress in our societies – captures, in her photos and videos, the architecture in big cities (Galerie Philipp von Rosen, Cologne). In her series, she retraces human fascination for symbolic elevation – a fascination that wasn’t born yesterday, as attested by her shots of the medieval village of San Gimignano. Her series named “The Tallest”, devoted to the world’s tallest towers, offers a criticism of the striking soar of megalopolises in America, the Middle East or Asia. Demonstrations of might that inevitably point to other economic and social issues that are overlooked, relegated to the towers’ shadows. There’s also the profuse creativity of multimedia artist Alona Rodeh, expressed through sculptures, videos, photos, as well as performances framed by sound-and-light installations (Galerie Christine König, Vienna). As a multifaceted creator, Alona Rodeh plays with artistic formats which she severs and merges at will – an approach that pushes artistic exploration further and results in the appearance of new forms of expressiveness.

The New Positions section is also an opportunity to discover Martin Groß (Galerie Eigen+Art, Berlin and Leipzig), Lutz Braun (Galerie Nagel Draxler, Cologne), Ruth May (Galerie Barbara Gross, Munich), Sebastian Dannenberg (Galerie Anke Schmidt, Cologne), Andrej Dubravsky (Galerie Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin) or Lito Kattou (Galerie Eleni Koroneou, Athens). Also bear in mind that the New Positions Award is attributed during the fair. This distinction, supported by Deutsche Telekom, enables the winner to organise a solo show at Artothek in Cologne. Paul Spengemann, the 2017 winner, is launching his exhibition on Friday 20 April.

Support for young players

As is the case every year, Art Cologne’s support for young players is a key priority at the heart of its programme. This ambition, concerning not only emerging artists but also the gallerists representing them, is manifested by the organisation of the Neumarkt and Collaborations sections. Galleries participating in these sections are offered stands at reduced rates. In the case of Neumarkt, for example, a 20 m² stand costs 4000 euros, while a 30 m² stand costs 6000 euros – evidence of the organisers’ deliberate strategy to include all protagonists of the current scene. “At these prices, we’re not making any profit,” says Daniel Hug, the fair’s director. “These prices are lower than what a page of advertising costs in certain specialist magazines. We really want to help young galleries and their artists to get established in the Art Cologne landscape. We’re the first big fair to introduce this concept of less expensive stands for young galleries.”

The Neumarkt section consists of solo shows or group shows organised by young artists (a maximum of three per space). These artists are presented by galleries that are under ten years old. But of course, representing the avantgarde has always been part of the fair’s identity. This year, around twenty projects have been chosen, presented by galleries like Alma (Riga), 22,48 m² (Paris), Union Pacific (London), Polansky (Prague) or Xavier Laloulbenne (Berlin).

A nod of approval goes to this year’s original décor at the fair’s southern entrance hall: a carpet created by Polish artist Zuzanna Czebatul (Galerie Piktogram, Warsaw), titled Higher Than The Sun. “The installation refers to the interiors of casinos in Las Vegas,” comments Zuzanna Czebatul. “In these places, everything is designed to encourage gamblers to spend. The motifs show words like NOW, SPEED, MEGA or CASH. There’s probably no place that’s more appropriate than the entrance of an international fair to show such a work.”

Meanwhile, the Collaborations section is chance to discover another twenty or so projects based on collaborative practices. The galleries Isabella Bortolozzi and Fons Welters are presenting Olga Balema and Juliette Blightman while galleries Nächst St Stephan, Esther Schipper and Jocelyn Wolff are supporting Isa Melsheimer’s solo show. We also appreciate the work of Haegue Yang, presented by Barbara Wien (Shöneberger). Let’s remember that Haegue Yang is the winner of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2018, awarded by the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where she is currently presenting the exhibition “ETA – 1994-2018”.

