Early autumn marks the beginning of yet another exciting period abundant in exhibitions, fairs, and auctions. Spectacular exhibition openings at public institutions can often be anticipated at the beginning of October. This is a time when art galleries schedule special presentations featuring the work of artists who cooperate with them. October in Vienna started with yet another edition of Vienna Art Week and the Curated By project, and an extensive retrospective exhibition by Joan Miró opened in Albertina. MUMOK has an excellent exhibition based on its own collection, tilted “The Present of Modernism”, alongside a retrospective of Kenyan artist, Cosima von Bonin, fearing an extensive range of her work, spanning her earliest to her most recent pieces. The series of exhibitions thus explore the great utopian project of modernism, as well as present its impact on contemporary artists – “The Rite of Spring” by Katarzyna Kozyra can be seen among those on show – and its potential for future generations.
The more commercially driven ventures could not be missed either. The 10th edition of Viennafair took place on the 2nd October. What one noted instantly was a significantly reduced number of galleries and stands on show. On the one hand, the quality of art presented by various galleries had greatly improved. On the other hand, large galleries from outside Austria, as for instance Galerie Nordenhake, who took part last year, were absent this time around. As usual, the level of art that featured in the stands was diverse. We were especially pleased to hear that this year’s International Gallery Prize at VIENNAFAIR 2014 was granted to the Zak Branicka gallery from Berlin, which represents Polish artists, for their “courageous booth that stands out in its radicalism and opens new perspectives for art fair presentations”. In light of last year’s focus on Poland and Georgia, seen in the eight Polish galleries that participated, this year witnessed another five galleries from Warsaw present their exhibitions.
Czułóść Gallery, last year’s best stand winner, showcased a selection of works by Janek Zamojski, alongside photographs by Nampei Akaki. Akaki adopts an experimental method in his effort to capture light, thus achieving original frames, which turn his photographs into unique entities themselves. In addition, the work of Vova Vorotinov attempted to bring the viewer back to reality through a series of three images that documented scenes from Kiev’s main square, Maidan. These works also echoed Czułość’s greater message of commenting on the medium of photography itself.
lokal_30, a regular attendee of Viennafair, had this time decided to represent the work of young artists. Among those included were the abstract paintings and collages of Mateusz Szczypiński, who adopts materials from the past with a post-modernist approach to visual heritage. Also included were Konrad Maciejewicz’s intricate collages, which when combined together, create surreal narratives through appropriating various mutually independent elements. Ewa Juszkiewicz’s paintings and works on paper also kept in the surrealist spirit.
Le Guern Gallery exhibited abstract paintings and objects by Tomek Baran. It was possible to witness his earlier works along with entirely new objects, which follow the deconstructionist approach and an increasing simplification of painting as an object.
Dawid Radziszewski Gallery also presented the work of a young artist, Marcin Zarzeka, whose work references, among other things to the Marian Szpakowski’s works – the abstract geometric style of the 60s and 70s, through reworking and rediscovering cracks in the painting’s structure. In addition, his pieces provide form to impressions and subsequent shapes that are observed in real life.
Gallery Monopol decided to juxtapose artists from different generations. In their stand, Zofia Gramz’s drawings, simplified caricature lines that comment on reality in a grotesque way, were placed alongside the work of one of the most prominent representatives of feminist art, Maria Pinińska-Bereś.
Aside from the galleries mentioned above, Polish artists could as usual be seen in a number of foreign art galleries. Gallerie nächst St. Stephan from Vienna exhibited an object by Michał Budny, the work of Agnieszka Kalinowska, and Christine König Galerie presented two relief paintings by Natalia Załuska. Knoll Galerie presented Bartosz Kokosiński objects. Zak Branicka Gallery, mentioned at the beginning, presented the work of three artists in an intriguing manner. Each of these artists, Natalia Stachon, Paweł Książek, and Szymon Kobylarz, received a solo display that consequently changed. This method enabled fuller acquaintance with the artists’ works, an approach that did not have a strictly commercial feel to it.
As usual, a rich educational programme geared towards the subject of collecting accompanied the fair, alongside discussion panels and guided tours for students and visitors. The number of these so-called “visitors” was quite substantial in comparison to buyers. This translated into the sales themselves, begging some gallery representatives to ask whether Viennafair has in fact slowed down a little. I guess we will see next year…