Second fair competes directly with Art Cologne
By Gerd Korinthenberg Apr 18, 2007, 17:45 GMT
Dusseldorf, Germany - Art dealers had a choice this week of two art fairs in Germany, one of the nations where rich collectors are driving a worldwide market estimated to be now worth 20 billion euros (27 billion dollars) annually.
The first edition of Duesseldorf Contemporary (DC), which begins Thursday, has attracted 85 dealer galleries to the city of Dusseldorf. A few kilometres away, in Cologne, the venerable Art Cologne fair is already under way. Both run until Sunday.
DC explicitly limits the art on offer to work since 1980, with a selection jury ensuring the quality of the painting, photography, sculpture and video on display.
The jury, comprising notable younger museum curators, has honed the selection to keep out both immature work and anything with even a whiff of 'lifestyle,' the art world's cussword for anything commercially or fashion-oriented.
Dealers were required to demonstrate a professional concern for contemporary art that dares to be different.
'We didn't want this to become a glitter art fair,' the curatorial board explained.
Items on offer range from a severe 2006 floor sculpture by Carl Andre for 100,000 euros to a refreshing painting of stripes by Markus Linnenbrink for 16,667 euros as well as moving, photorealistic paintings of the Namibian coast by Peter Roesel.
Robert Barry, the pioneer of concept art, has provided a large wall work.
Elsewhere, a wooden stool is impaled onto a bicycle in a cheeky, ironical reference to the avantgarde past.
DC opens only a few days after the Frankfurt Fine Art Fair has closed. It unmistakeably throws down a gauntlet to Art Cologne, the world's oldest dealer fair.
Observers of the art business wonder if the three fairs will not simply snatch away one another's customers, especially since they take place so soon after the TEFAF fair in the Dutch city of Maastricht and just before the big fair in Brussels, Belgium.
While art trading is roaring ahead worldwide, the number of dealers and buyers is after all finite.
Art Cologne sought to escape growing competition from Berlin, Paris, London and Miami for audiences in the autumn by rescheduling this year to spring for the first time and has admitted 190 dealers.
But it may be that the grand-daddy of all art fairs has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.
Art Cologne chief Gerard Goodrow insists that the 41st edition of the Cologne show projects 'stability and continuity' in a market that is all too used to fads. He dismisses DC as a 'sideshow,' saying, 'They chose that date only because we chose it first.'
He adds, 'I'm perfectly confident that we'll be the survivors.'
It is believed that collectors spend nearly 75 million euros each year at Art Cologne which eschews some of the hype in the trade and emphasizes its educational role with informative events which underline its confidence about its own future.
Both this week's events are taking place in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, where art trading is a significant business. The two cities are longtime rivals, not just in commerce but also in culture.
The economy minister of the state, Christa Thoben, indicated Thursday she would step in if there were signs of cannibalism, telling Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: 'Naturally we would mediate if need be.'
DC director Walter Gehlen dismissively describes Art Cologne as 'AC' and ageing, and declares that the new fair will win out by sheer gravitational effect: 'We've got major collectors coming who haven't been seen in these parts for a long time.'
Economist Gehlen even speaks of establishing 'Germany's principal art fair.' He has a potent backer: DC is run by a fairs company set up a year ago by the major German magazine publishing group Gruner and Jahr.
Art critics say Gehlen can spare himself that kind of hype, since DC is impressive enough on its own merits and outshines the contemporary section of Art Cologne already.
Internet: www.dc-fair.de www.artcologne.de© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur