Report: Art Cologne 2014 0

Jurriaan Benschop

Art Cologne runs through Sunday 13th april 2014

Opening its 48th edition Art Cologne is the oldest still existing art fair in the world. After a period of reduced interest the fair seems to be back on track since some years, offering a wide range of both established and younger art and with a good mix of German galleries and participants from the US, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain and other countries. The fact that Berlins Art Forum fair disappeared in 2011 clearly contributed to the resurrection of the Cologne Fair, making it (again) Germany's number one fair, where also bigger galleries like Hauser and Wirth, Sprüth Magers and David Zwirner set up their booth, the latter having a historic connection to the fair since it was Rudolf Zwirner who founded, together with Heinz Stünke, the Art Cologne in 1967.

Prudencio Irazabal at Helga de Alvear, Madrid

Thomas Scheibitz (right) and Olaf Metzel at Produzentengalerie Hamburg

The paradox of every art fair is that it tends to make art works invisible, even though there are hundreds, if not thousands of works on display. The presentation of works in small booths, side by side, often flattens the work and deletes every context. This happens especially in booths that are designed as a kind of shop with a little bit of everything. For instance Hamburgs Produzentengalerie has multiple works of interest, by Thomas Scheibitz, Jonas Burgert and Olaf Metzel but the display doesn't allow more then a glimpse of what these artists stand for. From this perspective it's nice to see that some other galleries set on a reduced presentation of one or two artists, such as Helga de Alvear from Spain who presents six bigger paintings in a row from Prudencio Irazabal in a spacious solo installation that allows to get in touch with the work and examine the variations in this glossy, color based paintings.

Thomas Rentmeister (left) and Klaas Kloosterboer at Ellen de Bruijne, Amsterdam

Klaas Kloosterboer at Ellen de Bruijne, Amsterdam

Art Cologne initiated with NADA New York a program called Collaborations, which is meant to create artistic or curatorial cooperations, either between artists or galleries. Within this program Ellen de Bruijne Projects shows a duo presentation by Thomas Rentmeister and Klaas Kloosterboer, two artists that share an interest in a minimal visual language, but do so from very different backgrounds, Rentmeister coming from a sculptural interest while Kloosterboer departs from painting. The result is a balanced display of works that engage in a dialogue on a formal level, and suggest that further connections could exist.

Adrian Sauer at Klemm's, Berlin

Adrian Sauer's work engages in a research of the digital photographic material. On display at Klemm's Gallery from Berlin are two large size prints of a sky with clouds, the result of the artist's habit to take every day a picture of the sky, followed by meticulous processing of the image on the computer. In this case the artist defines an average color value and resets this on grey, which consequently alters the palette of the whole image. The photos have a nice touch of the unreal within their seemlingly obvious subject matter.

Andre Roiter at Akinci, Amsterdam

Akinci gallery shows some paintings by Andrei Roiter, who recently had a show in the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow, the city where the artist studied architecture before moving in the 1990's to the west, finding bases in both Amsterdam and New York. His travelling existence is reflected in slightly melancholic works, often with one isolated figurative motif, executed in a reduced palette. The artist also re-views his own work by handling the same kind of motif in different techniques, such as sculpture, painting and drawing.

Georg Gatsas at Fiebach, Minniger, Cologne

Georg Gatsas takes his direct and straightforward looking photos of youngsters while moving in the music and club scene. Sometimes he widens the circle and also takes pictures of the location where he shot his models. A number of them are on display at Fiebach, Minniger from Cologne.

Sergej Jensen (left) at Neu, Berlin

Angela de la Cruz (left) at Wetterling Galerie, Stockholm

Norbert Schwontkowski at Galerie Haas, Zürich

Dieuwke Spaans at Tegenboschvanvreden, Amsterdam

John Stezaker at Gisela Capitain, Cologne 

Especially in the field of painting and two dimensional works the Art Cologne offers a wide range of positions, such as the collages of Dutch artist Dieuwke Spaans, a work by Sergej Jensen and three dimensional 'paintings' by Angela de la Cruz. 

After five days Art Cologne could count 55.000 visitors. The fair closed with the usual report about a successful event with great sales. This is likely to be true for dealers based in Cologne and the Rhineland, and also for those who sell classic modern works. Among foreign dealers representing contemporary artists though, feelings were mixed. Quite a few reported that the fair was 'slow' and collectors were very cautious. As one of them put it briefly: "Here they look, in New York they buy". Nevertheless both gallery owners and visitors seemed content with the fair in terms of visitor numbers and quality of the offer. To know if Art Cologne really works for dealers, one has to come back next year to see how many of them will return.