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Viennafair 2013

Stefan Nikolaev: 'Repeat After Me', 2013, (c) the artist; courtesy of SARIEV Contemporary, Bulgaria



Viennafair’s own posters say ‘Viennafair – The most International Art Fair in Austria’. This irony is quite true.


It is difficult to find a credible niche in the expanding global art fair circus. For quite some years, Viennafair has been focusing on Central and Eastern European (CEE) contemporary art.


When the fair’s main share holders were still Austrian, there was also the need to incorporate well-known Austrian galleries with an all too classic program like Walde and the like. Luckily, this changed now entirely, since it is mainly owned by Russian investors.


If you stroll through the aisles of Viennafair and its more than 120 exhibitors (only 36 Austrian, the rest mainly from other CEE countries), you can see a lot of art that basically looks like art you can find on contemporary art fairs. Which is good and bad at the same time:




If you stroll through the aisles of Viennafair and its more than 120 exhibitors (only 36 Austrian, the rest mainly from other CEE countries), you can see a lot of art that basically looks like art you can find on contemporary art fairs. Which is good and bad at the same time:



Jochen Höller: Detail of ‘Audience Playboy 2013’ collage on cardboard 126,5 x 180 cm © the artist, courtesy of Galerie Maroner, Salzburg & Vienna



There are booths, where you can find interesting positions of new artists you wouldn’t see in Basel or Miami: The young Austrian Artist Jochen Höller featured collages from cut-out faces of a single magazine. It is interesting to compare all faces from an issue of Cosmopolitan to an issue of Playboy.



Anette Merrlid ‘AM2’ photograph on alubond, 120 x 80 cm © the artist courtesy Michael Schultz Galerie



On the other hand you could see a lot of art that simply looks similar to art featured on the big fairs. For instants, Berlin/Soul/Beijing-based Michael Schultz Galerie featured bondage photographs by Anette Merrild that looked like Araki or any other arty bondage images.



Sergen Sehitoglu ‘Untitled’ of 2012, photography 45 x 30 cm© the artist courtesy by Sanatorium Gallery, Isambul



Viennafair’s curators, Vita Zaman and Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, successfully incorporated new galleries with interesting positions, like Istambul-based Sanatorium, but failed to win trophy art dealers like Salzburg and Paris-based Ropac Galerie.



Installation view at Plan B Galerie, Berlin, 2013 works by Dan Mihaltianu, Mixed Media © the artist, courtesy by Plan B Cluj/Berlin



And this is probably the fair’s problem:


The Pinchuks and Abramovichs don’t come to Viennafair. They meet next week at Frieze in London to buy International trophy art anyway. Is it interesting for them to buy for instants 1980s conceptual art of the Romanian artist Dan Mihaltianu? Actually, I doubt that. 



Many important American collectors, like the Rubells and the Horts, already have been in Vienna and didn’t return. I hear the Rubells currently buy a lot new works from China. The Horts already went directly to Cluj in Romania to visit the young painters in their studios. Why should they return to Viennafair?


In general, the contemporary art market follows the flow of money: Globally, South America, India, China and the Middle East are the new powerhouse regions. It is no surprise that Financial Times features this weekend a story about how the Sao Paulo galleries prepare for Frieze Art Fair in London next week.



Vita Zaman, Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, Artistic Directors Photo © VIENNAFAIR / Slava Filipov



Who should actually be Viennafair’s visitors?


Certainly, the Viennese are the first to call. But do they really buy enough art to justify an International art fair in Vienna? I absolutely welcome Ms. Zaman‘s and Ms. Steinbrecher-Pfandt’s efforts to educate curious Viennafair visitors in order to make them become collectors. An art fair is always a good low-level-entry-barrier occasion to start collecting.


Then, there are the local collectors of the neighboring countries like Hungary or Slovakia. But do they have to go to Vienna to buy their own art?


I think it will be tough for Viennafair to bring the right art to the right visitors. They will have to find answers to the questions above to be successful.



by UGL.



Viennafair, Vienna, Austria

Through 13th October 2013







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