Since 1967, Art Fairs Have Blossomed, Faded and Been Reborn

In the mid-1960s, German art dealer Rudolf Zwirner found himself in big trouble.

“I had a gallery in Cologne that exhibited a lot of young American artists,” he said. “But there are no customers.” He recalled sitting in the gallery expecting visitors.

Now 89 and based in Berlin, Zwirner has been called “the man who invented the art market” by the German magazine Der Spiegel. David Zwirnerone of the most powerful and influential dealers in the world.

To solve the problem, Mr. Zwirner took action. “He wanted to create a gallery gathering,” he said. “So his colleagues and I decided to start an art fair.” In 1967, he collaborated with his fellow dealer Hein Stünke to exhibit wares and assembled 16 of his other galleries. .therefore art cologne, Considered the oldest contemporary art fair, born.

The next fair will be held from November 16th to 19th. About 190 galleries participated last year, mostly from Germany.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the idea of ​​a contemporary art fair began after that first event. “Name any major cities that currently don’t have art fairs,” Zwirner said. For example, his son’s gallery will present work at 18 art fairs in 2022.

Three years after Art Cologne started, art basel The first edition in 1970 gave the idea an even more international twist, turning it into a powerful artworld event attracting galleries and collectors from all over the world. (The latest edition of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland runs Thursday through Sunday.)

Like any work, every art fair has a life cycle, and the 56-year-old Art Cologne has had its ups and downs. The fair’s own website calls the period from 2008 to his 2010 “turbulent” years.

“Art Cologne has gone through a period of turmoil,” said the current director of the fair, Daniel Hug. “Art fairs tend to become obsolete over time.”

Since assuming the position of director in 2008, Hug has worked hard to attract top dealers from Germany and beyond. Last year’s fair featured the Pearl Lam Galleries in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and Kamel Munour in Paris.

In some cases, other issues besides obsolescence can lead to the closure of the fair. But sometimes new shoots grow out of the ashes.

Founded in 1934 and focused on old art, the venerable Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair helped establish June as collection month in London.it remained a landmark event until then folded in 2009.

A new fair, Masterpiece London, was held instead. The idea was to focus on the “cross collection”. This means that the fair will appeal to buyers of old master paintings who also enjoy the more popular areas of contemporary art and design.

Earlier this year, however, the MCH Group, owners of Masterpiece and Art Basel, announced that they would be canceling this year’s event. “Rising costs and declining numbers of international exhibitors mean that this year’s event is not commercially viable,” MCH said in a statement.

“We loved it and it worked there,” said London dealer Jonathan Green. Richard Green Gallery, specializing in paintings from the 17th to the 21st century. “It was a bit of a shock, to be honest. I was baffled out of nowhere.”

“Getting the fair right is difficult because there are so many moving parts,” Green added.

This year we will step into the invasion as a new event. treasure house fair, It will take place from June 23rd to 26th at the Chelsea Royal Infirmary, the venue once used by Masterpiece. About 55 dealers will participate, many of whom have previously exhibited at Masterpiece, including Mr. Green.

Treasure House was founded by Masterpiece founders Harry van der Hoorn and Thomas Woodham Smith.

“Dealers are among the best in a wide range of specialties,” said Woodham Smith, who once worked for the now-defunct Mallett Antiques. “We are aiming for a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere.”

He added that the fair will be upscale but not too flashy. “Everyone is giving up on the idea of ​​excess,” he said. “We don’t want people to come to the fair and feel like they’re paying a lot to buy something.”

Dealers include New York silver specialist SJ Shrubsole and Galerie Gmurzynska based in Zurich, New York and Zug, Switzerland. Gmurzynska, who specializes in modern and contemporary art, will present works such as Marjorie Strider’s pop painting Red Rose (2010).

“You have to give it time,” Green said when the fair was just starting. His 55-man dealer roster, which is smaller than most fairs, was fine for beginners. “People can come and have a look and hopefully grow for next time,” he said.

At the Treasure House, Mr. Green will exhibit a selection of 20th century artists, including Sir John Lavery’s 1926 seascape ‘Morning on the Coast at Deauville’.

