An interview with Ewald Karl Schrade, Art Karlsruhe’s curator

[19 Feb 2019]

Last year the 15th edition of the Art Karlsruhe attracted 50,000 visitors, a figure that makes it one of the most visited art fairs in Europe. According to Britta Wirtz, director of Messe Karlsruhe, the “region has a relatively wealthy population” and the fair “attracts many new as well as experienced collectors”. The 16th edition opens its doors from 21 to 24 February 2019 with 208 galleries (from 16 countries) presenting more than 10,000 Modern and Contemporary artworks including many by major 20th century artists who played keys roles in Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism and Constructivism (all amply represented in Hall 3). There will be Contemporary art throughout the fair (particularly Hall 4) with works by Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso alongside works by younger artists as part of the fair’s openness to emerging artists.

The Karlsruhe Art Fair also offers three prizes. The first is the KARLSRUHE art prize (worth €10,000) for the best solo show, awarded by the Baden-Württemberg Länder and the city of Karlsruhe, After selection by a jury, the works of the award-winning artist are immediately purchased and transferred to the KARLSRUHE art collection. Last year, the prize went to an American artist Sarah McRae Morton represented by the Anja Knoess Gallery from Cologne. A second award, the LOTH Prize, financed by L-Bank (€20,000), focuses on sculpture. It was awarded for the first time last year to artist Joana Vasconcelos and her gallery Scheffel Bad Homburg. The third award, the Hans Platschek Prize, named after the painter, writer and art critic who died in 2000, offers a significant boost in visibility as the selected artist is invited to exhibit the following year at the show. Last year the prize was awarded to the Italian artist Monica Bonvicini, and this year visitors will find a selection of her works exhibited alongside works by Hans Platschek on the Platschek Foundation’s stand located in Hall 1.

At a broader level, the Fair is part of an extensive program with two special exhibitions, one dedicated to Prints and the other to Concrete Art in Europe after 1945 with the Peter C. Ruppert Collection, including works by Max and Jakob Bill , Josef Albers, Leo Erb, Richard Paul Lohse and David Nash.


The fair’s artistic director Ewald Karl Schrade answers a few questions about the origin and the ambitions of Art Karlsruhe:

Mr Schrade, this year art KARLSRUHE is once again offering more than 200 galleries from 16 countries a presentation platform, featuring works from the classical modern period to the present. What can visitors expect from this year’s 16th edition of art KARLSRUHE?

We have invited 208 gallery owners from 16 countries to come to Karlsruhe, including 35 new exhibitors such as Johann König (Berlin), the Klüser Gallery (Munich) and Alexander Ochs (Berlin). We have managed to incorporate all the art movements from the past century and the present, so that exhibition visitors won’t miss out on anything. In addition, thanks to the four halls available, an extremely lively artistic landscape has emerged, which is characterised by a unique mixture.

How did you come up with the idea of establishing art KARLSRUHE?

Thanks to my many years of experience as a gallery owner, I have always had an interest in bringing art to greater audiences and giving art a platform. Together with the Karlsruhe exhibition, in 2003 I founded art KARLSRUHE and developed a concept for the exhibition.

You were there from the very beginning: how would you say the exhibition has changed over time?

The concept I originally developed for the exhibition has remained constant over the years. The uniqueness of the concept was clear from the very beginning, evident in its one-artist-shows and roomy sculptural spaces. Over time, these have simply been refined, for example in terms of quality and dimensions. Today, art KARLSRUHE still enjoys great popularity and is one of the three great art exhibitions within German-speaking territory.

How many visitors does the exhibition receive on average, and how many sales take place?

Every year around 50,000 art lovers travel to Karlsruhe to visit the exhibition. The high level of interest among visitors and the high turnover of the individual gallery owners have allowed the exhibition to develop so positively and position itself so prominently. The fact that numerous gallery owners who were on-board from the very beginning will also be participating in 2019 is not just an indication of great loyalty but also of the economic success of the exhibition.

The awards ceremony for the art KARLSRUHE prize, which takes place on 23.02.19 at 11:30, is sure to be a highlight of the event: for now, what can you tell us about the one-artist-shows that have been nominated?

I am personally delighted that the one-artist-shows, which are rooted in the original concept of the exhibition, enjoy such popularity. This year alone we will have 196 one-artist-shows: these are also automatically nominated for the art KARLSRUHE prize, which will be awarded this year for the 12th time. The winner will be selected be an expert jury and awarded together with the state of Baden-Württemberg and the city of Karlsruhe. The works purchased using the prize money will also remain in the cultural memory of the city, as these will go into the art KARLSRUHE collection, which is kept in the city gallery.

Art KARLSRUHE promotes private collections in particular: for this reason, you always offer a special exhibition – such as this year’s exhibition by Mr Peter C. Ruppert. What makes this collection so unique?

It is, of course, no coincidence that we have invited the Berlin collector Peter C. Ruppert, whose collection has been hosted for a long time in the Kulturspeicher Würzburg Museum, to put together the traditional special exhibition for 2019, consisting of selected works. Ruppert has always been fascinated by works from the Concrete Art movement. And the imminent Bauhaus anniversary has brought new attention to images and sculptures with a constructive background throughout the country. As is also the case with this year’s art KARLSRUHE.

Once again, you will be staging the graphic print special exhibition: which graphics in particular can visitors look forward to? Do you have a favourite piece?

The spectrum of the works exhibited is very broad: from Warhol to Picasso. And the price range is just as wide, ranging from around 250 euros to 45,000 euros. In total, around 100 excellent works will be on show. Personally, I don’t have a single favourite piece: I would say that the whole presentation that is created by the excellent works of art on display is my favourite. Visitors should make up their own minds about their personal favourites.