Fairs Germany

Bringing back Art Cologne

The new director has made the fair “come back to life” but he still needs to work on attracting international dealers

Around 60,000 visitors came to Art Cologne this year, mainly from Germany

The general consensus of the 46th edition of Art Cologne (18-22 April) is that its director Daniel Hug is steering the fair in the right direction by improving its quality, but it needs to become more international. Hug, who took over in 2008, secured the participation of big-hitters, such as David Zwirner from New York, Thaddaeus Ropac from Paris/Salzburg and Ben Brown from London/Hong Kong, for this edition. However, several exhibitors regretted that the fair clashed with Art Brussels and hope that it will attract more international galleries and collectors next year.

“I’m a hometown boy and grew up in Cologne,” Zwirner said, a first-time exhibitor whose father Rudolf Zwirner co-founded the fair, originally called Kölner Kunstmarkt, in 1967. “Under Daniel Hug’s directorship the fair has come back to life. Although it’s quieter than Art Basel, Frieze in London or Fiac in Paris, it’s much stronger than expected. The German art market is technically Europe’s biggest with the density of museums in the Rhineland and high-quality collectors,” he added. Zwirner’s sales included a Baselitz painting for $3m and an Isa Genzken column from 2001, covered in photographs, for €250,000. “My only critique would be that it conflicts with Art Brussels.”

“We came back after ten years because Daniel Hug has done a very good job,” said Arne Ehmann, the director of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Salzburg. He added that, although collectors “were mainly regional, from Düsseldorf and Cologne, we’re hoping it will become more international and busier”. The gallery’s top sale was a Warhol acrylic and silkscreen on canvas from 1985, Head (After Picasso), Number 5, for $1.1m.

“It was quite good, the quality was better than the years before, it has an international focus and it has galleries from the whole of Germany,” said Philipp Dieterich from the Am Anfang war der Apfel foundation in Heidelberg. “We didn’t buy any works for the foundation but for the private collection of the owner [Dr Rainer Wild].”

The fair, which attracted around 60,000 visitors, had a busy opening last Tuesday that was attended by the US collectors Susan and Michael Hort, and German collectors such as Uli Knecht from Stuttgart and Julia Stoschek from Düsseldorf. Yet it was quiet from Wednesday to Friday before picking up at the weekend. The 214 exhibitors included 181 galleries at Art Cologne and 33 at NADA (see below). At Art Cologne, German galleries made up 65% of exhibitors. Sales on the first floor, dedicated to post-war and classic contemporary art, were reported to be strong although sales were less even on the second floor, which was dedicated to contemporary art.

Friends of Art Cologne spent over €120,000 acquiring works for museums in Cologne. Among their purchases were a Mary Heilmann painting, priced at €60,000, from Hauser & Wirth, and a Richard Hamilton edition, priced at €12,000, from Galerie Klaus Benden, Cologne that were both acquired for the Museum Ludwig; a neon work by Claire Fontaine, priced at €12,000, from Neu, Berlin for the City Museum; and a collaborative piece from 1968 by Daniel Spoerri and Konrad Lueg, priced at €39,000, from Levy, Berlin for the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts).

Asked about the clash between Art Cologne and Art Brussels, which opened one day after Cologne, Hug replied, “I’m looking into the possibility of moving it back a week but not forward because that puts me in the Easter holidays. I’ve emailed Karen Renders, the director of Art Brussels, to find out what her planned dates are for next year and also to inform her that we’re planning to shorten our fair by one day, so it would run from Wednesday 17 April and until Sunday 21 April. I have to be more careful [not to clash] with the Gallery Weekend in Berlin. I’m also waiting to see what will happen with Frieze New York.”

Nada arrives in the Rhineland

In a shake-up, Art Cologne ditched Open Space, a section formerly devoted to solo presentations, and instead gave room to Nada Cologne, the first German edition of the young US art fair run by the New Art Dealers Alliance. “It was a way for us to bring Nada to Europe, to involve European constituents that might not get to participate in the fair in Miami and for European collectors to see the Nada style,” said Nicelle Beauchene, the president of the organisation.

Out of the 33 exhibitors, 13 galleries were from Northern America while 20 were from Europe and elsewhere. While some of the European galleries sold well, a few of the American galleries struggled to make sales. “We didn’t sell a lot but then we had brought over a big Karen Kilimnik installation, so that wasn’t a big surprise,” said Jack Hanley from New York, whose sales included a Ben Berlow painting on paper, priced at €500.

“For us, it was actually a wonderful event; we opened our gallery in 2010 and this was our first fair,” enthused Larissa Bischoff from Bischoff Projects in Frankfurt am Main, whose sales included a Michael Riedel piece for a mid five-figure sum and works by Jürgen Krause, priced from €1,000-€4,000.

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