Next week we are heading to Vienna. From the 2nd to 5th of the September, Austria’s largest art fair viennacontemporary takes place. This is the most renowned contemporary art fair in Central Europe. That’s why we spoke with the new Artistic Director of the fair — Boris Ondreička. In this uncertain financial climate, we talked about how the art market is changing, how Covid-19 might influence collectors’ buying choices and how the fair impacts the Viennese art scene.
Dobromila Blaszczyk: You were appointed as a new director of viennacontemporary. What has been the biggest challenge for you in this new role so far?
Boris Ondreička: Trying to find the time to get together with the whole team while, simultaneously, dealing with the internal organizational structures, we were challenged to organize this rather complex and unusual form of an art-fair in an extremely short amount of time. Instead of the standard 12 months of production, we only had 3. I can say that this challenge has been completed with full happiness and support of the team.
DB: What are your strategies, new ideas and innovations for running the upcoming editions of the fair—the ones which you are planning to incorporate or have already implemented into the art programme?
BO: Our ambition is to shift from being the static servicemen of a particular trade to a proactive entity which physically tours the spatio-temporal dimensions of the fabulous city of Vienna. Our shift towards proactiveness takes on a variety of formats; for example, commissioning new pieces of emerging artists ourselves and fostering productive dialogue between all players in the art scene and cultural policy makers on different municipal and regional levels.
DB: Currently, there are many important art fairs in the world. What distinguishes viennacontemporary from the other fairs? How do you draw attention of collectors and try to attract them to Vienna to participate in the “physical” fair?
BO: We have started to use the term “spontaneous region” — our point of departure where Vienna is understood as a crossroads between East, West, South, and North. We would like to represent and heavily support arts of the CEE territory and that’s why we choose to be very specific in the global sense. Being, for example, “an Austrian gallery” does not mean that you represent only Austrian artists and being an Austrian artist does not necessarily mean you are represented by an Austrian gallery.
So we search globally.
We would like to highlight the quality of this region through communication of rich multiculturality — this means that we present artistic positions which one can´t see anywhere else.
DB: Art fair is a commercial event where the economic aspect is crucial. Many countries feel the strong effects of both the economic and the pandemic crises. How does this situation influence the art market and organization of the fair?
BO: Obviously, being a public event, we have to follow all of the relative restrictions and we do so, but, so far, we don’t see that many limitations, also because the date of the fair (September 2 to 5) is still considered “safe.” For some, paradoxically, an art market is more and more vital even with all the precariousness of the era we live in. Maybe it is right because of that precariousness and also because “the arts” are still, even if speculative and contextual, both a stable and dynamic commodity. I would recommend to all collectors to invest now.
DB: Do you think Covid-19 has permanently changed the way the art market operates? If so, in what ways?
BO: I do not think that there will be a crucial change in terms of the phenomenon of the operation. The necessary tactile element of most works asks for physical contact with it. Nevertheless, we have decided to change certain aspects and bring forth many innovations. Of course, digital transformation is a huge topic, so we are permanently involved in the climate of the contemporary and bringing platforms dealing with its distribution as well.
DB: In comparison with last year, what changes can be seen at viennacontemporary?
BO: We are at a different (very spectacular) venue. We emphasize the fair as a decentralized net between physical spaces of presentation and tours in between.
DB: What are the most visible trends in the art market at the moment? What type of art is gaining popularity among collectors?
BO: I believe that it is more and more the art of emerging generations which actually offers lots of quasi-classical forms.
DB: As the new director of the viennacontemporary, where do you see the fair in 10 years?
BO: I see viennacontemporary as an A+ fair — one of the leading fairs globally because of its very specific and concentrated focus.