The 45th annual Art-Cologne exposition held April 13 to 17 featured 200 galleries from 23 countries including 45 from Germany and 13 from the USA and had a renewed buzz. The fair renewed its support for "young" galleries and artists, emphasized talks and discussions in an Open Space forum with seating and artist books were displayed in cases in keeping with the 2011 theme of knowledge, books, stories and texts. A retrospective of Belgian artist Pammenko's aircraft structures, including a Flash Gordon "Backpack", greeted visitors in the atrium. The mix of sculpture, painting, installation, mixed media and work on paper was what might be expected from a large, international art fair. While there was not a kitchen sink, there was a wonderfully amusing stack of giant pots and pans sculpture by Robert Therrien (Gagosian & Spruth Magers/Berlin,London), which can be seen in the Vernissage-TV video coverage of the fair on YouTube.
A majority of the galleries included works on paper; sometimes they were tucked away. An amusing, graphic baroque rendition of Amanda Lear's My Alphabet by Julian Goethe (Galerie Daniel Buchholz/Cologne) was on the wall. "A stands for anything and B for bionic and Bach". Book resculptor Carlos Garaicoa (Barbara Gross/Munich) used a copy of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason to create "Reason" (6x87x107cm). Pages folded out and out were cut into diminishing frames until the centers were finally crumpled for the trash. (photo)
Some of the exhibits could be mistaken for museum holdings. Smaller German Expressionist prints were available starting at EUR 10,000. An Eric Hechel print of horses in a pasture that everyone seemed to linger on was priced at EUR 25,000 (Henze & Ketterer/Bern).
Unexpected delights included two exquisite prints and a drawing by John Cage (Margarete Roeder/NYC). The aquatint was made of 18 rectangular plates of various sizes individually inked and printed side by side filling the paper and creating an embossed white line at the plate borders. Superb German works on paper (Penck, Baselitz, Bohrmann, etc,) collected by Fred Jahn (Munich) starting in the 60's were to be seen as well as younger artists collected by Matthias Jahn who also has a gallery in Munich, with the same careful eye.
Adding buzz, selected new artists had exhibition space and competed for an award. The reason to go such an art fair is, of course, to find something previously unknown. Notable were deeply saturated watercolors, "Basic Attacks for Solving Situations", in banded "oscillating" patterns by Johannes Weiss (Lena Bruening/Berlin) Paper was also integral to some installations Artist-made wallpaper reproduced the wallpaper in a photograph of the young Eric Satie then hung on the wall. In proximity, a remix of a Satie recording was playing only the blips and pops on a record player. Walls built from corrugated and smooth lengths of paper woven into industrial-size textile 'fabric' set off a paper loom churning out the same material. The installation by Michael Beutler (Baerbel Graesslin/Frankfurt am Main) slyly referenced the textile trade fairs held in the same building.
Contemporary artists using printmaking as a primary media included Peyman Rahimi (Eva Winkler Galerie/Frankfurt) who combines images of vintage photographs and photos from old newspapers, and silkscreens them with acrylic and lacquer to create a new vintage appearing image in which the sitter appears to moving, perhaps conversing with the photographer until it is time to hold still. Like a time capsule, the sense of the past living concurrently in the present is captivating. In photography, Aitor Ortiz succeeds in visualizing spatial intrigues reminiscent of Piranesi's Carceri in his Amorfosis series of 2008 on aluminum (Galerie Stefan Roepke/Cologne). The view in #006, looks through a seemingly impossible filigree of scaffolding. Light streams through arched church windows that create the experience of a palpable mystery. An offset cross shape of sky created by the upper reaches of enclosing scaffolding in 004, evokes a powerful sense of man's inability to reach that divine state which appears just out of reach.
Few galleries featured only and or large paperwork. "Unto this Last" a woodcut triptych by Andrea Buettner (Hollybush Gardens/ London) of "St. Francis sermonizing to the birds" (two sheets @ 180x120cm), flanked by "Tears" scattered on a black field and an enormous loaf of "Bread /Pebble". Part of an ongoing interest in convergences of artmaking and religious practice, the series, "The Poverty of Riches", Buettner selected the woodcut media because of associations with manual, daily labor. The overall contextualization seems more significant than the individual works which seem experiential witnesses of the artist's investigatory process. "Haus mit Raumkristallen" a series of small drawings of suburban houses (21x 30cm) by Torsten Slama had wall power (Galerie Vera Gliem/ Cologne). Octahedral crystal shapes with yellow tints indicating energy centers hover above the roofs of houses rendered in an architectural style with brickwork details. The drawings radiate a utopian uber-calm and surreal unease, a solitary bicycle is seen inside an open garage, crystalline pyramids rest in manicured lawns with flowerbeds, surpassing his paintings in intrigue.
The expanded Art-Cologne was a huge success. Sales were brisk. A Tom Wesselmann painting "Smoker" sold for EUR 2.3m, and a drawing for EUR 42,000. An Art-cologne press release reveals more sale information. There was almost too much to see. The convention center is easy to reach by public transportation and during the fair a variety of cafés on site offer refreshment. For printmaking cognoscenti, Cologne offers the additional pleasure of a visit to the Kaethe Kollwitz Museum and its an extraordinary collection perhaps the most complete anywhere.
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