Size Matters They Said – Art Cologne 2019
The world’s oldest art fair just got younger and more exciting. This is what practically everybody said I talked to. Although Art Cologne is a little smaller this year, it is no less spectacular, and it is still massive: 176 exhibitors presented their art in Cologne – last year there were 210.
“The trade fair is more compact, it gets the mood going,” confirms Florian Berktold, gallery director at Hauser & Wirth. On the day of the vernissage, the mega gallery was able to book the sale of five works by the painter Rita Ackermann, to whom they had dedicated a brilliant solo presentation.
Solid prices – happy collectors
For example, a “singer on piano” by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was represented at the fair for 3.9 million euros, one of the most expensive works so far.
Also included was a marvellous piece “Two Russian Girls” by expressionist Otto Mueller (1874-1930) for the same price, and an “abstract image” by Gerhard Richter for 3.8 million euros and a “string” of Günther Uecker for more than one million euros.
Works by Max Ernst, Max Liebermann, Neo Rauch, Anselm Kiefer and Damien Hirst were on offer and found new homes, and they were not cheap either, as you can imagine.
Berlin based gallery Eigen + Art announced the complete sale of the NEW POSITIONS, a sponsored booth, shortly after the fair opened. All drawings by Ulrike Theusner found buyers; works of Karl-Heinz Adler were also in great demand. Two glass sculptures by Kai Schimenz went to collectors at 46,000 euros and 26,000, respectively.
Dealers loved the new spirit
“The fair has become more open to the public and clearer,” says Alexandra Henze-Triebold of Galerie Henze & Ketterer, “because of the concentrated display, visitors are much more receptive.”
“It’s good that the show has been reduced, it’s now much more legible,” says Diane Lahumière, “We reach an audience here that we can not reach anywhere else. And a great crowd it certainly was: 57.000 registered visitors came to see modern and contemporary art, pictures, works on paper, photography, video, sculptures and objects, graphics.
During an interview with the fair’s director Daniel Hug, veteran dealer Rudolf Zwirner, who co-founded Art Cologne in 1967 with Hans Neuendorf among others, came over and apologised for interrupting before offering sweeping words of praise for Hug. “I can congratulate you every time, but this time, its just so optimal, it makes sense—it’s really great!” And then he was off to lunch.
“I was racking my brain on how to best pull this off,” said Hug, who looked happy but tired. His solution was to raise booth prices for blue-chip galleries by 17 percent and for younger dealers by 2 percent. In the end, Art Cologne slashed its Neumarkt section by more than half, from 27 galleries in 2018 to just 13 this year, and declined applications from 21 contemporary mid-level galleries, tipping the scales back towards the fair’s traditional position as a grand, old exhibition anchored by historical art and balanced out by contemporary works.
“I had slight complaints about the price raise, but I reminded those galleries about how much Basel and FIAC cost,” Hug said.