Viennafair opened with a new look last week in the convention center under the Austrian capital’s landmark Prater Ferris wheel. The upgrade included young new directors, Ibid Projects cofounder and former Pace director Vita Zaman; and 2009-2011 Art Moscow artistic director Christina Steinbrecher. A citywide advertising campaign depicted the women decked out in evening clothes, perhaps an attempt to lure the rich and titled from the city’s world-famous Lipizzans horse show, which took place during the fair.
“We want to make this fair cooler and trendier,” Sergey Skaterschikov told A.i.A. during the VIP preview on Wednesday. Skaterschikov, who with Dmitry Aksenov acquired 70% of the fair last spring, recently made headlines following his hostile and unconsummated takeover bid for Artnet. He wants to “make the fair fuller, fresher” and “make better use of what Vienna has to offer in terms of opera and concerts to bring collectors to the fair.”
Among the 122 galleries, the fair consolidated its Austrian constituency–including, among others, Thaddaeus Ropac, Charim, Krinzinger, Georg Kargl and nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder–and maintained its long-running emphasis on Eastern European art with some 47 galleries from that region, among them Raster Gallery (Warsaw), Plan B (Cluj/Berlin), Å»ak Branicka (Berlin) and Gregor Podnar (Ljubljana/Berlin). A smattering of international heavyweights included Carlier Gebauer (Berlin) and Micheline Szwajcer (Antwerp).
Solid sales were reported by Warsaw’s Lokal_30, who on the first day sold Natalia LL’s large-scale print Animal Art (1978/1998-2011) for over $22,000. pop/off/art gallery (Moscow) sold works by Russian artists totaling around $55,000 and at the booth of Vilnius’s The Gardens, Norwegian collectors bought works by Lithuanian artists Antanas Gerlikas and Gediminas Akstinas for roughly $4,500 on the first day. Rosemarie Schwarzwälder sold works tallying in the region of $130,000 to her local collectors.
Thaddaeus Ropac (Salzburg), who is set to open the continent’s largest art gallery in Paris this October, breezed into the fair for just over three hours and sold Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s large painting The Appearance of Collage #3 (2011) for around $650,000 to the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.
Members of MoMA’s acquisitions board were not the only Russians buying at Viennafair this year. “I heard some Russian being spoken, but they haven’t bought anything from us yet,” said Erik Herkrath, gallery manager at Buchmann (Berlin/Lugano), who was showing a selection of gallery artist, including a small, untitled abstract painting by Clare Woods.
Skaterschikov created a one million Euro fund, Art Vectors Investment Partnership, to acquire work exhibited at the fair. “I am interested in art, but I have no time for collecting,” he told A.i.A. The fund was spearheaded by an independent jury, including the newly appointed artistic director of Vienna’s Kunsthalle Wein, Nicolaus Schafhausen. By the second day of the fair, the group had purchased over 50 works, including Andrei Monastirsky’s conceptual sculpture piece Kanone at Hubert Winter or Dan Perjovschi’s My World is Your Kunstraum at Christine König (both galleries from Vienna).