The legacy of Aufklärung

As is the case every year, Art Cologne 2018 also places the spotlight on the art market’s professionals. This year, two awards are distinguishing public and private actors. On Saturday 21 April, the ADKV-Kunstvereine Award will be presented to the Kunstverein deemed to conduct the most innovative and dynamic policy on a national scale. The Kunstvereinen are in fact public-interest associations born from the legacy of the Aufklärung, a German intellectual movement akin to the Age of Enlightnment from the end of the 18th century. The bourgeoisie in German cities developed these new structures in order to liberalise art and culture, dominated by the noble elite until that point. Today, there are some 300 Kunstvereinen in Germany, gathering more than 100,000 members and overseen by the ADKV which, since 2014, has been directed by Meike Behm (Kunstverein Lingen). Every year, over one million visitors discover the exhibitions organised by these different bodies. This year, around twenty Kunstvereinen are in the running to win the award that comes with an 8000-euro prize: Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Lübeck, Rostock, Potsdam, Cologne… In 2017, the award went to the Hartware MedienKunstverein in Dortmund.

Collectors are also honoured at the fair, via the Art Cologne Prize. In 2018, the organisers have decided to pay homage to Julia Stoschek. The heiress of Max Brose (founder of the automobile company Brose-Fahrzeugteile), Julia Stoschek opened, in 2007, a space in Düsseldorf-Oberkassel to present her private collection to the public. This collection primarily consists of works dating from the 1960s to the present day, mainly around the theme of images and the media. The collection is approximately 700 works strong (videos, photos, digital art), featuring some of the most eminent contemporary artists: Marina Abramovic, Ed Atkins, Francis Alys, Doug Aitken, Björk, David Claerbout, Keren Cytter, Simon Denny, Olafur Eliasson, Ryan Trecartin, or Jon Rafman. Considering herself as an “archivist of contemporary artistic production”, Julia Stoschek is also a member of various cultural institutions like the Kunst-Werke (Berlin), the MoMA PS1 (New York), the Tate Gallery (London) or the Whitney Museum (New York). By winning the Art Cologne Prize this year, Julia Stoschek succeeds other famous German collectors including Charlotte Zander (1997), Ingvild Goetz (2001), Frieder Burda (2002) or Harald Falckenberg (2009). She will receive the award and the 10,000-euro endowment at Cologne City Hall on Thursday 19 April.

A busy talks programme

Finally, the Art Cologne organisers have cooked up a busy programme of talks and discussions on the art market. Numerous professionals from the field will be tackling topics with the aim of deciphering the current affairs of the moment. The topic on first day, Thursday 19 April, will be the evolution of values on the art market. What system of trust should apply today, in a milieu where everything seems volatile (the market ratings of artists, passing fads)? What are the genuine values that individuals should rely on, whether they’re art enthusiasts or professionals? The discussions will take place in the presence of Yilmaz Dziewior (Museum Ludwig), Gregor Jansen (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf), Stefanie Kreuzer (Museum Morsbroich), Bettina Böhm (Outset, Germany-Switzerland), Lutz Casper (LBBW-Sammlung) and Patricia Kamp (Museum Frieder Burda).

Friday 20 April will be devoted to the topic of the art-market economy. In the morning, the 7th Cologne Art Insurance-Talk (Europasaal) is scheduled, with this year’s debate focusing on the provenance of artworks. Is it truly possible to insure the authenticity of a painting or sculpture? In the face of the market’s reality, such a demand is growing – but what risks do we come across? What are the limits of insurers? How far can we go when following this logic? A prickly question, directly related to the training and to the monopoly of valuation professions. Participants include Peter Grabowski (WDR), Maurice Philip Remy (author of the book Der Fall Gurlitt), Julia Barbara Ries (Ergo insurance company), Karin Schulze-Frieling (Galerie Utermann) and Amelie Ebbinghaus (Provenance Researcher, Art Loss Register). The rest of the day, other talks will be devoted to the relationships between artists and sponsors, the restoration of artworks, or the freedom of creation in the current system. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate, in passing, the 65th year of the prestigious Ars Viva Prize: a distinction introduced in 1953 to recognise a young artist residing in Germany, awarded by the Association of Arts and Culture of the German Economy.

