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Culture

Art Cologne Seeks a Comeback

For years, Art Cologne enjoyed an undisputed position in the art world. But shows in Basel, Berlin, London and New York have lured exhibitors and buyers away. Now, the Cologne fair is struggling to regain lost ground.

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Contemporary Art, such as the Russian Blue Noses Mask Show, also plays a role at Art Cologne. But it isn't everything.

The Art Cologne wraps up a busy month for the art world. Collectors spent October at the Art Forum in Berlin, the Fiac in Paris, and the Frieze Art Fair in London. So is there any money left in their pockets for works at the Art Cologne?

"Hopefully," appears to be the right answer.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, an increasing number of international galleries and collectors have been turning their backs on Cologne. Many European and, above all, American stars of the art scene are no longer coming to the fair. What used to be one of the most viable art markets in the world is threatening to drift into provincial insignificance.

But event organizers Koelnmesse are doing everything in their power to avoid this. Their prime weapon: an artistic director to lead the show -- a first in the fair's 37-year history.

Koelnmesse appointed Gérard Goodrow to restore Art Cologne's former dazzling glory. According to the company, Goodrow will be working to "reinvent the image" of Art Cologne and strengthen its position in the international art market.

Communication is the key

The 39-year-old German-American is no stranger to the art world. He was previously director and senior specialist for the postwar & contemporary art department at Christie’s in London.

"I think the difference is that I'm not only the manager of this fair, but also an art historian," he told German public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. This background gives him insight into the workings of the art world and the psychology of its leading figures. "With my experience in the art world, I don't only know the gallery owners and collectors well, but also the artists."

And this is Goodrow's strategy: to change the focus of the fair from money to art. "The artists take center stage here," he said.

An international flair

Of course, the fair's organizer also wants to earn money. But the question is how, Goodrow says. This year, for example, artists will be added to the roster of VIPs for the first time. "After all", he said, "it is the artists who create the products that we all profit from." Koelnmesse is also footing the hotel bill for selected collectors.

Art Cologne Kunstmesse Logo

Art Cologne

Bringing more artists and collectors to Cologne will hopefully draw a more international crowd, which has strayed from the fair during recent years. While international exhibitors make up for almost 60 percent of Berlin's Art Forum, just over 40 percent of the 250 galleries at Art Cologne have traveled from abroad, the fair noted a statement.

"There are lots of theories why the Art Cologne is not what is used to be," said Goodrow. In his opinion, it all started with the first Gulf War. "The Americans became afraid to fly and stayed away. Around the same time, we saw an art market crash." German reunification, which cost people a lot of money, and the introduction of the euro also played a role.

It's not about being young and trendy

Goodrow does not appear to be too worried about the competition, though. He points out that the Frieze Art Fair solely showed contemporary works. "This means art from the past five years. The beginnings and middle of the 1990s were hardly represented," he says. "Cologne has the entire century."

Art Cologne combines classical modernism, post-war and contemporary art. Apart from the classics, the fair focuses on art from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.

"The artists that we've invited as VIPs are in part 80 or 90 years old," the director said. "This shows that all artists are welcome here, not just the ones who are young and trendy."

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