Art Cologne, Germany’s leading art fair, is in discussions with abc art berlin contemporary to establish a new fair called Art Berlin. Both fairs have so far only acknowledged that they are in negotiations, but they look close to finalising a deal. In a letter to its exhibitors sent on Tuesday evening and an identical press release sent on Wednesday morning, abc said that “Art Berlin will take place from the 14th to 17th of September 2017 in the Station in Berlin-Kreuzberg, centrally located in the middle of Germany’s capital. After nine years of abc art berlin contemporary, Art Berlin will focus on a new direction elevating the two most important art centers in Germany—Berlin and Cologne—nurturing and supporting these two cities as art fair destinations.” The dates and location are the same as abc's.
In a letter to the members of Art Cologne’s committee, its director Daniel Hug said: “We are still in a phase of negotiating the exact structure, however we have at this point established the basics, that Koelnmesse will own this new fair and take all financial liability. Artistic direction will be determined by Maike Cruse [abc's director] and myself. We have also decided that this fair in 2017 should be an international fair, with the idea of creating a more experimental platform in the coming years.”
After years of slow sales and dwindling support from both international and local galleries, the move finally opens up the prospect for Berlin to stage a second major art market event in addition to Gallery Weekend Berlin in April. While the latter has been a success from the start, copied by many other cities around the globe, abc never really took off. The fair was founded in 2008 by a handful of local galleries (who also organise Gallery Weekend Berlin) to run alongside the then existing Art Forum Berlin fair. After the cancellation of Art Forum in 2010, however, Berlin lost some of its attraction among the international collector base.
At the same time, Cologne regained momentum under its new director Daniel Hug after more than a decade of decline. Last autumn, the local art.fair announced that it will move from Cologne to the neighbouring rival city of Düsseldorf. The new fair, Art Düsseldorf, is now owned by MCH Group, Art Basel's parent company, an announcement that made waves in the local gallery scene. Art Cologne's bold move in Berlin might reshuffle the cards again.
By joining forces, the two former rivals have the chance to revive Germany's art scene internationally not only as a place of production but also as a marketplace.