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Art Berlin Contemporary slashes exhibitor numbers

Ninth edition of reluctant fair keeps the focus on solo artist projects

The identity of Art Berlin Contemporary (abc) has been a touchy subject since the “anti-fair” launched in 2008. Billed as an invite-only, selling exhibition of solo artist projects, abc has effectively become Berlin’s main fair since the demise of its rival, Art Forum, in 2011. At last year’s edition, which drew 30,000 visitors, its resistance to the F-word seemed to have waned. Exhibitors could participate by open call for the first time and organisers introduced walls and corners to the open-plan layout.

With the ninth edition due to open on 15 September (until 18 September), abc is defying expectations once more. The exhibitor list has been radically scaled back to just over 60 galleries, almost half the number in recent years.

“We wanted to go for a more concentrated presentation,” says Maike Cruse, the director of abc and Berlin’s Gallery Weekend, which takes place in late April. The decision allows the team to “develop the exhibition more” and select projects that “suit a show of single positions best”, Cruse says.

But the drop in exhibitor numbers may point to something of an “identity crisis”, says one art adviser, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Sales are not always strong but abc always offers something different from the main art fairs.”

Displayed within U-shaped units rather than booths, this year’s crop of solo presentations continues to emphasise sculpture and installation art. Among the highlights from Berlin galleries—which make up around half of the roster—is L’Air du Temps (2015), a video installation at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler by the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) collective, who are also participating in the Berlin Biennale.

German galleries from outside Berlin will also be in attendance. The Cologne-based Philipp von Rosen Galerie is bringing a new work by the Mexican artist Jose Dávila, while the younger Galerie Tobias Naehring from Leipzig will show a large sculpture by the Berlin-based Eva Grubinger.

A new initiative this year will make at least one significant sale. The Outset Contemporary Art Fund, which previously supported purchases at Frieze on behalf of the Tate, has launched an acquisition fund to donate works from abc to German museums. The first recipient will be the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The fair’s main sponsor is the car maker Mini.