In its tenth year of existence, the Vienna Art Fair or VIENNAFAIR The New Contemporary has come into its own as Central and Eastern Europe’s most prominent art fair. Running from the 2nd to the 5th of October, the fair featured 115 participants from 25 different countries. Artistic director Christina Steinbrecher-Pfandt has made an effort to expose Western Europeans to many galleries and artists to the east while trying to also strike a balance with much of the local Austrian talent. The VIENNAFAIR in its current constitution is a quite manageable fair with a little bit on offer for everyone. On a higher level large collectors, museums, and institutions were able to snap up large impact pieces for their respective collections while there was also quite a bit of movement of works in the 200-5000 euro price range that were being snapped up by more modest collectors. When visiting an art fair with so much eye candy, it is often easy to be overwhelmed. Large, bright, shiny objects command much attention while smaller more intimate works may lead one down a never ending rabbit hole especially as these works are snapped up by collectors or easily replaced by galleries rehanging their spaces on a daily or sometimes hourly basis. In general, I noticed two prevailing themes.
Despite its unique geographical context, I found that many of the galleries were exhibiting a large number of geometric works. This appears to be a global trend which has persisted over the years as I wrote about this theme after Art Basel Miami 2012 and Art Basel Miami 2013 .
However, a second theme emerged at VIENNAFAIR which did seem to be a little more specific to the region. Unlike the high production cost works of artists such as Koons, Hirst, and Kapoor which are still so popular in the States and Western Europe, I noticed a revival found, re-purposed, and aggregated artwork that seemed to draw its roots from the Dada movement as well as from the Italian Arte Povera movement of the 70s. This theme included sculptures created from everyday objects such as those of Bartosz Kokosiński at Hans Knoll or collages by Damir Očko at Budapest based Trapez Galéria and Polonca Lovšin at Ljubljana’s P74 Gallery. From this aspect, it is nice to see that artists can still create without the aid of 20 assistants and over 50,000 euros of materials. More to follow on this topic in part II.