From October 10 – 13, the Austrian capital of Vienna is hosting VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary – Central- and Eastern Europe's largest art fair
“Have a nice fair!” The pre-show for members of the press has closed, and shortly before the official opening of VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary – Central- and Eastern Europe's largest art fair – a cart filled with bottles of sparkling wine winds through the labyrinth of stands at the fair, and a bottle is doled out to each of the fair's participants. The games can begin! This playing field, however, operates with its own tenets, and there are two unwritten rules that this contemporary art fair must follow: it must serve as a platform for commercial trade and, at the same time, as a quality art exhibition that reflects both the current energy of contemporary art and the values that are relevant to society right now. Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt, one of the artistic directors of VIENNAFAIR, reveals to Arterritory.com that it is not difficult to conform to the above guidelines because they know their public, and the fair's program has been specially tailored to fit that public. All that's left to do is the rather significant job of putting out pre-fair information.
It looks as if it wasn't at all problematic to bring these two objectives together – in the aisles dividing the gallery stands, one sees both collectors and members of the general public – art aficionados who didn't want to pass by the opportunity to see so much art all in one place. The cash registers may not be exactly spitting out miles of tape receipts (actually, there aren't any registers on view at all), but the gallery representatives are posed and ready for potential sales as they give a welcoming nod to everyone who enters.
This year's Viennese art fair has registered 127 galleries and art institutions coming from 26 countries. The Baltic States are being represented this year by Temnikova & Kasela Gallery from Tallinn, and from Vilnius, by Galerija Vartai, The Gardens art space, and the CAC Contemporary Art Center. CAC is featuring a large-format sculpture by Donatas Jankauskas, which just happens to look very much like Tony Soprano; the piece has been placed in the VIENNA Tribute section of the fair, which this year has chosen to honor the recently-deceased actor James Gandolfini. Latvia is being presented at the fair by the gallery Alma, and the kim? Contemporary Art Centre, both from Riga.
A completely new feature at this year's fair is the program VIENNA XL, in which non-profit and alternative art institutions from Albania, Serbia, Moldova, Kosovo and Georgia are also taking part. This led Arterritory.com to wonder if this inclusion of non-commercial art institutions – which have been barred from participating up to now – marks the beginning of a new trend in art fair formatting. In answering this question, Vita Zaman, also an artistic director of the Fair, explains that the art scene is changing and gradually hybridizing. Many galleries are hosting institution-level exhibitions, while contemporary art centers and non-profit and alternative art institutions/projects are engaging in commercial activities. “At VIENNAFAIR, we're striving to be open, experimental and, as much as possible, also productive! kim? is a notable participant with a bright future ahead of it.”
Artistic director Vita Zaman, who is originally from Lithuania, and I step off to the side for a moment to take a breather from all of the commotion, and to exchange a few sentences in solidarity of our Baltic roots. Rather rhetorically, Vita asks whether or not the extravagant outfit she's wearing today is a bit too much – if it's not a bit cartoonish... But she quickly gives the answer herself, stating confidently that that's the way it should be: “We [along with artistic director Christina Steinbrecher] are young women, and the Vienna Art Fair is about the young and the contemporary!”
Along with this year's impressive number of Austrian galleries (36), there's a myriad of new galleries from other countries as well, from Germany, Russian, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania and the Czech Republic – some of which have just recently appeared on the art fair scene.