Viennafair kicks off European art fairs

[25 Sep 2012]


The Viennafair (20-23 September) opened the European art fair season before Brussels (Fotofever, 4 – 7 October), London (Frieze 11 – 14 October 2012), Paris (FIAC, 18 – 21 October 2012) and their myriad of “Off” shows.Focused on European art (particularly Central and Eastern European), Viennafair decided to focus on what it calls “The New Contemporary”, aimed at abolishing obsolete borders between East and West, North and South, capitalist and communist zones. The 122 exhibiting galleries for this edition provided an overview of a wider European artistic scene (26 countries represented) proclaiming loud and clear that the cultural dynamism of Europe depends just as much on Ljubljana and St. Petersburg as on London and Paris.

The fair’s programme was highly topical with the presentation of a new CD by the musical duo Tosca, a solidarity demonstration for Pussy Riot, and a tribute to Franz WEST, recently deceased and one of the most important representatives of Contemporary Austrian art. At auction, Franz West is also the most sought-after Austrian artist (in terms of revenue, since the summer of 2011). Collectors have been competing not only throughout Europe but also in New York, where his works have generated more than half of his results in six figures (9 out of 17), including a record just under $600,000 (Larvae,, a 2004 sculpture that fetched £300,000 on 29 June 2008 at Phillips de Pury & Company, London).

Visitors to the fair saw some of the best in European art: works by Viennese Actionists Hermann NITSCH, Arnulf RAINER (notably at the Austrian galleries 422 Margund Lössl and Schmidt Reith) and Otto MÜHL (at Konzett, Vienna), the English Tony CRAGG (at Buchmann Gallery, Berlin), the Swiss Olaf BREUNING (Carbon12, Dubai) and the Austrian Erwin WURM, who signed his auction record just a few months earlier when his The Artist Who Swallowed the World sold for £60,000 [$94,000] excluding fees at Sotheby’s in London on 16 February 2012 (at Thaddaeus Ropac and Chobot).

Among the fast-rising artists, Michelangelo PISTOLETTO elicits strong bidding in London, but there were few opportunities to acquire works by the artists at the Viennafair except at the Italian gallery Oredaria Arti Contemporanee. Meanwhile, Artelier Contemporary offered works by Albert OEHLEN, considered Gerhard RICHTER’s successor, and currently enjoying a sizzling hot market. Over the past twelve months (September 2011 – September 2012) Albert Oehlen has scored no less than four new auction records: four hammer prices between $500,000 and $600,000.

Viennafair defends the idea of a Europe with continually expanding borders and continual growth of Europe’s cultural diversity. There was a special focus on the Turkish Contemporary art scene with the project “DIYALOG” (six galleries from Istanbul). This presented an opportunity to discover artists represented in the auction rooms of Paris, Dubai, Istanbul or London but never in Vienna, such as Burhan KUM, Ali TAPTIK (The Empire Project, Istanbul), Ahmet ELHAN, Azade KÖKER (Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul) and Leyla GEDIZ (Rampa gallery, Istanbul).