With an expanded format that now includes design, Art Cologne sees an increase in visitors and decent sales
This year finally marked the first real post-Covid comeback for Art Cologne, which concluded its five-day run on Saturday November 19, expanded and returned to a kind of “new normal” after a edition inevitably reduced last year. Despite the fresh start, some pandemic-related changes are here to stay, including the scrapping of the fair’s old April slot in favor of a new date which, according to fair manager Daniel Hug, ” fits well into the global art fair calendar”. Presumably, this also avoids too much direct competition with other regional fairs like Art Brussels, which takes place in the spring.
The focus is also on space, which is easily taken over by Cologne’s gigantic exhibition center. A new layout features 5-metre-wide (16-foot) walkways and airy plazas, intended to house large sculptures but also to put those still in favor of social distancing at ease. Possible routes were suggested by colored paths traced on the ground.
The preview also spanned two days, a safety measure that, Hug suggested to Artnet News, “made for a very relaxed preview, too relaxed for many.”
Crowds may have remained relatively subdued on those days, but the weekend saw a 50% increase in attendance over the previous year. In total, the fair welcomed 43,000 visitors. That doesn’t quite match the show’s pre-pandemic highs of 57,000 in 2019, but exhibitor numbers have rebounded to around 190 after dropping to 140 last year.
This increased participation may reflect the waiver of stand rental costs, of which about a third is covered by the German government as part of ongoing pandemic recovery funding for the culture sector.
The other big headline this year was the successful merger between Cologne Fine Art & Design and Art Cologne (both owned by the same parent company, the former being dedicated to traditional arts and antiques. The design fair is now nestled under the wing of Art Cologne, appearing in its new section, Art + Object. The range of objects on offer at Art Cologne has therefore expanded beyond contemporary and modern to include old masters, design, applied arts and crafts and antiques.
Yet contemporary art continues to steal the show. Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac sold an orange and black landscape by Alex Katz for €950,000 ($973,250). “We are noticing increased interest in the works of Alex Katz at the moment, which is certainly due in part to his current major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York,” Patricia Schmiedlechner told Artnet News. “We attend the fair every year,” she added, noting “the presence of so many high-level art collections in the region.”
Sprüth Magers, based in Berlin, London and Los Angeles, reported numerous high-end sales, including a work by John Baldessari for $275,000 and a painting by Anne Imhof for €120,000 ($123,000) to European collections and a drawing by George Condo purchased for €150,000 ($153,500) from a Swiss collector. Also demonstrating a small presence of American buyers at the fair, he reported the sale of a Bernd & Hilla Becher photograph for €20,000 ($20,500) to an American collection.
Another painting by German artist Imhof sold for €140,000 ($143,500) at Daniel Buchholz Gallery, which also represents the artist.
International galleries experienced similar levels of interest. A tapestry by Roy Lichtenstein, donated by Galerie East in Strasbourg, France, sold for €120,000 ($123,000). The joint stand of Belgian galleries QG and Edouard Simoens sold a painting by Baselitz for €100,000 ($102,500) and a work by Andy Warhol for €150,000 ($153,500).
Emerging galleries participating in the Neumarkt (translated: New Market) section have been scattered across the contemporary floor rather than sequestered in a distant corner. Johnanna Neuschäffer of Berlin-based gallery Office Impart told Artnet News, “young galleries felt very naturally included in the fair.” Works in their solo show by German artist Hannah Sophie Dunkelberg sold for between €3,800 and €19,000 ($4,000 and $19,500).
Exhibiting for the second time, also at Neumarkt, Tallinn-based gallery Temnikova & Kasela presented Estonian artist Flo Kasearu. They unloaded their centerpiece the large-scale sculpture Uprising (an airplane), among other works for a total amount of €30,000 ($30,750), plus taxes. Each sale marked a new encounter with an institution or a local collector made through the fair.
Also noteworthy was the participation of Voloshyn Gallery from Kyiv, Ukraine, which brought watercolors by popular Ukrainian artist Maria Sulymenko, priced between €1,600 and €8,700 ($1,160 to $6,300). It plans to open an exhibition in December at its space in the Ukrainian capital despite this year’s attacks by Russia on the Ukrainian capital.
Of the pre-war offering at Art Cologne, “German Expressionists are the big hits”, noted dealer Laszlo von Vertes. “There was great demand and we had huge sales,” he said. His Zurich gallery received a lot of attention for its exhibition of museum-quality works by Monet and Gerhard Richter, but he nonetheless highlighted the sale of a significant work by August Macke.
The Hamburg gallery Thole Rotermund also sold a drawing by Macke (offered for €180,000 ($184,000)) and a watercolor by Kirchner. A work by Otto Mueller fetched €245,000 ($250,000) at Düsseldorf’s Manuel Ludorff gallery.
“Despite the crises, there is a great demand for art, which is in fact a solid investment,” von Vertes concluded.
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