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A comment on art fairs by Pravdoliub Ivanov, Sariev Gallery from Plovdiv (BG)

“All’s fair in love and war…” 2

Hugo Engelbrecht

Austria’s seven year old international contemporary art fair, the Viennafair, has got new owners. A group led by Russian-born Sergey Skaterschikov will run the forthcoming show (scheduled in September this year) and wants to break even by 2014. While the focus on central and eastern Europe (and Turkey) is said to remain unchanged, the key to success could lie in the proposed staging of a global “Annual Art Investor Summit”. 

The fair premises in Vienna (architect: Gustav Peichl)

The people at Reed Exhibition (RX) were struggling from the very beginning to attract at least 15,000 visitors and 100+ commercial galleries to their art trade show in Vienna. Educating the Austrians to love art figured out to be a long-term project, and so the biggest problem every year was to find enough buyers in order to keep the galleries interested.

The possible salvator of Vienna's contemporary art fair: Sergey Skaterschikov, who visited Viennafair only once

Last fall they approached Sergey Skaterschikov, who currently runs a New York City-based (art-)business intelligence company ( and who's vita is strongly connected to Austrian investment banks and to the Austro-Russian part of the dotcom-bubble, and last night they closed the deal: RX is licensing their Viennafair brand to a SPV called VF BetriebsgmbH, which is owned bei Skaterschikov's Next Edition Partners GmbH (70%) and a VF Beteiligungs KG (30%). The latter is a group of leading art-related guys in Austria, like retired MUMOK-boss Edelbert Köb, art patron Martin Lenikus, collector Bernhard Hainz, and a dozen others.

Baltic and Russian galleries make more than one third of the exhibitors. (In picture: GMG, showing a spray work by Alina Gutkina)

According to the people involved, Viennafair is going to stay at the new RX fairgrounds, and also is poised to maintain its springboard function for galleries who seek to enter Basel, Frieze or Armory.

Art theorists Hedwig Saxenhuber and Georg Schöllhammer, who came on board the fair in late 2010 to foster the quality of the “content” – read: gallery selection process and supporting programme –, say they have got new long-lasting contracts.

Artistic director Georg Schöllhammer, surrounded by Mrs. & Mr. Lenikus during an award ceremony at Viennafair 2011

Numbers weren't disclosed. In 2011, Reed had Viennafair-related revenues of EUR 1,2 million, without making profit. Skaterschikov's planned art industry summit might change the game. It will be judged by the number of Citations and Learjets touching down in September in Vienna.