Since its foundation in 1967 Art Cologne took place for the 53rd time this year. Founded as “Kölner Kunstmarkt” Art Cologne is the oldest fair of contemporary art in the world and seemingly has become a permanent fixture in the increasingly competitive globalized art market after having been in a crisis for years in the past.
Within Germany the Rhineland has successfully defended itself against the attempt to turn Berlin into the new German art capital and in the meantime also attracts numerous Berlin galleries to Art Cologne again. The competition between the two German art hubs obviously has made no sense in the face of the internationalization of the art market, the Berlin gallery weekend, which is scheduled to take place shortly after Art Cologne, isn’t any longer considered as a threat by the fair management in Cologne. Very different is the situation in the international art market, with Art Basel and its glamourous subsidiaries in Miami and Hong Kong as well as Frieze in London, New York and Los Angeles attracting the super-rich clientele of digital capitalism. Compared to that the prices for contemporary art and works of Classical Modernism asked at Art Cologne almost appear moderate, however, as European showcase Art Cologne can’t be imagined without.
Joëlle Dubois – Thomas Rehbein Galerie, Art Cologne 2019
Tim Noble & Sue Webster, The Masterpiece, 2014 – Blain/Southern, Art Cologne 2019
Karin Kneffel, Untitled, 1991 – Galerie Schönewald, Art Cologne 2019
To make the fair fit for the future, director Daniel Hug has prescribed a radical slimming down now. From once 210 galleries last year Art Cologne has shrunk back to 176 participants, from three floors of art only two are left over. With the recently founded Art Düsseldorf Art Cologne faces competition around the corner, that’s why the reduction doesn’t appear completely free of risk. However, due to the reactions of gallerists and visitors to the fair the strategic reorientation seems to have been successful. On the one hand there was a clearer focus on quality, on the other hand the harmonious coexistence of established and emerging galleries as well as reducing the exhibition hall to two levels was seen as very positive. Several gallerists were glad about the conciseness that was achieved through these actions at Art Cologne 2019, providing a better atmosphere at the booths.
Art Cologne 2019 proves: two-dimensional art is trendy, as also collectors have only limited space.
The top floor, which served as playground for young galleries so far, was abandoned by Daniel Hug and obviously wasn’t missed. The so-called “New Market” that was constituted by young, emerging galleries, recently has been cut from 17 to 13 participants. Cooperations as well could be found, with some galleries sharing a booth to cover the high exhibitor’s fees. Among the top dogs on level two were global players such as Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner and Thaddaeus Ropac, Gagosian didn’t participate in this year’s Art Cologne. Already before the opening collectors, curators and representatives of cultural institutions went on a pilgrimage across the construction site in front of the sober exhibition hall 11 in Cologne-Deutz. Throughout Art Cologne they found top-class art in all price ranges, for the blue chips, however, they had to come up with a six-figure amount.
Norbert Schwontkowski, The Empty Room, 2011 – Contemporary Fine Arts, Art Cologne 2019
Hans op de Beeck, Wunderkammer, 2018 – Galleriacontinua, Art Cologne 2019
Neo Rauch, Cold May, 2010 – David Zwirner, Art Cologne 2019
The offered works of art followed a clear trend to two-dimensional art, painterly artwork dominated the walls of the booths. Striking was the overabundance of abstract art that blurred the boundary between art and design object. Figurative art often showed collectors compatible influences of pop art, whereas political messages were rare. At the moment video art doesn’t appear to be favored by the audience, which probably results from a medial oversaturation through social media. Digital and photo art mostly can be found in the form of large-size C-prints on Alu-Dibond, the uniformity of whose bores the viewer in a certain way. One gets the impression that digital reproduction represents a convenient technical procedure for some artists that enables them to produce large-size pieces of art without any major handcrafted and time-consuming effort.
Success was reported by many galleries at Art Cologne 2019. Hauser & Wirth, one of the globally leading top galleries, presented artist Rita Ackermann in a solo exhibition and already shortly after the opening could sell five of her paintings that explore the borderline between abstraction and figuration at prices of around 100.000 dollars. With its promotion booth Eigen + Art targeted young collectors. The drawings by Ulrike Theusner, offered for 1200 Euros, were sold out right after the opening of the fair. For experienced collectors Eigen + Art had brought an early painting by Neo Rauch for 920.000 Euros. Neo Rauch is also represented by David Zwirner, the New York based gallery also brought one of his paintings to Art Cologne, the work of art titled Cold May from 2010 could be bought for 1.1 million dollars. Also a photogram by Thomas Ruff (edition of four) was offered by Zwirner for 850.000 Euros, the sculpture Flying Bee by Carol Bove he could sell for 500.000 Euros. Galerie Michael Werner could sell important works in the high-price segment by Jörg Immendorff, A.R. Penck, Sigmar Polke and Per Kirkeby. Galerie Thomas Rehbein had a great success with their promoted artist Joëlle Dubois, almost all of her works could be sold.
Otto Mueller, Two Nude Girls and Crossing Trunks By a Forest Pond, 1918/20 – Galerie Thomas, Art Cologne 2019
Max Ernst, Les peupliers, 1939 – Galerie Thomas, Art Cologne 2019
Meret Oppenheim, Pair of Gloves, 1985 – Levy Galerie, Art Cologne 2019
Emil Nolde is omnipresent at Art Cologne, obviously the debate about his past boosts demand.
Big names of classical modernism and pop art were presented on the ground floor. The most expensive work at Art Cologne 2019 was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting Singer at the Piano from 1930, offered by Henze & Ketterer for 3.9 million Euros. August Macke’s Portrait of Walter Macke with Bouquet of Roses was offered for 1.1 million Euros. Among the most frequently presented artists of Expressionism at Art Cologne was Emil Nolde. No fewer than five galleries ranged works by Emil Nolde. The flared up debate about the revaluation of his work due to his past as antisemite and convinced national socialist apparently is ignored by the collectors.
Swiss gallery Philippe David offered works by Hans Arp, a sculpture from 1949 titled Pagodenfrucht could be bought for 750.000 Euros. Boisserée could sell works by Antoní Tapies, Christo, Julien Opie and Sean Scully. One of the well-established galleries focused on classical modernism is Galerie Thomas from Munich. To Art Cologne the gallery had brought Max Ernst’s painting Les Peupliers, which he had executed in the technique of decalcomania in 1939, at the price of 1.3 million Euros. The most expensive work of pop art was the combine painting Rose Pole (Spread) by Robert Rauschenberg from 1978, which was offered by Ropac for 1.9 million dollars.
11.04.18 – 14.04.19 Köln Messe