On Saturday 21 April, the afternoon will start with the attribution of the New Positions Award. Followed up by the awarding of the ADKV-Award for art criticism and art associations, then the Gaffel-Glass Design Award. The day will conclude with a discussion on the theme of the Internet. Organised in collaboration with the Kunstforum International, the debate titled “Where are we headed in the web?” will broach the impact of digital democratisation on the art market. For this new communication channel also entails a new public, new professions, new forms of criticism, new tools… In short, a new system. While everyone today recognises the convenience of Internet, they also deplore the dependency engendered by new digital tools. So how should one navigate the Internet art market? The roundtable will gather Barbara Hess (Texte zur Kunst), Heinz-Norbert Jocks (Kunstforum International), Joanna Reich (artist), Kolja Reichert (Faz) and Uta M. Reindl (Kunstforum International).

Finally, Sunday 22 April will close the fair with a voyage in time, allowing us to revisit modern and contemporary art history in four stops: Walter Gropius’ establishment of the Bauhaus in 1919, artists from the 1968 generation, the 1990s in Germany, and digital art today. Numerous experts on these topics will be present, among them, Annemarie Jaeggi (Bauhaus-Archive), Marion von Osten (Bauhaus imaginista), Katia Baudin (Kunstmuseen Krefeld), Andreas Beitin (Ludwig Forum for International Art, Aachen), Alice Schwarzer (editor of the magazine EMMA), Christian Nagel (Galerie Nagel Draxler), Caroline Nathusius (photographer and curator), Sabine Oelze (journalist), Martin Germann (SMAK, Gand), Julia Höner (KAI 10, Arthena Foundation), and Ola Kolehmainen (photographer).

An artistic voyage in time to complete directly on the spot by seeing the show “Networks of Avant-garde Galleries in the Nineties” (hall 11-3). Organised in collaboration with the ZADIK (Central Archive of the International Art Trade), this exhibition retraces the golden age of the 1990s in Cologne. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the East found itself facing a social and financial crisis, but at the same time, an opening up to new horizons, from which art would reap benefits. By revisiting this period, the exhibition becomes a form of introspection and allows us to rediscover the history of artists, gallerists… and the fair itself.




Art Cologne, from Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 April (opening on Wednesday 18 April, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m). Koelnmesse GmbH, Messeplatz 1, Cologne.




Art along the Rhine

Art Cologne 2018’s off programme offers a wide range of events throughout the Rhine region. In Cologne itself, the Artothek is holding a solo show by video artist Paul Spengemann, winner of the New Positions Award 2017 (until 2 June). There’s also the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, presenting an exhibition on Gerhard Marcks, “Reflections of a sculptor, from the preliminary draft to the finished sculpture” (until 3 June). You can also head for the Makk to see the “#all-rounder” event organised to mark 150 years since the birth of Peter Behrens (until 1 July), a pioneering artist in the field of industrial design. Otherwise, you can see Haegue Yang’s show at the Museum Ludwig, “ETA – 1994-2018”, or else the “Tracing transformations” group show at the SK Stiftung Kultur, presenting photos and works by Laurenz Berges, Michael Collins and Paola De Pietri.

From Cologne, it’s only a short trip to Bonn, to discover the “Traces in Space” exhibition organised by the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany. The event presents works by several artists, hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (until 22 April). Meanwhile, the Kunst Museum in Bonn is holding two shows: “Thomas Scheibitz – Masterplan\kino” (until 29 April) and “Heidi Specker – Photographer” (until 27 May). Or why not stop at Bergisch Gladbach, where the Villa Zanders is hosting three shows: one on Reinhold Koehler, another on Wolfgang Heuwinkel, and the last on artistic duo Thomas Kocheisen & Ulrike Hullmann. Finally, in Leverkusen, the Museum Morsbroich invites you to discover the “Gegen die Strömung Reise ins Ungewisse” group show (until 29 April). Not a moment to be wasted!


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