How to increase engagement with—and spending in—galleries is a perennially hot topic, as the much-documented strife of the middle market continues.
Instead of exhibiting at Art Cologne (19-22 April), the Basel-based gallery von Bartha is trialling a new pop-up exhibition model: organising selling shows, hosted by collectors in their own homes, and timed to coincide with fairs in the same city. The first, of a series dubbed The Imaginary Collection, will be at the Cologne apartment of the artist and collector Mike Meiré from 19-20 April.
“Mike has hand-picked all of the works in the exhibition from von Bartha’s archive”, says Stefan von Bartha, the gallery’s owner. The programme, dubbed The Imaginary Collection, will allow each host to make their own selections from the gallery's inventory. Meiré's choices include inventory pieces by Superflex, Imi Knoebel and Ricardo Alcaide and will be combined with a couple of works by Meiré himself which, von Bartha says, fit the theme: “He has always lived with his own art, and therefore it makes sense to show some of his works in context to the curated show.”
The gallery is not giving up on fairs entirely, but von Bartha says: “Whilst hosting Imaginary Collection exhibitions, we will not also exhibit in the art fairs which they run concurrently to. It is an alternative.”
It is certainly a less costly option, as the gallery is not paying the collectors for the use of their homes. For them, von Bartha says, “it is an opportunity to push the restart button on their collection, get new ideas, be able to choose freely from art pieces to be installed in their home, live with it for a short time, engage with new people and be part of this new cultural experience. Both sides benefit.”