art fair mania

don’t they know we already have too much information? maybe it’s some kind of ploy where if you blast a stack of data at people, whatever sticks is worthwhile remembering.  like i mentioned in another post, there were six art fairs on this weekend. i only managed three because i went to berghain until 7am and couldn’t manage more than one on saturday.

sunday was devoted to dancing in the streets, so i didn’t attend any art fairs. and, because there was so much to absorb, i’m only going to talk about two on here: art forum and preview – because that’s the kind of girl i am – binary.  and, i’m even going to review them in the reverse order that i saw them.

well, it’s my blog and i’ll do what i like.

berlin art fairs have a strange feeling about them, as berlin isn’t a city that is swathed in collecting cash. all the big money for art investment happens in the south/west and so there’s this strange sense of futility or abandon about them, backed up, perhaps, by the fact that frieze and the london art fair extravaganza is next week, which is where the money comes in.

my understanding of preview was that it was the emerging art/gallery fair, so i was quite suprised at the prevalence of painting and digestible sculpture. not really a lot of boundary-pushing. in fact, i saw more of that at art forum, really. my summation from preview was that the only thing that was really ‘new’ about the fair was the economy behind it; without long histories or financial support/investment/weight behind them, there was no risk being taken. 

i saw more ‘risk’ from artist being supported by the bigger galleries. in fact, it reminded me that risk is actually the privilege of the privileged – with art, collecting, setting up a business, gambling, eating.

a few notable exceptions, obviously.

this is a gallery i love in london and check them out whenever i can. if i’m completely honest, i don’t think they showed the best work that they have at this fair.  i spoke to one of the staff and it was their first time at a berlin fair, so perhaps it’s a little bit of putting feelers out for them. but they did have some good work by artists anonymous, who i haven’t seen in a while and a beautiful paper-based animation from a rotary contraption by juan fontanive, whose bike film i saw a while back.

galleri maria veie
the only gallery, in both art fairs, to really deal with the site and to take control of it. maria (who was super-nice to talk to) and her artists built an amazing ante-chamber within the small booth space as a space to view the excellent video by and also as a work of art itself. it was like a unicorn mixed with high math geometrical sculpture. super-nice. and it crowded out the space in a way that made it attractive – you had to line up to get in (almost). for me, this shows a boldness and a level of engagement that is not only attractive in an artist, but in a gallery. go team.


galerie leuenrothdaniel behrendt
these paintings were a.mazing. i literally gasped when i saw them. almost sculptural paintings of super-flat post-war architectural facades – walls, with a simple window. or just a wooden window, they gave a life and a stickiness to these utterly depressing spaces. and it’s pretty much the only way i would ever spend more that 0.12 seconds looking at such a space. they were so divine. and a combination of matte fine finish, with thick, lush, trowel-finish. seriously, if you buy painting, buy these. they’re amazing.

foundation for promoting contemporary art – michal smandek
a nice, simple work: model for a sludge leak made from glass and concrete, then the documentation of a larger version done in an old industrial space – a constructed black ooze coming out of the wall. always poignant (hello gulf of mexico, hello hungary)

actually, most of the eastern european galleries were killing it – making the most interesting works/exhibits overall. i guess it’s unsurprising, given the history of eastern-european risk-taking in art, but i will still a bit intrigued.


kunsthaus erfurt
two nice works about pixelation – a site-specific coloured paper installation by martin pfeifle, which cheered the whole place up to no end and a series of beautiful triangular pixel drawings by DAG. i’m not always a fan of pixel drawings, they can be a little dull, but these were such a perfect combination of abstract, form and system that i forgave and fell in a love a little.

a few other things i noticed:  a surprising number of amateur signage. boo. not a lot of women artist. boo. not a lot of politics. boo.

so, that’s my review of preview.


art forum

art forum is pretty big. and although not as big as i imagined there was still soo much stuff to see, as there is in any art fair, so i made sure i prepared, had my list of galleries/artists i wanted to see and launched in with as open a mind as possible. 

by the way, the architecture at the messe in berlin is out-of-this-world awesome. built in the middle of the fascist regime (1935-37; Richard Ermisch), it is furnished like something out of a grace kelly movie – i felt like we all should have been wearing dinner suits and maxis.

in the middle of my rounds, i went to one of the talks, held on the mezzanine level and moderated by texte zur kunst, which was one of the highlights of the day. i think the onsite discussion and critique is a really important part of the commercial nature of the fair, each connected to the other.

overall it was just OK. a few excellent works, some nice chats with peeps i already knew (from australia and london) and interesting to see the focus away from painting and more towards everything else.

so, highlights.

johnen galeri – tim lee

just a small photo-based work, but after seeing his daad exhibition and now this, tim lee is now one of my new favourite things. a diptych recreation of  the merce cunningham poster from 1953 with tim as the solo – in his trademark grey button-up shirt, black jeans, thick geeky glasses and salary man haircut. hot.

one of the only other galleries to really deal with the space well – a combination of aluminium geometric shapes and video/sound work of a ballerina en pointe. a beautifully dichotomy of soft/hard and understanding of space by Jen DeNike and Sarah Oppenheimer.

roslyn oxley9
as one of the consistent big guns in australian art, unsurprising that the artists that rosox had on board were great. hany armanious, mikala dwyer, michael parakowhai, newell harry and his palindromic neon. awesome.

häuslerfred sandback
i know he’s been gone a while, but the guy continues to float my boat with his site-specific geometric/spatial works and diagrams. they had a small red work between the two walls at häusler that made my heart skip a beat.

yvon lambertdouglas gordon
excellent conceptual works – especially the two wall-text works – both abandoned mid-sentence: one of graphite i am the director of my own downfall and the other carved into the chipboard, i am the author of my own addictions. i liked the form of the latter, but thought that the words were a little overstated. and vice versa.

arndt – ralf ziervogel
a suite of small exquisite and depraved drawings presented really cleanly – on with a black right facing page on a series of small shelves, squished right into the corner. quite an easily digestible format, but with the right amount of gross to make it interesting.

pianissimo – ingo gerken
this was the kind of show that people who aren’t artists, or aren’t that into art history would hate. but i loved it – it was a stack of responses to conceptual works from history, mostly really well done in a quite subtle and understated way. i laughed out loud. for real.

he added his name/birth year to the top of list of saatchi exhibitons, entitled my life and the saatchi program, he added a purple strip of colour to an image of ellsworth kelly minimal paintings, and a photo of a john baldessari image with a post-it note as an echo of the plain interrupting the plane. see? art geek stuff.

contemporary fine arts – max frisinger
i met max in hamburg and his work is on a similar plane to australia’s ash keating. although max still trawls the streets for rubbish by hand. it was great to see his works sell out and interesting to see how he had ‘contained’ a practice that is usually site-specific, or at least very gallery-site-specific.

and i also really liked the sector focus intiative in the middle of the grounds, which had a series of emerging spaces who invited another emerging space to join them and both of them had booths that backed onto each other. it acknowledge the community aspect of independent spaces and made for an interesting study.

i did come away from the forum a) feeling like australian artists still match up with the best of germany, especially when we’re rigourous. and b) that an art fair is an art fair is an art fair. having said that, i’ve not been to the biggest three: frieze, basel or the armory, but i wonder how different they really are.

image credits: ralf ziervogel installation at arndt, from the art-forum-berlin site. newell harry reverse missionary (nerveless rats hesitate/as venereal theists rest) from the roslyn oxley9 site.
thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

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