Not all new art fairs carry the DNA of previous art fairs, and all-new events can be appealing to collectors.

“That’s where future stars are born,” said Miami real estate developer John Marquez, a prolific collector of contemporary works, referring to the lesser-known artist.

Tokyo GendaiThe contemporary fair, which features 77 galleries, will be held for the first time at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center from July 7th to 9th. The exhibition aims to tap not only the Japanese market, but the entire Asian market. “Gendai” means modern in Japanese.

Indeed, the co-founder of the fair, Magnus Renfrew, has experience in this area. He served as the founding director of Art Hong Kong in 2008. After Art Hong Kong later became part of Art Basel, it was reborn as Art He Basel Hong Kong. Renfrew served on the board until 2014.

Tokyo Gendai is organized by art assemblyAlong with Sydney Contemporary, we organize other fairs across Asia such as Taipei Dandai, Indian Art Fair, Photo Fair Shanghai and Art SG in Singapore.

“Tokyo has one of the most sophisticated cultural scenes in the world,” Renfrew said. “We have a decades-old gallery scene, strong institutions, and many private museums.”

For collectors like Marquez, the local context of art fairs is important. “Cities and fairs go hand in hand,” he said. “The best fairs are in the coolest cities.”

He said that Tokyo is one of his favorite places. Marquez is the owner of Sushi Noz, a sushi restaurant in Manhattan.

“I didn’t know about this fair,” Marquez said of Tokyo Gendai. “But I’d love to go someday.” That may not happen this year, as Marquez is busy setting up a foundation to show his collection in Miami, which is scheduled to open this fall.

Considering the many other fairs organized by Art Assembly, Art Basel Hong Kong and the newcomer Frieze Soul, which debuted last year, the Asia Fair situation has become even busier lately.

“Asia is home to half the world’s population and many of the fastest growing economies,” Renfrew said. “There’s enough space for all of us.”

Many of the galleries scheduled to exhibit at Tokyo Gendai are local, including SCAI the Bathhouse, founded in 1993. Masami Shiraishi, the gallery’s founder, said in an email that buyers he knows are ready to host a new fair on good terms. Pedigree.

“For many new Japanese collectors who started collecting after Corona, coming to an international art fair may be their first experience,” said Shiraishi. Among the works he will exhibit is Darren Almond’s Moon Viewing (2023) in acrylic, aluminum and gold.

The Sadie Coles headquarters in London will showcase works by British sculptor Sarah Lucas and Belgian-based painter Kati Heck.

The fair will also hold a special themed exhibition, “LifeActual: The Work of Contemporary Japanese Women Artists,” which includes Ayaka Yamamoto’s photo “Untitled #141, Kuldiga, Latvia” (2014).

Renfrew said one of the first steps in the plan was to establish a “credible” gallery selection committee that would set the tone and invite other top galleries to participate. “This lets people know the quality level,” he said.

Tim Blum in gallery bram and po is also participating in the committee and will have a booth displaying the works of about 20 artists. The gallery has spaces in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo. Bram speaks Japanese and has lived in Japan. “For me it was a no-brainer,” he said of Tokyo Gendai.

“I’m at the forefront of the Japan program,” he said, referring to the Japanese artists he represents for the fair. This includes an exhibition of Yukinori Yanagi’s “One Dollar New York B60208400T” (2022), a sculpture featuring ants, colored sand, plastic boxes, plastic tubes, and plastic pipes.

Renfrew noted that achieving “unified status” made the fair easier to organize, but that it took a year of controversy. Galleries usually have to pay a 10% Japanese consumption tax in advance, which will be kept as a deposit. Bonded status means that dealers are exempt from that rule and taxes apply only to purchases. Fair organizers say Tokyo Gendai is the first international art fair to offer such an exemption. “The bonded status was a big win,” Blum said.

Mr. Zwirner said he had not been to Art Cologne for a while, having retired from the art trade for a long time. He also expressed some surprise at the proliferation of modern trade fairs since it was experimentally held in 1967.

As he puts it, “I couldn’t have imagined it.”

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