Art Cologne improves despite lack of director

But contemporary galleries in the dark

COLOGNE. Expectations were high prior to the 42nd edition of Art Cologne (16-20 April) given the departure in January of director Gérard Goodrow (now at Phillips de Pury, p60). His successor, Daniel Hug, who founded his own gallery in Los Angeles in 2003, was only an acting director for this year’s edition; he officially assumes the position on 1 May.

Despite no official leader, the atmosphere at this year’s Art Cologne was relaxed and the focus on quality rather than quantity was deemed to have paid off. Instead of the 180 exhibitors that showed in 2007, only 150 from 23 countries were admitted this year, around half from Germany. Visitor numbers were down only marginally from the previous year at 55,000 (60,000 in 2007).

There was a wide range of modern classic and post-war works on show in the well-lit, nicely outfitted first-floor booths at the fair. Swiss gallery Henze & Ketterer was selling German expressionist work ranging from E2,000 for works on paper up to E5.5m ($3,200-$8.8m) for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Nude with Uplifted Arms, 1910, the most expensive work for sale at the fair (unsold as we went to print).

Other 20th-century highlights included Emil Nolde’s Water Lilies, 1917, in a frame also made by the artist, on sale at Salis & Vertes (Salzburg, St Moritz) for E2.5m ($4m).

The contemporary art galleries were mostly based on the darker, more gloomy, ground-floor of the fair hall, including those dealers, such as Christian Nagel, who had openly criticised Mr Goodrow for reducing Art Cologne’s influence (thus precipitating his departure). Nevertheless, contemporary art sales were solid. Galerie Terminus sold works by Tony Cragg, including a bronze sculpture for E290,000 ($460,000); seven works by candy-sculptor Peter Anton for between E3,300 and E38,000 ($5,250-$60,500) and all the work on offer by one of their younger artists,

Jan Davidoff.

There is concern among the modern art dealers that some of their influential contemporary counterparts are privately pushing Mr Hug for Art Cologne to develop into a fair solely for contemporary art. “Art Cologne lives on the symbiosis of old and new,” said secondary-market dealer Thomas von Salis, in response to such suggestions.

Bettina Krogemann

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