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Stay With Me Baby / The Bruce High Quality Foundation Photo © VIENNAFAIR / Alexander Muraschkin

VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary. An Interview with Artistic Directors 0

Agnese Čivle,

VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary
Vienna, Austria
October 10 - 13, 2013 

The nerves of art lovers were tickled last year by the collision of two Eastern European art markets – both Art Moscow and Viennafair The New Contemporary had announced (just one day apart from each other) their forthcoming dates, which just happened to exactly coincide. This year the intrigue – i.e, how should Eastern galleries play the unlucky hand they've been dealt – has fallen to the wayside, since Art Moscow took place in September, and Viennafair is scheduled one month later, in October.

This year the Viennese art fair has placed special attention on the contemporary art of Poland and Georgia, by way of the exhibition project titled VIENNA Duet. In the exhibition VIENNA Duet: Georgia – “Our Caucasus”, artworks representing several generations and various mediums will serve as a comprehensive tour guide to the art scene in Georgia. Meanwhile, the sister-exhibition VIENNA Duet: Poland – “Who Are You Or The Polish School of Happiness” will look at what's going on in Poland's contemporary art scene through the subjective prism of “happiness”.

In addition to the event program going on in ZONE 1, which will be dedicated to Austrian art, and the substantial indoor and outdoor Austrian Sculpture Project, another highlight of Viennafair will be a premiering program entitled VIENNA XL, which will feature non-profit and alternative art institutions based in Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Moldova, Georgia and Lithuania.

Ever since the first Viennafair in 2005, its organizers perform yearly reviews of the event's concept. This year's will be augmented not only by the participation of new galleries and various special projects that embrace and reflect the art scene in individual regions of Eastern Europe, but also with specialized programs for target audiences – events aimed at families, seniors and students.

127 galleries will be taking part in Viennafair this year, including Galerija Alma and the kim? Contemporary Art Centre from Riga. spoke with Christina Steinbrecher and Vita Zaman, the artistic directors of Viennafair, shortly before the start of their grand art parade, to find out more about the making of it.

What have you learned from last year's experience? What are the lessons you are going to use again, and which ones will you certainly abandon when organizing this year's event?

Christina Steinbrecher: We managed to initiate a lot of programs last year. We also  learned that communicating about them is key. That is what we are mostly doing now – we communicate about every initiative. We have also learned a lot more about our exhibitors and the general audience, so that we can respond and target their needs.

What is your opinion about changes in other art fairs since last year?

Christina Steinbrecher: Art fairs are continuing to pop up and draw collectors, so there's an increase in competition. A positive aspect is that people are happy to spend more time talking to artists – and with art overall – it seems to me.

Vita Zaman: We meet more people from new geographical regions who are interested in art and in collecting.    

Exhibitor: ALMA Gallery (Latvia). Andris Breze. Exit to white square, 2012. Ordinary jacket as worn at the Ppaper-cutting bench, pigment acrylic on canvas. Photo: Ansis Starks

VIENNAFAIR provides a forum for discovering both young artists from all corners of Europe and around the world, as well as artists with already-established positions in the international art market. How do you find a balance with such an approach?

VZ: We have a particular positioning due to our focus area, so it's already in balance. We cover what we're good at. In many cases, all that we show is new to the audience.

CS: The visitors of Viennafair are not expecting to see the usual suspects of other fairs; they are looking to find quality and a good overview of the market that we focus on.

What is the image of the kind of art dealer that you like to communicate with at VIENNAFAIR?

CS: The dealer at Viennafair is a dedicated gallerist that believes in the need for a fair that represents the region in a nutshell.

VZ: A dealer with a good eye and a passion for art.

Exhibitor: kim? Contemporary Art Centre (Latvia). Janis Avotins
. Untitled, 2011. 
Graphite on paper. 18.5x19 cm. Courtesy by the artist and Ibid, London

How would you describe the network that is being developed at VIENNAFAIR?

CS: It’s a very dense network of galleries, artists, institutions and collectors, all eager to learn and to communicate.

VZ: It’s a young network of creative people.

What are the relationships between the fair, the city of Vienna, and the Austrian government?

VZ: We cannot complain at all regarding the relations between VIENNAFAIR and Austrian and Viennese government institutions. The Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture (BM:UKK) is supporting two special projects with ZONE1 and Vienna XL; the Vienna Chamber of Commerce supports the competition for best gallery booth at the fair, and we also co-operate with the Creative Agency of the City of Vienna. 

CS: Relations are good and partnerships are strong because we reach out to the local, federal and international artists and galleries, thereby consolidating Viennese, Austrian and international cultural exchanges for our government partners as well. We serve the same purposes of promoting art and culture. The president is an art supporter and opens every fair.

Exhibitor: Pop/off/art gallery Moscow-Berlin. Olga and Oleg Tatarintsev. No comment, 2013. Chamotte, glaze, 10 pieces. Copyright Pop/off/art Gallery Moscow-Berlin

What are the brightest events at VIENNAFAIR this year? Have there been any novelties added to the program?

CS: We initiated a program last year to highlight regions; this year we're doing a Duet show with Poland and Georgia.

VZ: We look forward to the panel series dedicated to collecting – 24/7, in which six different well-known collectors will explain their model of collecting.

What kind of audience are you expecting at the fair this year?

CS: We worked really hard this year to again broaden the audience for VIENNAFAIR. We developed special programs for students, families and senior citizens, aiming to deepen their understanding of contemporary art and stimulating their interest in art and culture from the East, in general.

VZ: Thanks to co-operation with local and international partners, we have assembled an impressive VIP program aimed to attract an increasing number of high-profile guests from Vienna, Austria and abroad. With the Young Collectors program, we try to reach out to people who are already interested in art and who are considering to start up collecting and buying art. Expert curators, gallerists and seasoned collectors will share insights and experiences with a new generation of art enthusiasts.

Exhibitor: Galerija Vartai (Lithuania). Mindaugas Lukošaitis. Drawing studio, 2013. Pencil on paper, 64,5 x 90 cm. Courtesy Galerija Vartai 

What do you enjoy the most about organizing this art fair?

CS: A fair is an umbrella for a lot of functions – relationships with numerous art networks, management, production, marketing and more. It is a complex, living organism. It is fun to see how new initiatives work out.

VZ: We can actually initiate a lot of processes, and we want to make them work; the best part is seeing them become successful.

Cemetery of the Nameless About School of Happiness at VIENNAFAIR 2013. An Interview with Christina Steinbrecher & Vita Zaman (Artistic Director of Viennafair)